Singapore – Hong Kong – Guilin – Yangshuo – Singapore, Weekend 22-23 October 2016
Not much rest in the office as after a catch up day in the office on Monday it was straight off to China again, this time to Yangshuo in the famous Guilin Mountains. We managed to navigate in between two typhoons, one just leaving the area, and another one (Haima) on its way. The strength of the oncoming one was rated such that is forced the closure of Hong Kong Airport on Friday, cancelling most in and outbound flights. We were lucky and had a smooth ride back to Singapore on Thursday. As I write this blog a picture is trending from a man peacefully reading his newspaper at Starbucks, while the torrential typhoon rains are flooding the space around him…
Monday and Friday saw a slurry of meetings with team and lighting suppliers. I find it particularly fascinating to follow the challenging route of the manufacturers and their suppliers to keep focused and stay the course or even ahead in this ever so competitive LED lighting market. Time and again something new pops up that sets a new bar for others, hence I maintain my open door policy as much as possible despite our busy work schedule. There is no doubt that the economies in the region are feeling the pinch which is clearly felt by the reduced project numbers but there is still good quality and a substantial amount of work out there and with that confidence we are still growing our team.
Visiting us on Monday, Reggiani is one of those lighting manufacturers that have been around since the early days and probably one of those market leaders that took the very first plunge in setting up their manufacturing plant in Ningbo, China, more than 20 years ago. But they struggled the last few years with the arrival and tsunami breakthrough of the LED lighting flooding the market and virtually pushing conventional lighting manufacturers back to the wall. But Reggiani is back in force with a great range of products (Mood and Yori) with features quite unique and hardly found with any other brand. I don’t really blog about specific brands but I find in this case the commitment and the way they are fighting back to remain relevant in this cut throat business exemplary for a brand that for long was one of the leading lights. It could have been a “Kodak” moment for them but they regrouped, redirected and reformed the company strategies and for sure they are here to stay. Well done.
What I failed to mention in last week’s blog is to commend one of my senior designers for stepping up and holding up our flag high at the Architectural Light + Design Symposium held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre recently. Grace stepped up to fill in the spot when I was unable to present. It was a great and courageous step for her, moving out of her comfort zone having never presented a paper on such respected public platforms. Presenting a lighting concept to a familiar client and project team is quite different from putting yourself out there to the scrutiny of your peers and public, so hats off. But this is also a character building trait. Pushing yourself to new challenges and completing them through commitment and positive attitude creates not only great personal satisfaction but also increases one’s confidence that you can do more and do better if you set your mind to it. Grace’s stepping up has been energizing the whole team and I am gratefully accepting their challenge.
Yangshuo; more is less
I returned to Yangshuo as part of the finishing touches of this project. To the credit of our client he maintains his strive to get a top quality product and, while still tight on his budget, listens to his consultants and accepts that regular site visits to make sure the installation follows the design as close as possible are a necessity. Every time we return to site (last visit was in August) we take the opportunity to test lights on site in areas that are in sufficient state of progress that testing allows to properly assess the best installation method. There is great team spirit in the project team which is most of all fuelled by the positive attitude of the owner. Their respect for the consultants makes us grateful and wanting to go the extra mile with a smile. As designers we have certain standards and views but being on site allows us to submerge ourselves into the real site situation and appreciate that you could still do with less without affecting the quality of the end result. The owner to his credit, is consistently challenging us to do more with less which we accept graciously as a great challenge to our own design skills as well. But it does mean regularly being on site and doing our due diligence whenever we can. Lighting designers tend to take safe options (insisting on dimming for instance) when we are not sure of the final product or site installation. This was another trip with the aim to achieve more with less…
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore – Istanbul – Holland – France – Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore, Weekend 15-16 October 2016
He is back! After a stop in Istanbul early September on my way to Holland and France, I returned fresh, re-energised (but unshaven) from my month long, self-imposed, yearly break in my beloved France, to return to action this week. Still jet-lagging I am slowly getting back to the work routine of project travel, meetings and company management. I am lucky to have a great team to back me up and allow me to take some time off, even stepping up when unexpected events happen affecting the company and our commitments. As I write this blog I am on my way back from Shanghai to Singapore, having barely had the time to acclimatise on my return. Hopping on the plane just a day after being back. Considering that my trip was for a good client and paymaster, I had no issue to oblige, certainly after they agreed to move the meeting 2 days to accommodate my return. To me that shows respect and appreciation and hence I stepped in the plane to Shanghai with mutual respect and appreciation. I did decline a further trip to Zenghzhou Friday and Saturday for another project in consideration of not overdoing it straight upon my return and still being in jet-lag recovery. Key to survival and health is pacing yourself and this was just one of these decisions. Well I understand the clients wish to see me, I delegated the trip to my senior designer that came out with me and our local Shanghai team. They are fully capable and I am confident they will take care of their presentation to the client with verve.
The trip (or stop-over I should say) to Istanbul was not originally planned. The idea was to take a well-deserved break straight after the successful events in Shanghai to see my parents and hole up for a month in the France countryside to rejuvenate and step away for a little while from my hectic business life. However shortly before I embarked for Shanghai end of August I got a client request to come to Istanbul for a follow up meeting with the rest of the project team and likewise with this client also being one of our very loyal and good clients’ I rescheduled my trip to accommodate, since it was on the way and only pushed back my holidays for a few days. This to show that for committed and very respected clients who value and respect our work with great appreciation, you do the extra mile. For some of our clients, I may not have done this, but I deeply respect and appreciate those who respect us by accommodating their request as good as possible in the spirit of our business relation which to a certain extent borders to a great level of friendship. Time and again I am rewarded for this attitude and my trip to Istanbul turned out again to be highly successful, meaningful and productive. With everyone committed and the opening date approaching rapidly we got a lot done and resolved. This will be one of those projects I will treasure and hope to re-visit long after it has been completed if not for the friendship built up with the client.
Holland and France
The weeks I spent in Holland and France are obviously private but I do want to share the importance of slowing down once in a while. Giving yourself the time to take your foot of the throttle and allowing yourself time to reflect and most of all give your team the opportunity to proven they do not always need you to be around. While that seems contradictory, it is important to know that you have a team that can handle and take decisions without always having to rely on you. It is an important peace of mind to have! It became especially actual when mid through my break I had to (remotely) fire my recently appointed project director for discovered professional misconduct. Though it was a real disappointment, shock and unexpected turn of events on the spur of the moment, it did give rise to the team stepping in magnificently to cover for his sudden departure. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise and showed of a side to my team that was really heart-warming. It provide me with a peaceful continuation of my holiday allowing me to enjoy the sunrises, the sunsets, the country-sides and the mind-relaxing handyman works in my shed, something I generally do not have any time for! I have enclosed some mood pictures…
I returned to the office in Singapore at the beginning of the week, spent a bit of time catching up with the team, before flying off to Shanghai on Wednesday. During this meeting we were introduced to the newly appointed hotel operator who, not surprisingly, brought in their own set of requirements and modes of operation. While as a team we had developed the concept for the project, presenting it to the operator for their much needed input was crucial. Again not surprisingly the lead consultants, architect and interior designer, were not keen in changing anything major to the concept, considering the amount of work and progress already gone into it which fuelled some interesting discussions. But all good and resulting in a mutual understanding on how to move forward. A workshop is planned in the coming weeks with the ID to finalise the adapted conceptual lighting approach. Still jet-lagging, I politely declined to join my client for dinner, preferring to have a simple catch up dinner with my Shanghai team at my hotel and an early sleep. With a midday flight back today I am taking it easy re-adapting to this time zone.
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore – Xitang – Shanghai – Singapore, Weekend 3-4 September 2016
After morning meetings with my team in Singapore on Monday I got on my flight to Shanghai to meet my client in Xitang for our big concept presentation. We had worked long and hard on it to make sure we delivered a great start to the project on our Tuesday project meeting, specially organised for us. But the week really belonged to the Shanghai International Lighting Fair that started on Wednesday. After months of preparations, the fair, with our Lighting Design Agora concept, finally kicked off. Not surprisingly I am dedicating this blog to the event.
SILF – Lighting Design Agora: Day 1- Wednesday
Thanks to the volunteer work from CLDA and IAC members, Messe Frankfurt HK and our sponsors, who had all worked till late on Tuesday, the 180m2 booth was looking great and all ready to go. The concept of the Lighting Design Agora is a central design and speaker’s arena where leading lighting experts share their knowledge and experience in lighting design to the audience surrounded by international quality manufacturers relevant to the chosen theme of the booth; “Art and Lighting Design”. IGuzzini, Creative Lighting Asia and Lumascape, Xicato, Technolite and WEEF and Led Linear occupied the booths around our arena giving the overall stand an intimate “happening” feel. The moment the proceedings started the stand filled up and throughout the speaker’s presentations there was hardly any seat unoccupied with many standing in the wings or visiting our sponsor’s booths alongside the arena.
CLDA’s president Lear Hsieh, opened the proceedings with an introduction to the Lighting Design Agora concept and what we hope to achieve now and in the future. First up was Herbert Cybulska, the IAC’s chairman introducing the audience to his intriguing “Bonne Nuit at St Bonifacio” lighting project, followed by James Wallace, IAC’s CEO with his expose about light and shadow going through history from Renaissance to Rodin. The afternoon was filled with great presentations from Freddie Lim, IGuzzini’s Luca Tarsetti with his insights on the lighting of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper with Gorana Saulna closing out the day with her presentation on Lunarscape’s new lighting systems for the Sydney Opera House which had the audience on the edge of their seats.
Speakers, sponsors and CLDA members joined in the evening for a welcome dinner hosted by the organisers in celebration of this first big step in bringing the benefits of better quality lighting design in China to greater public acceptance. We all looked back on a great and very satisfactory first day.
SILF – Lighting Design Agora: Day 2 – Thursday
Day 2 started busier than the first with even more people coming into the stand. In appreciation of all the organisational efforts to make this event a success Herbert, James and myself were recognised and thanked officially in a little ceremony. While it is nice to be appreciated and recognised for your work, it is of course only possible by the tremendous efforts of everyone involved. After the ceremony I kicked off the morning session with my presentation about the “Challenges of Lighting Public Artworks”, followed by Emrah Baki Ulas’ “Casting a new light on Art”. Amardeep closed out the morning looking at lighting design from a poetic angle. The presentations elicited a much more engaged audience with questions, a clear sign of the interest generated by the speakers and their presented topics.
The afternoon sessions saw Paul Ehlert share his inspirations in lighting public art spaces, followed by Roger Sexton with the hot topic of smart lighting in galleries based on test project at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. In the discussion that followed the role of the lighting designer was debated specifically in regards to the impact of smart lighting systems and the lighting designer’s relevance in taking the lead in determining the ultimate lighting design. Stefan Bittner closed out the two days of high quality presentations sharing with the audience how LED Linear is taking on the new internet era.
Before adjourning for drinks and dinner the IAC, the CLDA and the participating sponsors met for a debrief on the event and how we can further improve the event the next time. Earlier meetings with Messe Frankfurt HK had already provided us with a very happy feedback and the promise for a bigger and better stand for our next target event. Having road tested our Lighting Design Agora with great success and satisfaction, we now confidently look forward to the next one. Thanks again to all that helped make this a reality!
While I am writing this blog already on my way back to Singapore, the CLDA is holding its Pecha Kutch style presentation where 10 lighting designer members of the CLDA are presenting lighting design subjects in a short burst of 10 mins, 20 slides presentations. Day 3 is a Chinese affair which will allow the local designers to profile themselves to the general public. If the last two days were anything to go by, this last day will have been certainly as successful.
See impressions of the event below…
Enjoy your weekend…
(PS: Later next week I am off on my month long leave…see you back in October!)
Singapore – Perth – Singapore, Weekend 27-28 August 2016
A short week in the office in Perth to tie up some loose ends before my upcoming month-long break. Not too many meetings, so mostly able to work “in peace” on a number of presentations due in the coming week! The reality is that putting together presentations require focus and attention and in my busy office in Singapore I get little respite being continuously engaged with my team, visitors or other. In Perth I am a bit “out of the way” and have a better control of my time. As I write this blog I have managed to finish all my presentations to my satisfaction and can start my weekend (and flying back to Singapore) in relative peace. I will still have Monday morning in my Singapore office before jetting off to Shanghai and thereafter Istanbul and then off to my break in France.
My first focus was to finish my presentation for the Shanghai International Lighting Fair, which starts this coming Wednesday. I spent much of the last few months I coordination sponsors and speakers and because it is our first major event in which we involve international lighting designers and manufacturers as speakers and booth participants. For that reason I felt compelled to put in the extra mile to make sure we have an outstanding booth and speaker program. Everything is now organised, done and dusted, the booth looks great (on paper, cant wait to see it and report on it next week) and the only thing left really was to finish my presentation. After all I am one of the speakers as well gracefully sponsored by Iguzzini. My talk focusses on “The challenges of lighting public art works in an urban environment” and includes some of my personal experiences in getting the lighting right through visual mock ups (artworks have a way of being created on the go by artists) to make sure our lighting concept actually works. The other main challenges in public art works is that they are generally funded by public money and are installed in the public domain, which means they are subject to government and public scrutiny and have to comply with a flurry of quality and operational health and safety standards.
The Singapore masterplan I am working on at the moment requires a lot of advance thinking and anticipation. The Singapore government does not issue many directives, but are always ready with heaps of comments with high expectations on the team’s deliveries. Advance notice for meetings is on a week to week basis and sometimes adhoc, so being ready and prepared is crucial to stay “in the race”. I had anticipated the next “call-up” and when the request came we just had to put the finishing touch to the updates. The presentation is coming Monday so thought to have the whole week to do the updates but got a surprise request to submit for review by Thursday. Not surprisingly I worked till late on Wednesday but was able to sent it out as requested. It is not so much about the contents, we know what needs to go in, it is most of all abut the presentation. People have expectations and most of them (government review panel) are not really lighting experts so formatting the presentation into a professionally looking, easy to understand presentation requires quite some graphic and visualisation skills. Pictures tell a thousand words so rather than summing up all the design guidelines in “boring words” the challenge is to mould that into cool looking images. On Friday we got “clearance”, all good! Phewww!
Watertown lighting design
The last presentation that needed completion by this weekend was my lighting concept presentation for Xitang water town located just outside Shanghai. We promised a major presentation after last months’ meeting mix-up (we thought it was just a kick off meeting after just having been appointed, while the client was expecting a major presentation). I think we put together a nice presentation with a very strong concepts revolving on light and shadow, a moment in time, very much in style with the location and Chinese tradition. But again it is very much about visualising the conceptual thinking through images. What would we do without Photoshop, Google or Pinterest these days!
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore – Hong Kong – Guilin – Yangshuo – Singapore, Weekend 20-21 August 2016
Our postponed visit to our project site right in the middle of the stunning mountains of Yangshuo, China, took place this week from Monday to Wednesday, courtesy of the typhoon 2 weeks ago that had cancelled our flight to Hong Kong and onwards. It was a very valuable trip, one we needed to make, to assure the design implementation remains on track. We returned with great satisfaction. Thursday and Friday saw a flurry of project and supplier meetings as well as in-house training for our staff. Friday was also more or less my last full day in the Singapore office as I will be working from our Perth office next week and after that travelling to China and Turkey before embarking on my month long annual leave.
We always tell our clients that our design concepts are as good as its final implementation, but all too often we find our clients unwilling to invest (sufficiently) in our presence on site during implementation. Not so this client. Though they are understandably tight on the budget, they have shown their appreciation and understanding of the importance of good quality and are willing to spend the money and go the extra mile to get the desired results. We had insisted on doing some critical lighting mock-ups to establish the correctness of our design and make sure that the big money items to be invested in this project are well spent. Besides regular project progress review our visual mock ups included the corridor lighting concept and the major artwork lighting that carves right through the main building at several locations. The building architecture is stunning, an open brick structure that let’s in light during the day and reversely breathes out light like a lantern at night and getting it right is crucial. The project is a mix of a historical old sugar cane factory with a new building designed to blend in with the old buildings architecture and its majestic mountainous and river background. As the scaffoldings come down and the building architecture starts to appear, the beauty is slowly emerging…and so the importance of the lighting!
The fishbone artwork
One of the biggest unknowns to us was the physical shape and texture of the bamboo artwork. We had done computer modelling of the lighting but needed to assure ourselves that our lighting design intent worked. Not surprisingly the actual artwork configuration was a bit different and it needed physical lighting tests to confirm which lighting option would work the best. We had studied external, peripheral as well as integrated internal lighting positions deciding after two rounds of night testing that the latter one best brought out the artwork flow, containing excessive light and shadow projections and providing a nice ambient glow. Most of all best concealing the light fixtures out of sight. High fives concluded this part of testing with client and architect ecstatic about the results. The lights are dimmable which will allow us to fine tune the brightness once all other lights on the property are installed.
The multi-story corridor lighting
Access to the guestrooms in the main building is through a “maze” of multi-level corridors with open voids letting through daylight. The lighting concept is a reversed approach where the 5 story walls are grazed with a soft wash to achieve an ambient glowing feel of a lantern when viewed from outside. There are no downlights and the linear wall wash creates a mystical silhouetting of guests moving through the corridors. Our main challenge is to achieve an even coverage from top to bottom with linear lights installed at the top and each mezzanine level, installing them in such way that direct view by guests is minimised if not fully concealed. Custom coves and louvres have been designed for this purpose though these were not all in place during testing, which main objective was to establish that we can achieve the uniform coverage and desired brightness and colour consistency. The availability of dimming at a later stage will allow us to fine tune the brightness to the exact right balance.
Insects and lighting
As an interesting “by-product” of our testing in the middle of the summer, was how the lighting attracted insects. The pure white walls combined with more or less the only lighting source in the area was sure to attract insects of all sorts with the architecture’s open air structure and as a result initiated a hefty discussion about whether the lighting concept was right for this…interesting! The client suggested to install down lights away from the white wall, which we duly carried out to see if that would make any difference, only to quickly come to the conclusion that it totally ruined the lighting concept. While a serious issue to watch, we concluded that a) the colour of the walls should not be bright white (probably more darker grey) and that later on with a clean site (no stagnant water) and generally lights on in the landscape and proper “pest control” this issue would be of much less impact…Interesting though and I am going to research a bit more if with lighting we could reduce the attraction of insects. In principle LED lighting have a far lesser UV content which by right would reduce the insect attraction…If any of you readers have anything on this to contribute please do share!
Colour shift and warranty
Some interesting other important lighting issues we discussed and confronted. With the supplier present for the visual mock ups we also took the opportunity to test and approve lighting fittings for the project and one of the issues we had been very strict on was colour temperature consistency. During testing however we discovered a colour shift between two in principle identical lighting strips. The difference however was obvious, our desired 2400K was “only” 2600K in the IP 65 version. It was explained that the IP sealing measures affect the light output and as a result produces a colour shift even though the LED chips are identical. This is not an big deal if they are not seen together, but where they are we need to address this. In another discussion we reviewed the warranty conditions as in another job we had encountered that by the time the hotel had opened the warranty was already expired. Having learned from this we now have a warranty in place that start on installation but has a minimal duration of 2 years upon handover of the lighting installation to the client. We believe this is an important condition to protect our clients.
Back in the office
The rest of the week, back in the office, was spent on project design development meetings with the teams, upcoming concept presentations, new fee proposals, supplier visits and training one of our own staff from our Perth office in Singapore allowing her to meet the team and get some hands on training. Welcome Elisa! The last 2 days rushed past in a wiz, but a very fruitful and satisfactory week it was.
One of the perks of travelling is that we get to enjoy the natural beauties of the countries we visit. Yangshuo is a big tourist attraction and with beautiful weather and picturesque dining locations which the client endeavors to bring is each time. I leave you with some of these beautiful sights.
Enjoy your weekend…
Bali – Singapore – Jakarta – Singapore, Weekend 13-14 August 2016
This was a very short working week as I took a long weekend off courtesy of Singapore’s 51st National Day celebrations on Tuesday. Alex and I had decided to go for a getaway break in Bali to recharge our batteries and escape the high energy pace of our daily work in Singapore and exchange that for a beautiful and quiet little hideaway villa in Bali. You only realise how much you need it when you actually do it! Beach walks, sunsets, pool side relaxing and lovely dinners allowed us to reset and actually spent some time together! On return I straight away caught a flight out to Jakarta for a long overdue meetings with one of my project clients and spent Thursday and Friday catching up with my team and other project matters and following up on all SILE related matters with time slowly running out!
This meeting involved the very, very top boss and because of our conflicting schedules this meeting had been in the making for several months! Near meeting confirmations, last minutes cancellations, re-scheduled flights, it was all part of this, but it finally did happen to the relief and satisfaction of the whole team. In order to move forward, I needed to personally present the lighting design to the boss to get approval and sign off for the rest of the team to proceed. A carefully crafted presentation made sure all basis were covered and all questions addressed, leaving us all with smiles and a boss happy to proceed :). The venue will be unique in Jakarta as it will be the first ever integrated theatre style TV Studio, with full TV recording/ Broadcast facilities while having an interior that has the flexibility to be fitted as a theatre for plays as well as hosting famous games, reality and variety shows such as Idols Indonesia, Master Chef Indonesia, Dance and Fashion Shows; it is all possible. With the desire to be “the best” there is also a commitment required to go for the best in terms of quality and performance and that was probably the hardest challenge considering the general Asian mentality (no disrespect meant) to go “cheap” whenever possible. I think we have managed to strike a good balance to value engineer where it is possible and keep up the high quality standards where it matters. The client has been very respectful and follow up on key recommendations to level the floor, higher the ceiling above the stage and removing the air-conditioning where critical lighting had to be installed. With the sign off we will now move into final procurement and on our recommendation prepare some visual mock ups to assure that the money will be well spent. Target to finish this project before the end of the year.
KLD Office Jakarta
I took the opportunity to visit our KLD team in Jakarta as well as generally the crazy traffic jams in Jakarta prohibits me to actually go to our office which is in South East Jakarta. It took me one and a half hours to and the same back, so you can imagine that I normally prefer to go directly to our meetings. In fact of my roughly 10 hours in Jakarta, I spent half of it in the car moving from airport to office, to my meeting and back to airport! It was great to catch up with the team however and literally worth the extra mile. After all they represent my company and being able to give them a pep talk and share our company values and how we are doing is important, never better then to hear it straight from the boss :). We are working on some training programs in Singapore and look forward to have some of our key staff over to further grow the company. Thanks KLD Jakarta team, your work and efforts are greatly appreciated!
The value of manufacturer networking events.
On Thursday I decided to attend a manufacturer organised product promotion and networking event since I happened to be “in town”. Many of these events I miss because of my travelling. The location also looked idyllic (I had never been at the sky deck of Ion Orchard Tower, which offered beautiful 360 degree views of the city and its sunset when I arrived. The event however was disappointing and left me wondering what kind of marketing strategy was followed. Obviously this kind of events are not for charity and in the long run for the manufacturer this is for building partnerships with specifiers and potential clients. Sponsoring overseas visitors from nearby countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia to attend the Singapore event makes sense but then you somehow would expect to take more advantage of everyone’s presence with a capturing display of innovative products and some eye catching displays that are intriguing enough for you to want to know more. While I arrived a bit later due to a prior meeting, by the time I arrived, the (as I understand short) presentation was over. I only found a small product display tucked away in a corner, but without any attendance or explication. I caught up for a chat with the CEO for Asia and some of their local reps, but otherwise the attendance was pretty low, with little people of my interest. I left after half an hour. Without any disrespect to the manufacturer which I like and use in several of my projects, but the event was without any excitement and the real purpose of the event escaped me. Just serving food and drinks cannot have been the idea behind it? I would have loved to get a bit more emphasis and interaction in regards to the theme of the night, branded as “Digital night”. Perhaps I missed it…
Copy the copiers.
Finally I want to leave you with a story I read on one of the social media sites. China has long been branded as a market were copying successful products is the order of the day. It is an image that is stuck to Chinese manufacturing and a difficult one to shake off. The truth is that over the years China have become original manufacturers in their own right more and more and some of their products are real innovations and of good quality and performance. I have blogged about this before. The story that caught my eye was that of a Chinese manufacturer that was contemplating suing an overseas company for infringing copyright by copying their product! Hey, hey, the world upside down! I guess a case of calling the kettle black?
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore – Singapore, Weekend 6-7 August 2016
Definitely an unexpected but challenging week…Instead of the planned trip to China, I had an unexpected week in the office as our flight to Hong Kong and onwards got cancelled last minute courtesy of raging typhoon Nida that was expected to make landfall around the time our scheduled arrival. Better safe than sorry and spending indefinite hours in an airport waiting for your flight to go or not. We discussed with the client and pushed the trip back to a later date. That created a nice 3 days of unexpected time in the office, but rather then a quiet and relaxing week it turned out to be quite a challenging one! However with my travel schedule about to kick off soon with near continuous travelling till October (including my planned annual leave in France in September) this was a welcome “gift” from Mother Nature. In my case it was a typhoon, one of my friends got stuck in Bali earlier in the week also courtesy of Mother Nature when ash clouds from a nearby erupting volcano were disturbing flights as well…
The challenging submission.
As it turned out, lucky I had some extra time on hand as the tender submission for our Australian masterplan projects was far more demanding than anticipated. Most of all the format was very restrictive and while I can understand that a streamlined structure of submission is easier for the adjudicating panel to judge and administer, it put a lot of restrictions and limitations to what could or should be put in the tender. It was also an exercise in pruning and prioritising; we tend to put way to much information wanting to make sure that we show ourselves from every possible “positive” angle, however simplicity and soberness can sometimes be as effective. With a fairly large team that included some overseas lighting experts as well as some urban and planning related team members it was quite a sizable task to manage. Cutting project references, write-ups and CV’s down to the bare and relevant minimum, was quite a challenging exercise but after we submitted finally on Thursday we looked back in satisfaction, happy with our submission. Now it is fingers crossed and wait to see if we did enough to convince the City that we are the ones!
The challenging SILE event organization.
The next big thing this week was the organization for our booth and the speakers for the Shanghai International Lighting Exhibition (SILE) to be held from 31st August to 2nd of September. My CLDA / IAC team had promoted me to be in charge of the sponsorship to get speakers and manufacturers to support the event and with the event approaching fast I had to decide on a cut-off time to allow progressing into the final details. In the end I managed to secure 5 out of the targeted 6 manufacturers to sponsor us, not a bad score considering the very short time frame and the fact that many of the manufacturers have their budgets for the year already locked in. But like myself and the CLDA / IAC team we very much believe in this concept and that was probably what made the difference. With the further full support of Messe Frankfurt HK it is even more gratifying to see this coming to fruition. We now have a stand-alone booth design of 180 square meter no less (!) which will house a reception, 6 integrated smaller semi open booths (one to be taken up by the CLDA) and an open plan speakers arena which will provide seating for an audience of about 40-50 people. The booth will further have 6 art works specially designed by Chinese artists that will be lit by each of the respective speaker/ sponsor teams in a small lighting design workshop together with some of the CLDA students. The booth concept has been dubbed the Agora concept and will make its debut at SILE. The theme is “art and lighting design” and besides the speaker presentations, the booth design will all be application oriented and centered around this theme. Member’s project work will displayed around the outside of the booth. I spent much of the week coordinating sponsorship matters, booth fit-out issues, speaker and travelling arrangements…when I took on this role I did not realise the time involved would be so much…and all that because I am passionate about giving back to the industry that has been so kind to me
The challenging relationships.
This maybe a slightly contentious subject and I will be careful in my wording. In an ideal world we sign a contract, we never look at the contract ever again, we happily deliver our work to a happy client and we champagne toast with all involved for a successful completion of the job. In the real world this seldom happens, we have clients who are inflexible, interpret the contract one way (their way), keep bugging us for the slightest detail are, hold our fees to ransom to squeeze more out of the contract, find fault in the slightest little issue and most of all have poor decision skills and take very long to approve let alone pay for our services. I find myself once in a while writing very delicate emails to my clients setting the situation straight, reminding them of the contractual agreements they signed with us and exercising due care to get them re-aligned with the process of design and deliveries. Some of the new clients in the business have little understanding of a process that has cause and related chain effects and takes time to realise. This week I had to attend to several “burning fires” that were pushing us in a position of blame where we had actually nothing to do with. One of our project clients accused us of delaying the project by poor and slow response to the agreed schedule. After my detailed explanatory reply, it became clear it was his own team that was at fault and the accusations were quickly rescinded with an apology. In another case, I received a message from the hotel general manager about many of the landscape lights that were failing, in covert words implying that we had done a poor job in specifying. The reality is that ever since the supply on site, they have not involved us in the implementation (allowing them to hold back a considerable chunk of our fees). I checked with the supplier (who also is still owed a good chunk of his payment) and it quickly became clear that it was unlikely a product failure but rather the result from poor installation work, as it generally is in 90% of the cases. My subsequent explanatory reply to the GM brought things back under control and I am now waiting to receive a request (and assumed payment of outstanding feesJ) to come to site to resolve it. Yet another project payment was being held back because we had not issued a “hard copy” letter form the operator that everything was checked and coordinated with the team. While this was all done and clearly documented in email correspondences, the sudden request for a specially signed letter from the operator very much reeked of delaying tactics. Even after issuance of the letter we received comments that the letter was wrongly worded, wrongly addressed…overall this is a typical client and project manager who has no feel of relationships, does not understand how to build durable relationships. The only thing he is achieving is people reluctant to go the extra mile…not something that bodes for a good outcome…
I am off for a long weekend courtesy of Singapore’s National Holiday on Tuesday back on Wednesday, enjoy your weekend.
Images from the cities existing lighting strategy
First images of our booth in Shanghai, still fine tuning and improving…
Singapore – Shanghai – Xitang – Wuzhen – Shanghai – Singapore, Weekend 30-31th July 2016
It was Monday and Friday in the office this week, with a trip to Shanghai (and “surroundings”) in between. Monday was a big day as we presented our first concepts for the lighting master plan for one of Singapore’s new districts. As I mentioned last week, getting it right from the first step is crucial. My experience dealing with governments or clients that have been there and done that, is that you have to come prepared and make sure you have done your homework. While this is true for basically every presentation, it is specifically true for “experienced” clients as they will pick up on any misstep and once they find holes in your presentation keep pounding you on it. The trip to Shanghai was our kick off meeting for a new project and introduction to the team. We also took the time to go visit the site I Xitang and a similar site as reference in nearby Wuzhen, two very famous water towns, the first famous from Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible (sequel nr 3 I believe) and one of Shanghai’s top tourist attractions, just about 1 hour’s drive outside Shanghai. We are honoured to be designing the lighting for an extension to the town which will include a hotel and a commercial zone. On Friday it was back in the office for a de-brief and design decision time for some of our ongoing project.
Getting it right
I had been fretting this meeting leading up to it, having had several design and presentation meetings with government authorities in the past, so I made sure that we had covered every angle and the concept story build to lead them step by step through our design decisions. In the end it was not a tough meeting at all, in fact rather informal and relaxed, with little to no questions. Afterwards the lead consultant gave us a big pat on the back by complimenting us on a “quite good” presentation and explaining that the client did not have much to say because “they probably could not find any glaring things to criticise”…J. We did discuss the areas to expand further on, specifically those they were interested in (not surprisingly the smart poles) and we agreed on some deliverables for next meetings. The sustainability consultant, also present during our presentation thanked us for a “very interesting presentation” and shared that they had found some “great ideas that will tie in with the sustainability guidelines for lighting in terms of energy ad controls”. It is satisfying for any lighting designer to find a captive and appreciative audience on presenting a lighting concept, a nice reward for the efforts put in!
Similarly to a first concept presentation, a kick off meeting is equally crucial in any project. First impressions count, certainly if it is with a new team that you have not worked with before. First impression in a Chinese culture are even more relevant and as a “foreigner” they generally have high expectations from you! Communications also can get lost in translation and while we had understood that the meeting was to be an introduction to our company with some preliminary thoughts about the lighting approach to apply in this project, they had actually expected a full blown lighting strategy. Considering that the contract was not yet signed and our appointment fees not yet paid plus the fact that we had received only some general concept master plan of the project just a week or two ago, there was no way we could have done that. I could read the disappointment from their faces but after we clarified our position and explained in detail what they could expect from us the next time (for which I duly asked for a proper preparation time) the high spirits came back. We went to Xitang (despite the 40 degree heat!) to get a feel of the site followed by a night visit of Wuzhen to get a reference of the ambience that the client likes. It once again proved to me that you can never design from behind your desk…you have to emerge yourself in the culture and the life to understand. You can extract your own interpretations of what your experience but your need to have the reference!
No winding down!
Friday in the office was definitely not a winding down day with the week-end ahead, on the contrary. The morning was spent on catching up with the team on project issues and project planning a number of jobs that require our full concept presentations by the end of August…all hands on deck! With our other master plan proposal due for submission next week and my CLDA/IAC activities requiring conclusion by Monday I am in for a working weekend!
Enjoy yours! I leave you with some scenic mood pictures from my site visit to both Xitang and Wuzhen for those who have never been there…
Singapore, Weekend 23-24th July 2016
A busy week with many things happening at the same time. An interesting and educational week as well on many fronts. You think you have seen it all and are able to anticipate things but it always amazes me that despite all the warnings and precautions issued, “oops moments” still happen! The failed military coup in Turkey had rocked us over the weekend and may well throw a big spanner in our Istanbul project. With the state of emergency now declared any travel plans are now strongly discouraged. We had a site coordination meeting planned in Istanbul in 2 weeks but that has now been postponed till late August. With the tragic events in Nice also fresh in our minds the idea of travelling for our projects is becoming less and less appealing! I anticipate that teleconferencing will become more and more popular these days…
Lighting master planning
While preparing for a joint master plan tender bid in Australia, it so happened that at the same time this week we were also very much submerged in finalising our lighting master plan presentation to the government here in Singapore due this coming Monday. It will be our first major presentation so making sure we are up to par is crucial. We met up with the lead architect (lighting is integrated as part of an overall urban city precinct masterplan) to make sure we are all on the same page. The Singapore government is very much moving towards creating a “smart nation” meaning they have great interest in anything that can contribute to the smart concept, including lighting. With the arrival of LED technology and the ever growing internet and app market there is no doubt that the opportunities for smart lighting are becoming more and more a thing of today. While the Singapore bid has lighting an integrated component in the overall master planning, in the Australian bid, lighting is the sole and key purpose. However because lighting has to be integrated with the city’s architecture, its heritage, its urban planning, its public community involvement and art program, we have been busy pulling together our team to assure ourselves of the necessary expertise in all these areas.
How smart are lighting designers?
The above smart lighting (r)evolution is also raising serious questions about the role of a lighting designer, in a world that is becoming increasingly smarter? With lighting systems becoming more and more about smart technologies and less and less about lighting and environments moving into the internet of things, one can legitimately ask where the responsibility of the lighting designer ends and where IT/Smart experts are taking over. It is a subject that needs serious attention as lighting (and lighting design!) risks being relegated to a secondary importance. To be continued…
Proprietary photo metrics?
In one of our sports lighting projects we are working on resolving an issue that has thought us a number of things. First that the lifespan and depreciation in harsh environments are not as good as the manufacturers may want you to believe. We are using premier grade 2KW metal halide floodlights and found that the lighting levels have reduced with at least 30% if not more, even though the failure rate is minimal. As a result the critical lighting levels in the centre of the pitch have dipped below standards. Thinking it was due to poor aiming the venue management decided to tilt the floodlights up to increase the lighting levels in the centre. The resulting effect was that, yes there was now enough light in the centre, but oh, no, now the spectators were glared and had a hard time following the game! We went some time ago to do a site assessment and found that adding more floodlights was hardly possible because of the poles structural limitations (only 4 pieces could be added to the outside poles which were not yet at full capacity). While the option of increasing pole heights and adding more floodlights is a consideration for the future, the immediate solution is to re-aim the lights within our initial glare limitation angles and re-aim all floodlights (including the extra 4) to increase concentration. As the support from the manufacturer (Abacus) was frustratingly slow we asked for the photo metrics to do the calculations ourselves, but were surprised to hear back that they don’t give out the photo metrics and had their own design services free at our disposal. I find this a worrisome development as other than assessing the resulting outcome I have no way to identify any flaws in the calculation process or check the design calculation factors… As it is an existing installation we have not much choice right now but I may have to rethink our position for our upcoming projects there…
I think we have all been there, going to one of our project sites, only to see some shocking installations! Two of my team went to site in Malaysia middle of the week to check on the site progress of one of our projects there a golf course clubhouse. Back in the office they shared their site pictures with me and it was a typical case of textbook failures from the client and the contractor in appreciating the importance and relevance of a lighting designer. By fat the biggest shocker was the quality of the façade plaster finish, which came vividly to life when the linear wall wash was turned on (see pictures below)…ouch! It is not the first time (nor the last time) that our grazing light reveals the contractors shoddy work…The cost cutting exercise (oh sorry, we call that value engineering…) had been done on their own account without involving us and the result was shockingly visible. Instead of lighting control panels we found that the electrical contractor had decided to install hundreds of simple 3-gang switches, but because for the control panels (Lutron nota bene) had already been delivered to site, they were installed next to each other? What? Further issues such as clearly visible colour inconsistency (in down lights and cove lights, non-dimmable T5 replacements of LED soft effect lights (why is it so bright!) and extremely poor substitutions of IP65 rated exterior lights (why is there water inside and are they tripping?)…were all text book failures in appreciating the benefits of good quality lighting design. The irony is that this client may now spent more money in rectifying the situation than if they would have purchased the specified lighting in the first place! Penny wise, pound foolish?
Keeping up with developments.
The other regular fixture in our office are visits from lighting manufacturers, keeping us up to date with the latest innovations and developments. One of the visits we had this week was from Sattler, a relatively new player in the market and specialised in suspended profile structures. I find it fascinating to see how some manufacturers are finding a niche in this highly competitive LED world and really go all the way to develop their concepts within their niche market strategy. Having visited their factory in Germany after Light & Build it was nice to see the again and being reminded how impressive their products are. We are looking forward to projects where we could use their expertise and product competence.
Natural light at work Finally, I managed to snap two pictures taken upon arrival in Singapore last weekend where I had the chance to witness both a double rainbow (from a plane it is actually a full circle, not a bow, but I could not capture that my seat) and a near full moon at dusk. Nature remains a lighting inspiration, always.
Have a great weekend
Perth, Weekend 16-17th July 2016
His Majesty’s Theatre.
This was the week of His Majesty’s Theatre. While I did engage in some other project and lighting related activities, this week was pretty much all about HMT, from the moment I landed back in Perth on Monday. With the “grand opening” scheduled for Thursday, we still had a few “loose ends” to tie up.
The final tune-up
First up on Monday, nearly straight on from the airport, was the final adjustment of the column floodlights. We had done the aiming during my last trip but that was done with the scaffolding still up. That had obscured the street view a bit and parts of the scaffolding had also restricted access and aiming of some of the floodlights. With the scaffolding down it became obvious that the light throw of the column floodlights were not fully aligned needing a final adjustment. While it maybe something that the general public may not notice, it was very obvious to us and not taking action to adjust would have bothered us for ever. The Theatre gracefully lend us their stage cherry picker (why do they call them that way…?) allowing us to reach the floodlights mounted on the awning from the pavement below. The actual adjustment just took a few minutes, but maneuvering the machine around was tedious and time consuming. Adjusting the 20 odd floodlights took us more than 3 hours. On top of that we were facing one of the coldest nights in Perth, not ideal for having to adjust floodlights with your bare hands! Thanks Gary!
The Media preview.
The next day was set aside for an exclusive preview for the local TV (Channel 7) and main newspaper (The West Australian). This was done to avoid any issues and unpredictable miss-happenings on the night and assure there was proper time to record and shoot video’s and pictures of the façade lighting. We ran the “countdown” sequence for the TV crew and showed the variety of colour options that are pre-programmed for various future occasions. Since the unveiling of the façade was to coincide with the season opening of the opera “the Elixir of Love”, in celebration of 50 years of the Western Australian Opera, the photo/ video shoots also included taking shots with some of the opera lead singers against the back drop of the illuminated building façade. We were at hand to make sure the lighting was properly up and running…
After five years in the making the big day finally arrived. It’s not often that the unveiling of one of my projects is a public media event, let alone a “black tie” event! The proceedings led us across the road where we witnessed the countdown of the façade lighting, followed by the “ooohs” and “aaahs” and applause. Hugs and congratulations amongst the team and all involved for a mission well accomplished. Away from us inside the theatre, a Channel 7 news reporter streamed the news live to the station, but the countdown showed on TV was a shorted version of the re-recorded shoot earlier in the week. We then moved to a cocktail party inside the Theatre, where the minister of Health, Culture and the Arts, Mr John Day, officially inaugurated the new façade lighting and commended all that had been involved in realising what he called a great new attraction to the Perth city centre. The crowd amongst which the west Australian Governor and many of Perth’s socialites then adjourned to the theatre to enjoy the opening night of the Elixir of Love, a humourful opera about a farmer’s attempt to win the love of the woman he desires so much…The opera was in Italian, but had some hilarious “Aussie” translations…strike me pink!
The media aftermath.
With today’s social media craze, the opening was tweeted “life” by many and the next morning the newspaper report the event in its morning edition and on it’s online website. The government issued a media statement as well praising all involved for a job well done. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter posts flowed in the aftermath. The world of reporting has changed, but as of today so has His Majesty’s Theatre…Thanks to all that have been involved. It has been a great team work and every one of the team has been essential to the ultimate success; The Perth Theatre Trust, His Majesty’s management team, Heritage Perth, IGuzzini and Mondoluce, Tech Works, Griffiths Architect, ETC and of course my own KLD team.
Have a great weekend.