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.
Singapore, Weekend 9-10th July 2016
What, no travel this week? Yes and that is largely due to the end of Ramadan, which brought us a public holiday midweek to celebrate EID, the end of the fasting period. Best wishes and happy celebrations to all. Many people were on leave, including some of my staff and overall there was little action going on in this part of the world, a perfect time to catch up on projects and other things.
Singapore’s URA are calling a limited tender for this year’s Marina Bay 2017 New Year’s Eve countdown, an interesting project for which I was asked to participate. I spent some time developing the potential lighting concept; submission is due in the next few days. The last few years the City used to cover Marina Bay with 20,000 floating balls which were illuminated by floodlights. This year they want to change the concept…challenging because we are talking about an area as big as about 4 soccer fields and on the water…this won’t be cheap! However I relish these kind of challenges as they are out of the box from our regular architectural lighting projects. These projects are not done for the money, but for the honour of doing it…
I-Light Marina Bay 2017
Also being called are entries for next year’s I-Light Marina Bay, an event were lighting designers and artists are invited to come up with an eco-friendly lighting installation that, if selected, will be displayed for 3 weeks around Marina Bay. Manuel and me are considering participation (we submitted in the past but were not selected) and spent some time brainstorming possible concepts. Unlike for the countdown, the budget to develop your “artwork” is very low, only SGD15,000.00, way down from the budget that was proposed at its inauguration a few years back in which I participated with my whirlpool installation. In comparison to big city events like Lyon Light Festival or Vivid Sydney, the budget here is unneglectable and therefore nothing spectacular can be expected. From what I saw from last event (with the same low budget) it was not great, nothing really spectacular or memorable. Nevertheless the process of brainstorming and creation, even if we have little hope of getting selected, is still exciting and stimulating, hence we will challenge ourselves to come up with something and submit. Due soon too!
Amongst others I had some time this week to dedicate to my activities as a member of International Advisory Council who mentors the Chinese Lighting Designers Association. We are in the midst of finalising an event as part of the Shanghai International Light Fair end of August, which include finalising sponsors and organising speakers for the event. Quite a tedious and time consuming undertaking but I am doing it with pleasure gratefully using my worldwide network of trusted and respected relations in the lighting industry. Supporting this cause is really a passion and mission; there is still a lot of unawareness (especially in Asia in general and in China specifically) about the benefits of good quality lighting design, so sharing years of knowledge and experience (like I am doing through my blog) is an important thing to do for our profession. Raising the awareness and understanding is key, not only towards the design community (architects and the like), governments and developers but also within the ranks our own lighting designers (teach the teachers!) and last but not least the manufacturers themselves. While I am critical of manufacturers and suppliers in my presentations I always find a very appreciative response and acknowledgement that they could do better!
Inspiration and motivation
Finally I would like to pay homage to all my loyal followers and readers. I do not always realise how many of you find inspiration in my writing and the sharing of experiences from my life as a lighting designer but when I do get the feedback it gives me the motivation to keep going! Thanks Gerardo Fonseca, an architect who gave up his profession of architect to become a lighting designer very much inspired by my blog, to come all the way from Brazil to visit me in Singapore. I treasure these encounters, it validates very much my efforts in writing and sharing and most of all it stimulates me to keep going with my blog. Thanks to all of you out there!
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Seoul – Singapore, Weekend 2-3rd July 2016
On Monday I finished my presentation for Seoul over the weekend saved it on a thumb drive and put it away, done. From the outset the summit seems to be mostly a government, multi-national corporations and academic researcher’s convention and I am not 100% sure what I am doing there. But I was invited and it is an opportunity to re-explore the Korean market where I have not done projects for quite a while…read further on how I went. On Tuesday I finished the draft for our city masterplan project (which I cannot mention as we signed a NDA with the government for confidentiality) and I am getting excited by the looks of it. In my research to similar type city environments I did find some interesting implementations that will serve as reference.
City lighting strategy planning.
The master lighting strategy that we are developing is very much build around the natural and nature heritage of the area. Still very much untouched, the designated area will be turned into a bristling city precinct with many of its natural (landscape) elements retained. Motorised traffic will very much be contained with emphasis on pedestrian and bike circulation. Many plaza’s and promenades with dedicated pockets for social, education, sports and entertainment activities. Buildings will be linked up through sky loops, aerobridges and elevated promenades. In my research to this part of the concept I found several interesting existing implementations notably in New York and Paris
I have been flying with Singapore Airlines for more than 25 years and on my flight to Seoul I was reminded again why I love flying with them. In order to keep my weight in check I generally pre-order a low calorie meal and had done on this flight too. Half way into the flight we were served our meal but as I started with the main course the stewardess came back to me full of apologies saying she had given me the wrong meal. I had not noticed it as I thought the beef and vegetables seemed pretty low calorie to me. However in their menu the low calorie main dish was fish and rice. I told her it was fine and finished the meal served to me. I thought that was the end of it, no issue at all, however later in the flight the chief stewardess came back to me with a $150 (!) voucher together with her most sincere apologies for the mistake. Really I asked her, it was no big deal! But she insisted I took the voucher…I was easily convinced (J) and was once more won over by their super service and personal attention.
My trip to Korea was split in two parts, one a visit to the Alto lighting offices and factories, the other delivering my presentation at the low carbon green growth earth energy summit. Alto has been the leading lighting manufacturer in Korea for decades with turnovers rivalling the leading big boys in Europe for instance. Only since the last 2-3 years they have focussed on developing the international market and that’s how we got know their products and appreciate the quality. Visiting their office, showroom and factory (about 1 hours’ drive outside Seoul) to get to know their team was an essential part of developing the relationship. The team has a great attitude as well as a sense of direction for the future with great plans for new product developments. The product range is still relatively limited and mainly aimed at the corporate, commercial and industrial sector, but their understanding of where LED technology is heading is driving their product development towards exciting new opportunities. Cooperation with lighting designers is seen as imperative for success and our discussions therefore focussed on the different lighting options lighting designers are after. A company to watch…
The green and not so green practices in lighting design
Last but not least I delivered my presentation at this energy summit and while I am still not sure whether the platform was the right one to promote greener practices in lighting it was worth exploring speaking to an audience that for once was not from the lighting or architectural design industry. Mostly academics, government officials and researchers (by the looks of it) attended and (similar to the PLDC format) the summit had various parallel sessions and subjects in different conference rooms to choose from. As far as I could see I was the only speaker about lighting (design) and considering the audience background decided to include a little introduction about what lighting designers actually do. It was actually quite refreshing to speak to non-lighting people and the presentation obviously aroused interest with several questions raised in the Q+A session afterwards. While the session chair initially had urged me to round up my presentation with my allocated time running out, the questions (including from the chairperson herself) kept coming and spilled well over into the next speaker’s time slot…sorry! It will be interesting to see if it will result in some interest in the future. I took several business cards for further follow up. Time will tell.
Otherwise it was great to be back in Seoul. I reconnected with the Gangnam and Iteawon areas (even bought myself a leather jacket!) and though the weather was hot and humid enjoyed it thoroughly. It has been more than 10 years since I was last here and like so many capital cities in the world Seoul has been growing at a break neck speed and has all the buildings and infra structure to show for it. The city seems ever so brimming with energy and as always entrepreneurial. The big boys (Hyundai/ Kia, Lotte, Samsung, Sanyong are present everywhere. I have added some city impressions for those who have never been to Seoul. Interestingly I felt that in visible LED technology in application they have still a way to go with many conventional lighting systems still being used…be back soon.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore, Weekend 25-26th June 2016
A whole week in the office without travel! A few outside meetings yes, but overall mostly behind my desk. As I write this blog the breaking news is that the UK has just voted to leave the EU. In a very close fight the BREXIT camp won over the REMAIN supporters bring a time of uncertainty in the world’s future and while we seem far away from it in Asia Pacific, shock events like this do make you stand still and reflect on where you are and what the future may hold or demand from you in the years to come. My blog has always been a great tool of reflection for myself, inspiration for others and often a trigger to make changes. It is coincidental (or perhaps not) that I am in the middle of a process of change personally and with my company and this week’s events just reinforce that looking after yourself and planning for the future are elementary for survival.
This week gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my new director of projects and business development to discuss steps to bring KLD to a new level of quality and expertise in line with today’s demands. Issues like branding, marketing, company documentation and tightening of our quality control and service delivery are all part of the process. We have been doing well with what we have over the last few years, but with changing times where the IoT is becoming more and more integrated in our lives, software programs and apps more and more sophisticated, it is time to look ahead and adapt to the “new” world. Innovation and change is a must in order to stay ahead in this game. Too often my travel and daily work routine prevents me from actually spending time planning for the future and having (making) time this week to brainstorm and start the process was a grateful experience.
Good design practice
In a parallel activity we engaged this week with one of our loyal hotel operators to discuss how to improve their design manual (which we felt had little in the way of giving guidance towards good lighting design) as well as brainstorming on the process of design and approvals to make sure the end result is as good or as close as possible to the design intent. The reality of life is that many developers (certainly in the hospitality industry) have little to no experience in working with top hotel brands and top design consultants and as a result the project infra-structure in terms of project management, budget provisions and approval process lack on many levels with at times disastrous end results. We have experienced this all too often; clients who do not respect the consultants recommendations, move ahead with procurements without the consultant’s sign off, combined with little or no actual project management and poor workmanship. For many of us an all too familiar situation. While the client is king, poor end results leave many people disappointed us included. The sad thing is that many of the clients actually don’t understand that they are at the root of it, so educating the client from day one is imperative. It was great to be on the same page with the operator and discussed several steps to improve the process, one of them being an early sign off on the budget, as money is generally the root of all evil. Being in agreement and committed to a budget eliminates much of the later stage pains. In one of our recent projects all budgets were locked in at concepts and it provides great clarity for the further development of the project.
From concept to reality
We have a few projects near or in tender stage which needed our full attention in regards to final specifications or tender queries. These are crucial times as we need to make sure the bidding contractors / suppliers have the full picture and ultimate tests and mock ups were carried out to confirm final configurations and details. In one of the projects we had been working on introducing a new lighting concept, build on the opportunities of today’s mobile apps. In this concept the bottles of wine are displayed on an illuminated shelf, in itself nothing new. However customers in the bar can select a bottle of wine from a menu displayed on an I-pad and when they confirm their selection the actual bottle on the display shelf lights up. The same lighting installation will be programmed to create some small light shows at the top of each hour or other events like birthdays or other. This week we got the system programming back just in time to issue it to the tenderers as an addendum. We are excited and look forward to see this exciting feature installed.
On the subject of apps, the amount of apps related to lighting is growing with the day. Many can be found as lighting controllers, but last week I found one that helps you to determine how to upgrade your current lighting installation to LED, typically aimed at the general public.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Perth, Weekend 18-19th June 2016
I flew into Perth over the weekend straight on from Guangzhou for a week of work in Australia. One of my projects was recently completed and I wanted to go visit it (Palace Hotel) now that it was officially open and occupied with tenants. But the better part of the week was consumed with the last bits and pieces of commissioning His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth’s iconic and historic theatre dating back more then 110 years. After more than 5 years in the making through governmental and local city council hoops and approval processes we are finally seeing the light! The scaffolding is coming down this Saturday and hence all lighting installation works, aiming testing and commissioning in areas only reachable from the scaffolding had to be completed by Friday. Last but not least on Friday was the closing date for the IES lighting design awards in Western Australia for which we wanted to submit 3 projects. As you all may know preparing lighting design awards for submission is also quite some work let alone for three projects, the submission forms, the lighting designer statements, the client consent letters and last but not least the selection of photograph adequately representing your project, including the necessary captions and explanations…with all that now done and dusted I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my children…
His Majesty’s Theatre
This historic heritage building has been screaming for lighting and it is hard to believe that all these years it never had a proper façade lighting worth its majestic architecture. We started this project some 5 years ago and over the years you will have had the occasional updated through my blogs. To make a long story short sometimes last year we finally got the go ahead, finalised and agreed on the budgets, which had grown a bit out of control due to the excessive costs of installation mainly caused by the strict health, safety and security rules imposed by the city. But we managed to secure the funds, get the approvals and embarked finally on ordering the light fittings and ultimately this year the installation. The scaffolding went up late last month and finally tomorrow will come down with work practically completed. There will be a few more lights to adjust, but they can be reached from the inside. Everyone is now getting excited and looking forward to the grand opening ceremony which is to take place at 6pm on the 14th July with the mayor, politicians, city council members and members of Perth VIP elite all invited to attend. Following the opening ceremony will be the inaugural performance of an opera, details to follow. As I had mentioned in one of my previous blogs working with a professional contractor who takes pride in doing a good job has been an immense pleasure. Focussed on getting every detail right, pro-actively thinking ahead and finding solutions when unexpected issues popped up, this contractor has been instrumental in the final success of the project. I can say therefore with confidence that the lighting that has been achieved is without doubt the best possible that we could achieve within the restrictions and limitations of heritage preservation and available budget. It is not often that you complete a project knowing that you could not have done anything better…this is one of them…all good things come to those who wait patiently…I can’t wait till the official unveiling as even during testing we had been instructed to do this under the highest discretion (by only lighting up parts at the time after hours) as to keep under wraps the final visual impact. Photo’s are not to be published and kept under embargo until official opening.
As a sharp contrast comes this project that was “sort of” completed last month and saw the main tenant (Woods Bagot Architects) move in with much fanfare and media publicity. This also is an iconic heritage building with a rich and near century long history in Perth. The contractor/ developer however had by far a lesser interest and personal pride to complete the project to the best of possible outcomes. Driven by costs control and possible other motives/directives unknown to me, the working relationship was always cold and distant instead of involved and cooperative. We had to initiate meetings, case for information and have still not officially signed off with our final payment still outstanding. We had a great working relationship with the architect, who ultimately moved into the building and we went to catch up with them this week to reminisce about the work done. The interiors now look great, but we do see the little things that could (should!) have been done better. The custom fixtures fitted with art glass (pendants and wall sconces) look nice but the colour of the light is too greenish. Partly due to the glass colour, but most of all because of the alternative linear LED strips that were used without consulting us, let alone approved / signed off by us. Typical case of the contractor shutting us out of the final production process and then putting us for a fait accompli with no further allowance to change the lighting strips to the correct type and quality. It bugs and frustrates me because it is so obvious, but from the feedback I get I seem to be the only one seeing it. Even the architect only noticed it only when I pointed it out. Part of the exterior façade lighting at the upper edge of the roof is already not working…why? It seems to be sloppiness of the contractor and unwillingness to do a good job, not wanting to go the extra mile. There is nothing wrong with the actual product, one of the high end brands and as we had already encountered during installation most likely due to poor connections and driver issues. Here is a link to the project: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/31750195/public-set-to-see-inside-historic-cbd-hotel/
Have a great weekend.