Design and reality

Shanghai, 30th April 2010

When we design our lighting we have all these beautiful images in our mind on how it will look like. When you are developing the lighting concept and you have virtually no constraints and can let your imagination flow, everything is exciting. You get into a dream state on how your project is going to look like. But gradually along the way you are brought back to reality. As the design progresses and the real life constraints and limitations appear (more then often the budget) one after another the dream slowly falls apart, leaving you in the end with a skeleton of what once was this great lighting design that you had envisaged. I dramatize a bit here but in many cases I am not far off the reality.

Today I was confronted with it when I was asked to inspect “our” lighting as installed in a 4 star hotel here in Shanghai. Honestly we had already given up on this project as the client did not follow our specifications, ignored our installation details, all in the name of cost saving. Though we are generally quite flexible and adaptable (isn’t the saying: “the client is king”?), there has to be a limit to what we can accept in terms of quality and performance. In the end we are responsible designers and have to apply our professional expertise in advising the client to make sure the lighting installation is safe, sufficient and able for operation including its maintenance.

What I saw was at times pitiful…Illuminated back panels without any access panels for lamp maintenance, with already lamps visibly failing, chandeliers with exposed non dimmable metal halide lamps in the main lobby (!), badly installed light fixtures such as down lights hanging of the ceiling creating light gaps between trim and ceiling, indirect cove lights showing the irregular messy installation, and so on.

You wonder why they even bother to ask you to come and look…they know what we have to say. But somehow they think we will help them rectify all these problems which now become so apparent…but should we?

30. April 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting design | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Dear Martin,

    I agree with you & it applies to all the artistic fields!! What we dream will somewhat slightly different from the final product. By the end of the day, we need to accept this somehow because of budget constraints, client requirements, etc, etc.!!

    By the way i am working in Goa with Kapil as an Intern!

    I had witnessed Kevin Shaw pointing out this problem here in Goa, when he was here for “Lights in Goa” workshop. He actually requested supporting staffs of the hotel to dim-off the cove lighting inside Ball-room to demonstrate his work. But later it was found that it cannot be dimmed. But actual specification from our (Kapil’s)office carried the dimming schedule option in specification. What happened in the site was different, because to cut-off the cost & intrusion of contractors. Even Kevin Shaw himself told on the stage that “I am sure this won’t be the fault of Lighting Designer, it might have happened because of contractors!!”

    So how to face these kind of problems in our profession? Should we also need to be stubborn enough while we design too?? 🙂

    with regards,
    Sathish Kumar.A
    Lighting Design Student, KTH.

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