The week that was 16-19 March
HCMC, weekend 21-22nd March 2015
Monday 16; Singapore – Raffles Hotel Jakarta finally open
It has been a long time coming and a project we have been involved with since we started in 2008, but today Raffles Hotel, Jakarta finally opened it’s doors, though as a rather “soft” opening. The main entrance lobby, the writers bar, the All Day Dining and a handful of room and suites have opened to the public and the first guests stayed the night. Our team went in the weeks passed and actually already spent a few nights in the guestrooms, pre-opening; one of the “perks” of being one of the project consultants. As we carry out our programming, aiming, testing and commissioning we actually stay in the rooms, having the staff, then in full training, wait on us. One of the tasks we do get from the operator in return for our free overnight stay is to report any issues or mal-functioning (yes including lighting and lighting controls!) on an elaborate check list. As a lighting designer staying in a finished room that you designed is a priceless feedback. You get to literally experience first-hand how well your design works! There are still areas to finish but at least we can claim completion on a significant part of the hotel!
Tuesday 17 Singapore – Developing concepts to client’s approval
Key to all design work is to develop the concept. Over the past two days we have been working on the design concepts for two new hotel projects. Key for us in lighting is the interaction with the lead consultants, architects and interior designer. We can’t be developing our lighting concepts independently from the overall interior design intent when it comes to the interiors or the building’s architectural features when it comes to façade lighting for instance. But crucial for us is to make sure we are on the same page with our fellow project consultants. The worst thing that can happen when presenting your lighting concept to your client is to find the architect or interior designer coming up with all kinds of objections, hence meeting and agreeing with them prior to any progress to presentation is essential. After that, specifically when a hospitality operator is involved, is making sure that they also are on your side and you have ironed out any issues that may be regarded as a miss in your design concept. When all parties are aligned your concept presentation to the client is strong, thought through and most of all supported by all. You then find your team members going into bat for you because they are on the same page and agreed with your approach! I have always found this the most rewarding approach to making sure you can move your concept ahead!
Wednesday 18 Singapore – Lighting solutions
I generally do not go into specifics when it comes to specific manufacturers preferring to talk in a more general way and principles, but with the announcement today that Philips Lighting is planning a move to the stock exchange it is perhaps good to have a look back what happened as it maybe symptomatic for other leading lighting manufacturers in the world. Philips is one of the oldest lighting manufacturers in the world ( I should know as I spent 12 years working for them). They have been the innovators of many lighting products as we know them today, compact fluorescent and LED included. But as a huge international conglomerate, with more than 300,000 employees a few decades ago, that had a hand in probably too many things (consumer products!), it had to face the reality of today where focussed, dynamic and innovation driven strategies rule the world. It already made strategic decisions to get rid of all its divisions except what it deemed strategically and commercially viable, namely health care and lighting. To further sharpen the strategy it decided some time ago to focus on the high yield activities which are innovation and turnkey lighting solutions rather than competing with low yield and extremely competitive market of manufacturing. While I believe they still have a stake in some key production facilities and own a forest of patents and copyrights, they now no longer produce LED lighting leaving this cut throat market to better placed companies. Philips Lighting Solutions has now announced privatisation by making the move to the stock exchange market by early next year. It will be interesting to follow and see if Philips lighting can continue towards reaching its double centenary!
Thursday 19 HCMC, Vietnam – Emerging markets
Vietnam is no doubt an emerging market. Long thought to be around twenty years behind leading economies like Singapore, it is now making a dash to catch up with many developments planned and in construction. While I have done some work in Vietnam before, it has always been a low key country for us, but on the back of signing a new project and other opportunities ahead I am in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is called today, till the weekend invited by one the countries’ leading lighting suppliers to conduct a seminar for architects, interior designers and potential developers. For some reason I had never been to HCMC before, one of the rare places missing on my list of countries and places visited over the last 25 years in Asia. To familiarise myself with the city and understand “what’s going on” in regards to lighting I spent my first day and night with my host touring the city’s landmarks. There is nothing worst in my opinion then to present your knowledge about lighting without being able to relate it the local situation. It is imperative to adapt or better set fit your design and your standards within what would work locally. I was surprised to see that still many lights showed the use of conventional lighting technology. Halogen, (compact) fluorescent and gas discharge lighting technology can still widely been found both in exteriors and interiors. But of course Led has already found its way and you just have to look at the city skyline at night to realise that the LED tsunami has arrived at the Vietnamese doors as well. But with the same token the presence of the LED Cowboys is also omnipresent! It is without doubt that my lighting design seminar is timely in this emerging market!
Friday 20 HCMC, Vietnam – The art of sustainable lighting design
This was the title of my seminar today which was attended by around 60 plus leading design professionals and developers. The subtitle to the seminar was “balancing budget and quality”, a clear indication where the main challenges are lying in this country. In my presentation which was simultaneously translated in Vietnamese for maximum impact I touched upon the opportunities that lighting provides for the tourism and hospitality industry but most of all educating the participants about the fact that lighting design is an art (not just an engineering exercise) that requires creativity an artistry combined with a high level of understanding of today’s technology, specifically it’s pitfalls (dimming to name just one!). Sustainability does not just mean saving energy and dimming/controlling lights, in the same breath we need to make sure that any sustainable lighting design considers also the cost of the design (capital and operating costs) as well as the human aspects of lighting design such as mood and ambiance. We should never forget that we design for people and not for lux or energy meters! The afternoon was engaging with all participants on the edge of their chairs eagerly absorbing the key points of the art of sustainable lighting design and the ways to avoid the pitfalls created by LED Cowboy suppliers and cost cutting contractors at installation. The day was concluded with a reception at night in one of HCMC authentic bistro’s that saw many of the key players attend. I believe I leave back a very appreciative crowd.
The week that was…