The week that was 17-21st April 2017
Singapore weekend 22-23rd April
To my own surprise I ended up not travelling at all this week. Originally scheduled to go to Australia, I decided to postpone the trip to a later date as our new Vietnam project presentation would need all our attention this week with a probable trip back to HCMC at the end of the week. But by midweek it became clear that we could everything remotely and that a trip would not be necessary…but as always when you think you will have a few easier days, something unexpected happened in this case in the form of a mega project tender that popped up on my desk midweek. As often the case it was due yesterday and I ended up make late hours to make sure we could submit it by close of business Friday…that, together with the Vietnam project deadline and some improvised meetings, made up for a very busy week! Postponing my trip to Australia ended up to be a good decision considering the amount of work that needed my input this week…
This week’s blogger has a special place in my heart as I am not only his boss, I am also his father :). Ingmar had worked with me before, but then left to pursue his own path. Recently, after finishing his university studies, he decided to give it another go and joined our team in Perth to look after the business development side of the company. I am really pleased to have him back.
It was back in early 2001 that I first had a dab at preparing technical lighting drawings, initially for Lighting Images. Using AutoCAD I worked on drawings for hotels, resorts and shopping centers; mainly projects in Singapore, China and South Korea. I was given hand-drawn lighting plans and sketches by Martin to be translated into technical form. Although I wasn’t involved in the actual design, it was my first introduction to what goes on inside a lighting designer’s brain. I also saw first-hand how a concept design and vision ultimately morphs into the final physical form. Little did I know that sixteen years later I would be writing a blog for KLD about my experiences and appreciation for lighting design. For me this journey has only just begun. After reading Stan’s, Elisa’s and Todd’s blogs, I too am grateful to be given the opportunity to write from my perspective, which comes from an urban planning background as I will explain.
Urban planning background
Over the last five years I have embarked on a slightly different journey; recently having completed my BA Hons in Urban and Regional Planning at Curtin University, Perth. I found urban planning to be an immensely interesting field, yet challenging at the same time. I spent much time learning about the relationships between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric. Urban planning, being a rather broad discipline, deals with both political and technical processes in relation to development and use of land, planning permission, protection and use of the environment, public welfare, and the design of the urban environment. Why did I choose urban planning, do I hear you ask? Good question. This brings me back to my childhood days when I used to play Sim City on the computer; designing cities, placing roads and rail, designating residential, commercial and industrial land zones. I found great pleasure in creating functional, integrated, well-designed and beautiful places. It was a simplistic view of the world and how those elements interacted and influenced each other. In 2016 I worked at the WA Department of Planning, where I was immersed in a complex world of political swings and roundabouts, very different to the one initially had with Sim City. One does not simply design and shape great cities or towns at the click of a mouse button. What I realised around this time was what inspired me to enter into urban planning was my desire to create vibrant spaces for people, spaces that are functional, attractive and sustainable; but it was more the ‘design’ element that was the main driver for me. With ‘design’ in mind, I’m talking about place-making and beautifying, to have a vision for an area and then bringing the vision to life. Isn’t that what lighting designers do also?
Lighting design as part of urban design/planning (similarities)
My appreciation of lighting design really started when I joined Martin at a preliminary lighting testing session at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. It was there that I ventured to the roof and other behind-the-scenes areas inside the theatre that the public usually don’t get to see. I found this quite exciting. This is also where I saw the magic happen! In a sense it was everything I wanted to see happen from a place-making and urban design point of view, albeit on a smaller scale. It is the cumulative effect of many such projects within a city that leads to vibrant city where people want to be. One thing that I’ve noticed is the importance good lighting plays in making a place work. If you look at lighting design with a social approach, lighting designers similarly explore the connection between people, light, and the urban environment. A quote by New York City based lighting designer Linnaea Tillet:
“You do not want to invite people to do something they have no interest in or are unable to do. Similarly, you don’t want to use lighting to direct people to nowhere.”
In other words, through mindful design, lighting can engage a public space on a human level, and does not merely serve for functionality or security (as is often thought the role of urban lighting is). I have come to appreciate that ultimately successful lighting is determined or achieved by the human response; that what is to be seen clearly, easily and comfortably.
Urban design (as part of urban planning) really is interdisciplinary by nature, as it utilises elements of many other built environment professions such as architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and civil and electrical engineering. In fact, urban design is often practiced by all these disciplines. The ‘public realm’ or ‘public space’ is what they all have in common, namely the way public spaces are experienced and used. One urban design theory often overlooked by urban planners is that of the ‘night time economy’: the design of night time environments that instil feelings of both safety and enjoyment. This is of critical importance to the economic and cultural vitality of urban centers in any city around the world. Good lighting should respond to the use, people and the environment at different times of the day and correspond to a public space as it changes from day to night. In effect, lighting is one element as part of a number of factors that support a social space; yet not to be taken ‘lightly’ (pardon the pun), because it is nonetheless a significant factor.
Early this year saw me re-join KLD with a different set of skills and a new perspective of the industry. Martin asked me to come on board initially with the intention of using my urban planning background in offering local councils in the Perth metropolitan area (and indeed WA for that matter) KLD’s expertise in transitioning from conventional lighting to LED’s. Recent changes in Australian national lighting standards and codes to keep up with the ever evolving LED technology are seeing many local councils with the arduous task of upgrading their lighting systems. Many of the councils are already well down the path of transitioning to LED technology, often with a dedicated officer to oversee the council’s’ lighting being up to date. Nevertheless, my new role as business development manager at KLD has plenty going for it. I took it upon myself to get familiar with the field, the game, the players and the rules; some of which is still in progress. It is not that dissimilar (to use a double negative) to what I was doing at the WA Department of Planning; where my role required me to liaise with big shopping center managers (i.e. Vicinity, Westfield etc.) and gain their cooperation in conducting the Department’s ‘Land Use and Employment Survey’. It often meant doing site visits and presenting data and feedback to both the project team and the proponent. I still liaise! This time with architects, hotel managers and developers for potential projects in the pipeline. To further develop my skills I have even setup lighting presentations for a group of architects, which I will be presenting in the coming months.
The challenges of doing business development in WA
The mentality of architects, developers or owners can often be such that they may ask this question: ‘Why should we pay for lighting design services when it can be done ‘in-house’ (by either the electrical contractor or by a lighting supplier) at no additional cost? It can at times be tricky getting them to recognise the value-added benefits of appointing a lighting designer, in light of the fees charged. So what’s the difference? Well, the electrical engineer will often specify lighting because it is part of the electrical system; likewise an interior designer may specify lighting because they have selected some decorative lighting equipment. Part of my job entails ‘shining the light’ on the long-term paybacks the project will gain that far outweigh the cost. Often a lighting designer can reduce the overall cost of construction or operations. A question I like to ask potential clients is whether ‘good’ illumination is important to their project. I can then discuss what good lighting is and how we may achieve it. The rest is up to the KLD design team! I’m confident KLD has the latest ‘lighting weapons’ in their arsenal to provide specific and professional design solutions that are also cost-effective.
Luckily in my endeavors so far I have come across several architects and developers that do not need to be convinced about the benefits of a lighting designer. For them it’s just a matter of appointing one for a project. For others it’s just a matter of time.