Architectural Lighting Design Are We Ready?
BY: KAPIL SURLAKAR, DIRECTOR OF DESIGN, LIGHT@WORK DESIGN CONSULTANTS PVT LTD.
Design publications, that influence the design community, reveal the nascency in their understanding of the subject by their limited reporting on the relevant issues that confront the Architectural Lighting Design profession today.
Are the people aware of the existence of such a profession? The discussion on lighting is limited to product or commerce. These if one understands are a commercially promoted part of the design vocabulary and do not cover the whole spectrum of lighting design.
The most important aspect an educated lighting designer understands is the effects of light on human physiology, used as the basis of any lighting design solution for use in built environments for humans. It transcends technology and commerce, which have today become the focus, and helps deliver a meaningful solution that responds to architecture, with human perception and comfort built into the solution.
However commercial goals today far outweigh the design and human comfort goals. Whereas all design intent and aspirational concepts are discussed with the design team or management in an organization, who would be more in sync with the project goals and intent, the decisions related to lighting are made by purchase officers who have no understanding of the subject, This disparity in the decision making is born largely out of Ignorance.
LACK OF PROFESSIONALS & PROFESSIONALISM
- There are only a few lighting designers in India today who are qualified with appropriate education and relevant experience.
- Some who come from a design background, with no prior knowledge on lighting science or design, but having interned under some established lighting design practices are today practicing as lighting designers.
- There are vendors who learn the lighting jargon and the use of a lighting software and pose as lighting designers. Their USP is free design. Any businessman worth his salt understands that there is no free Lunch. Such free solutions are more often than not, expensive.
- Then, there are the smooth-talking individuals who are promoted and financed by vendors using their financial clout to pose as designers, even promoting them through print and electronic media and establishing them as celebrity designers, to fool the unsuspecting clients. This is a classic arrangement for a “Quid Pro Quo”.
- This is all possible as there is a complete lack of awareness of what constitutes an Architectural Lighting Designer (ALD), what an ALD brings to the table and contributes and how it is important or relevant.
- It is even more disheartening, when associated professionals such as architects, interior designers and landscape designers, professions which are more established and recognised, whilst complaining about the erosion of values and malpractices, in their own professions , have no qualms about engaging unqualified lighting designers, thereby shooting down another profession without recognizing it for its knowledge , purely for pecuniary considerations.
WHO IS AN ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING DESIGNER?
An Architectural Lighting Designer should ideally understand architecture and its concepts as well as understand lighting in totality which includes Lighting Sciences, Lighting Technology as well as Lighting Economics and Lighting Ergonomics.
The ALD should be able to contribute to the architectural discussion and language so as to facilitate integration of lighting into a built environment in an unobtrusive manner. This sensitivity is inculcated through relevant education and training. It is further enhanced by experience. It is definitely not an accident of passion as claimed by many unqualified designers.
Architectural lighting design today has caught the fancy of all but is understood by few. Therein lies a problem, or as some look at it, a business opportunity to be exploited whilst the confusion reigns.
Today however, the discourse has been pushed towards economics without context, therefore blurring the line between cost and Value. This in turn affects the quality of products and services as market forces are inadvertently looking for solutions of lower cost without assigning any value to it. This reduces the whole exercise of design to mere crunching of numbers, with no soul, and thus no value.
Architectural Lighting is a higher design attribute and cannot be appreciated by all. This is appreciated by a very few designers who are sensitive to the finer nuances of Lighting. I look forward to the day when that would be a norm and not an aberration. That would definitely be one indicator of an elevated design fraternity that is ready.
It is very easy to illuminate the darkness, but to play with light to showcase the Architecture and space with finesse needs another degree of knowledge.