Architectural SSL Review July 2015

The following interview is from the July 2015 issue of Architectural SSL.

Lighting for the Desired Look and Feel of a Space

Jason Livingston is principal of Studio T +L, Brooklyn, N. Y. interdisciplinary (sic) theatrical and architectural designers and consultants. He recently published a new book, Designing With Light: The Art, Science, and Practice of Architec­tural Lighting Design. The book is a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of lighting design and its use of to (sic) define and enhance a space. Vilma Barr recently spoke with the lighting designer.

Q: Students who are taking a lighting design course can make good use of your book. How do you suggest that a practicing designer make use of it?

JL: One of the book’s objectives is that architects and interior designers come away with a new understanding and respect for the complexities of good lighting design. But the book also discusses how to think about light and how to talk about light with clients, a topic that isn’t covered or covered as deeply in other texts. The prevalence of colored LEDs means that a thorough understanding of color, not just color temperature, is more important than ever. Light’s effect on our health is another issue that is relatively new. Research is ongoing and it remains to be seen exactly how this subject will affect the practice of lighting design.

Q: On the subject of lighting education for all designers, how do you respond to comments that creativity in lighting design isn’t all that important so long as the lighting system is functional.

JL: I don’t understand why so many schools and departments don’t think that lighting design should be part of that preparation. Especially, when so many architects and interior designers either light their own projects or hand the work over to their electrical engineer. Good lighting design and effective illumination is not the same thing. For example, if students are taught that lighting design begins with determining the required number of footcandles and ends with a calculation confirming that number ­ that’s a pretty limited way of working. From my perspective a lighting designer has to gather information to fully understand the project so that the question: “What is the desired look and feel of the space?” can be answered. All design decisions – lamp technology, fixture type, control system, etc. – have to satisfy the answers to that question.

Q: Where do you see the crossover between architectural lighting design and theatrical lighting design, as you practice them?

JL: It’s almost exclusively one direction – theater to architecture. Stage lighting designers understand the properties of light and how to manipulate them and how to use light to create an environment and tell a story. There are so many aspects of design that are different, starting with the hardware and continuing through to aspects like LPDs.

Q: What have you found about the attitude of corporate clients to lighting design?

JL: While many have embraced good lighting design, the majority of corporate clients don’t place a high value on it. Most only see initial costs and perhaps operational costs. They are not aware of the research that has been done on the ongoing value of good lighting design. Clients should have a clear understanding of its value to request that their architects hire a professional lighting designer, and not ask if the expense is really necessary.

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