• What are the elements of lighting? What should come to our minds when lighting and lighting in architecture is mentioned? What are the indespensables of a good lighting project?
Key elements of lighting include the interplay of dark and light, decorative, ambient, accent and task lighting. However, the importance of these elements varies significantly by project and site. A higher-level consideration is whether to use lighting to aesthetically blend with, or counterbalance, the architecture. Either way, our practice does not like over-lighting.
What is indispensable for great lighting outcomes are clients who appreciate the art of lighting and engage us from creation to commission.
• Lighting is an effective component for converging or diverging the focus to desired point. How does it contribute to architecture in this aspect?
Unlit architecture is a canvass. Light is more than paint and critical to forming a composition including focal points. The antithesis is floodlights. Architecture lit well is fine art. Architecture that is well lit is a supermarket. For example, our international award winning lighting of the heritage listed and architecturally significant St Brigid’s church used lighting to de-emphasise a non-heritage addition to the building. No side was lit the same because each was already lit differently from other sources (city lights, suburban lights, highway street lights and nearby residences).
• Interior or exterior lighting, showcase lighting, street lighting, highway lighting etc. How lighting should be handled in each of these diverse areas? What should be the common ground?
Great lighting avoids glare and stray light, conserves energy, minimises the types and volume of fittings, accounts for maintenance and meets compliance obligations and client objectives, especially budget. When done well, dimming is unnecessary.
• When and how should lighting be handled in new buildings? How does the purpose of usage of the building effect and diversify lighting projects?
Ideally, for greenfield developments, engaging independently certified lighting designers early in the design is best, especially for day lighting. Modern structures often reflect financial constraints and function dominates form. Here, the lighting designer works hard to make the structure look good. Conversely old architecture is often feature rich, but problematic, because of heritage or installation constraints. Here, the lighting designer’s focus is on accent lighting and leveraging the special charm of the place while conserving the architecture and client’s budget.
• Lighting is an area in which design included the most and consequently lots of different products are being presented. Being part of decoration as well, how should the right lighting element be selected or is being selected?
If the luminaire choices are sympathetic to the architecture you are playing safe and this appeals to conservative owners. Choosing luminaires as art pieces in their own right may transform and embolden architecture (or make a mess of things).
Our practice lit one of Australia’s newest and most expensive Mansions. The massive ballroom dome, for example, required our technical expertise and for us to select the products. Conversely, selection of grand chandeliers involved the client’s personal taste and only our professional and commercial assistance. Decorative lighting is a dark science and best done by people with experience. For example, opposite colours can enhance a space, like, red-green or blue-orange.
There are now 20,000 LED manufacturers. The market is awash with product choice, but there is also great variability in product quality and warranty value. The further away you move from premium product, the greater the challenge to choose well. Lastly, LED is digital and in time we predict more of our choices will be driven by compatibility issues.
• How technology is being used in project development or measurements to achieve lighting value goals in project?
The Gillard Group has invested heavily in technology and related research in recognition of the uptake of digital LED and to underpin our lighting design practice. We have also been identifying world leaders in relevant fields so that we are well prepared to provide our clients light-based services beyond illumination. We are very excited about what is unfolding but conscious that most consumers’ mindsets remain wedded to traditional lighting practices.
• Is exterior lighting more difficult than interiors? Are there as various solutions for exteriors as for interiors?
Lighting exterior for nighttime is more challenging because we are closer to nature. There are practical issues to consider like storms, grime and extreme temperatures. Artificial light is not moonlight and nature never rendered colour at night. So lighting exteriors is at odds with nature and being sympathetic is the best we can do.
Nature’s way is best experienced at night on your back in remote outback Australia. Gazing up at an unpolluted night sky shows us who is the true master of light. Our cities have become alien spaces awash with stray light and advertising and blinking lights commanding attention. The world would be a better place if smart cities worked for, rather than against, nature’s gifts. Strangely, by circumstance, not design; North Korea leads here.
• What could be done for getting right solutions without having technological conveniences or special materials? Are there elements, materials, products which contribute to lighting indirectly excluding lighting elements? For example, does mirror usage contribute to lighting in interiors?
Mirrors, plants and great day and night lighting are three of the cheapest elements you can use to lift the ambience of a building. The choice of paint colours and water features can also assist with reflection and dimensions. Good soundproofing and soft lighting create lovely quiet spaces.
On a tall flat external wall in a residential apartment complex, we angled latticework to look like a jagged saw and softly backlit only the bookends. The first strategy created light and shadow and the second made the middle section recede into darkness. The dividing fence was clad in special material that filtered out UV and allowed sunlight to bathe plants on either side. At night, the shapes, materials, light and plants interplay to create magic.
• Please give us some examples of lighting which you consider as successful?
Bowen Court was as an ugly disused 1960’s 51-apartment U-shaped brick complex recently redeveloped for affordable inner city living. We lit it on a tight budget. In 2015, it won the ultimate State lighting award, in November 2016 it won an Australasian lighting excellence award and in May 2017 we will know if it has won under the IALD’s global lighting award program. Affordable housing projects have honed our skills in providing compliant and aesthetically pleasing outcomes at minimal cost. The SEA Aquarium Singapore is the world’s large oceanarium and also uses the world’s largest viewing panel. Lighting forty-three marine habitats took two years of mathematical modeling, design and testing. LED was embryonic and expensive and our uses of it on this scale, in this environment, were a world first. Lighting to keep marine life alive and healthy was a terrific opportunity. Over a million people have visited this complex and seen marine life up close under our lighting design.
We designed and oversaw construction of an award winning large box-tester luminaire to dominate a modern church where the congregation was held in a circle. The tester hovers on invisible wires and is covered with a pattern from a religious icon. The tester’s six facades light the space in different ways. The internals are complex but maintenance is relatively simple.
• Future of lighting tends to LED technology. What would you say about this?
In 2012, we documented our research and made many predictions for 2015-2024. We concluded that: the rapid uptake of digital friendly LED would cause major disruptions to the traditional lighting industry; attract the tech industry; open the floodgates for innovation; and accelerate the Internet of Things. We hired c-suite technologists, not lighting designers, and built a complementary business.
Fast-forward and we are probably the world’s first product independent lighting design firm offering a turnkey Lighting as a Service (LaaS) solution. We already have contracts with clients out to 2021. Moreover, we are well advanced developing a ground breaking LaaS system, will seek patent and may offer the solution globally as “Software as a Service”. Conventional lighting is going. LED is no longer just about illumination. We predicted the paradigm shift, it has commenced and we prepared well in advance. History shows companies fair badly if found asleep at the wheel.
• Finally, are there researches, measurements and certifications about the effects of providing spaces with good lighting as well as comfort in buildings on health?
The Australian Government publishes lighting standards for health, especially for hospitals and aged care. All standards struggle to keep up with change.
Lighting the SEA Aquarium immersed us in the science of health and wellbeing of marine life and light-based treatments. We were required to replicate moonlight and seasonal light variations for 800 marine species and reproduce colours and light wavelengths essential for coral health.
Increasingly, science is showing that humans are also impacted by the quality of and exposure to light. We are following various researchers looking at automating bright-light and personalised circadian light treatments. The Internet of Things provides an exciting framework to bring affordable light-based health treatments and many other services directly into people’s homes.