Amid stacks of stupid press releases,
one occasionally intrigues, as did the pitch from lighting designer Christopher
Thompson, whose Studio Lux
(Seattle, WA and L.A.) does big, beautiful, energy conscious lighting design.
I reckon a lighting designer is always
worth taking to, having believed John Fowles when he wrote in The Magus that “between skin and skin,
there is only light”. Read my Toronto
Star column this week to find out how this one’s theatrical design experience
coloured his approach to light.
Below are pics of his work and then
an edited, condescended interview conducted by email (hence, perhaps,
Thompson’s extremely graceful answers, which I’ve clipped in a few spots).
It was by email either because we had phone issues, or I was drunk (note to editor - just kidding). I can’t
remember. Worth a read, tho, imho.
Gig Harbor Residence, Aurther Erickson Architects
Hunts Point Residence- Exterior Rear View
Given current projects include homes
in London, a restaurant in Switzerland, a residential high-rise in Seattle, a pre-fab
hotel in Palm Springs and a project with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in
Scottsdale, (also in my column) our first question had to do with how busy he
VS: You’re also pursuing a Master’s
Degree in green lighting?
CT: It’s not just to have a better understanding
of how I impact change through lighting, but to also better understand how
other trades, materials and professions are being impacted by lighting, so that
I can support that process in my designs.
VS: When did green lighting first
become an area of interest?
CT: Well it’s hardly a choice that
you can make; it’s one that will be made for you as a designer if you don’t
keep up. I hope that my legacy is
partially defined by my work on FLW, but what’s interesting to me is that he
was aware of and actively working in sustainable design long before it became
what it is today. So in a sense I’m
catching up to a man (and his vision) who has now been dead for many years. I
think my whole industry is, it’s more than just an area of interest, it’s a
change of necessity.
VS: Good lighting is part science,
part art. Is that part of the appeal for you?
CT: Lighting design void of an artistic
layer is just lighting engineering. On
the other hand, an overly artistic approach can lead to issues of cost
over-runs, functional and practicality issues.
I like balancing both and our clients seem to agree. To be successful, a
lighting designer must marry left and right-brain approaches to ensure that
what looks good aesthetically will perform to meet the owners’ expectations.
Mercedes-benz Autohaus SBID award Winner Bellevue Washington
VS: Why is lighting often the last
thing people think about?
CT: Sometimes lighting design is seen as
something that will resolve itself as the project unfolds. Meaning, all jobs need lighting, so somewhere
in my budget there is lighting and somehow it will get installed.
The difference between a successful
and marginal look in a room often is the difference between locating a fixture
properly and leaving it to chance. Even
if the fixtures are selected, and even if the “electrician starts next week,”
one of the biggest impacts we make as lighting designers is understanding the
relationship between a fixture’s performance, the room’s use, and how to meld
VS: How does lighting affect design?
CT: Good design affords one the
opportunity to do more with less. If you
are not sure how much lighting you need in your kitchen, but you know you need
good light, you can just throw a bunch of lighting in and you may be under or
over. The exactness of design eliminates
waste and supports a better living environment.
VS: On a tangent here, but are you
concerned with light pollution?
CT: I think you only need to go to
the California desert and look into the sky and you cannot help but be
concerned about light pollution (or light trespass). The acuity of the stars and night sky is
nothing short of glorious, often drowned out by light pollution in unregulated
communities. This is another component
of our industry that has come under regulation by State and Federal governments
using the Dark Sky Initiative.
VS: How have LEDs changed over
LED technology has progressed similarly to the computer industry,
especially in the early days. For over five years, a new generation of LEDs has
been introduced about every six months, each with greater light output per Watt,
(which reduces energy consumption.)
New methods of LED production that
reduce the use of hazardous materials are being explored. Just last week an
article spoke of using silicon as a substrate, which requires less energy to
produce, is readily available (reducing the carbon footprint of transportation),
and uses fewer hazardous materials. Today we are seeing replacement lamps that
truly provide the warmth and brightness of the incandescent lamps they replace.
US Federal Courthouse, Seattle Washington
There is an industry-wide change to LED’s and improved fluorescent
sources to backfill the void left by the demise of the incandescent lamp and in
support of stricter energy codes.
(R)egulations will continue to
tighten in response to local and federal mandates, including self-policing of
light trespass issues in many communities.
The architectural design community evolves
and pushes the design envelope in response to their own codes, but equally, as
a response to the evolution their industry now finds itself in, which is the
precedence in the overall design ethos toward a sustainable and green design
program. Their trends drive our trends,
and are influenced by availability of materials, or the introduction of new
material that meet the sustainable goals.
Future trends will continue towards greater
efficacies (light output per Watt of energy consumed) and the melding of
multi-faceted goals into one lighting product.
We see manufacturers produce
innovative fixture designs that are built around the LED light source rather
than altering existing products, which results in more efficient and productive
lighting instruments for the designers’ arsenals.
Looks, performance, green design and
manufacturing process, built in control and dimming abilities right in the
fixture controlled by smartphones and tablets, and the introduction of what was
once relegated to the theatre…(where) we can control color, beam patterns, and
intensities by changing the input to a given fixture.
With the LED lamps becoming more integrated
into residential and commercial markets, we’ll start to see RGB (red, green blue and the ability to mix to any color) LED’s so that
with the simple input of your tablet, iPhone, you’ll be able to change the
lighting by color, intensity or pattern with the swipe of your finger. (Indubitably
- see post re Sylvania Mosaic Strip below.)
This, and following shots, Falling Rocks residence