Building on a series of roundtable discussions ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING magazine held in 2007 at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention and at Lightfair, A|L organized similar events at this year's two conferences/trade shows in Boston and Las Vegas, respectively. Expanding on last year's theme of sustainability and lighting, this year's conversations had a slightly different twist—professional sustainability.

In late May 2008 in Las Vegas, A|L gathered a group of highly respected members of the architecture and lighting communities representing both design and manufacturing to discuss the future of the profession and steps to be taken to ensure that there is new talent infused into the workforce and a continuity of lighting knowledge. Moderated by ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING editor Elizabeth Donoff, participants included:

ED: Welcome. About 10 days ago a group met in Boston at the AIA Convention. What came out of that conversation were some interesting suggestions about communication between practitioners and manufacturers, and what might be done to engage a larger public audience about the importance of lighting. Ultimately, each discussion strand kept coming back to education. So I'll start by asking: Should the lighting community be looking beyond itself to attract more students to study lighting?

MG: Luckily, where we are in Los Angeles, there are a lot of schools. We have a lot of people to choose from. We found it is easier to take someone who is architecturally trained and teach them lighting than the other way around. The vast majority of architects who work for firms hit a glass ceiling—they get frustrated and there is really nowhere for them to go. Lighting offers them another way to think about their career that might have more potential in the long term than they would have had otherwise.

ED: Should architecture students be alerted to the fact that lighting is an option while they are still in school?

MG: Absolutely.

MK: In my 30-plus years of teaching architecture, I have always had the luxury of teaching at least one or two lighting classes. There are always a few students that became very serious about wanting to be lighting designers, and those students that do take these lighting classes understand enough when they enter into practice. There is a huge difference in their understanding of lighting than those students that get only half a semester of lighting in the context of an environment-controlled systems class.

LB: So it is a question of how it is presented?

EB: There is a real opportunity to train not only architecture students, but students in other disciplines as well, who are interested in how to “see light.” This requires more than just developing content for a lighting class, it is about a comprehensive curriculum that addresses conceptual ideas about perception, vision, and light that needs to be ingrained in our programs at a consistent level. If such a thing existed—an assurance of some kind that basic lighting principles will be covered—a student will always have that background regardless of what profession they go into.

MR: There are magnitudes of education; there are also magnitudes of learning. Right now, lighting education consists of schools that do not even have a single class to schools that have degree programs in lighting. What we have tried to do with the IALD Education Trust is create an outreach program by sending “ambassadors of light”—IALD members—to speak to students and get them excited about architectural lighting. The earlier you can reach a student, the greater chance you have of them thinking about lighting and architecture as an integrated process. The quality of their interest, which is the way I prefer to talk about it, will determine whether or not they see lighting as a potential specialty or a potential area of interest, not just a building system.