Building on a series of roundtable discussions ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING magazine held in 2007 at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention and 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 took a slightly different twist—professional sustainability.
In early May 2008 in Boston, A|L gathered a group of highly respected members of the lighting community 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:
Robert Davis, director, product management, Litecontrol, Hanson, Mass.
Carrie Knowlton Hawley, associate principal, HLB Lighting Design, Cambridge, Mass.
Melissa Hertel, specification marketing manager, Lightolier, Fall River, Mass.
Enrique Rojas, principal, Steffian Bradley Architects, Boston
Paul Zaferiou, principal, Lam Partners, Cambridge, Mass.
ED: Welcome. The goal of this roundtable is to gather designers and lighting industry professionals to discuss issues facing the lighting community. One issue the magazine has heard repeatedly the past year is about the shortage of lighting designers, and the lack of qualified lighting designers in the work-place. How should the lighting community address this? What will this mean long-term for the profession?
MH: One place to start would be better coordination between architecture, design, and lighting programs. I studied environmental design at the University of Colorado. When I tell people I went there, their first response is “great lighting program,” but in reality there was absolutely zero overlap between the lighting, environmental design, or architecture programs.
CKH: I had a similar experience in architecture school. The first year was about design. The second year, was about systems, but it wasn't satisfying. I started taking electives and was introduced to a daylighting class. When my teacher asked me, “Have you ever thought about taking an electrical lighting course?” I hadn't, but in order to take the class I had to switch over to the interiors program because that was where lighting was being taught. Those students were all getting a very good lighting education.
PZ: I had similar experiences in undergraduate architecture. I had the environmental controls class where we touched on lighting basics. It was interesting, but it was formula and dry. Fortunately, I did have several studio professors who did bring lighting into the equation, and they had us talk about how to introduce daylight and electric light into our designs. They got us thinking about light and that determined where I went to graduate school—the University of Oregon because George C. Brown (aka Charlie Brown) and John Reynolds were heading up the program there. They were great mentors. I kept asking myself, “How can I incorporate this into what I want to do in architecture?” When you get into the profession, you find that there are fewer people to guide you. You have to do your own discovery.
ED: How important is a mentor? What have all of you tried to do in your careers as you become mentors to a younger generation?
PZ: It is absolutely critical. In fact, I think it has a lot to do with the points raised for our discussion about the role that we could play to improve the kind of people we bring into the profession. At a minimum, you have to get [young people] fired up and passionate about lighting design, whether that is through working with your staff, teaching a class, or giving a lecture. Too many people are just not exposed to lighting as a career choice.
ED: Do you think lighting should be tapping into architecture curriculums to introduce lighting to larger audience?