Credit: Tracy Powell
Glenn Heinmiller has grown up with light, literally. “My father designed a house in the International Style with a young architect by the name of Giles van der Bogart,” he says, “and fitted it out with the latest lighting the 1950s had to offer: T12 fluorescent strips behind valences, colored PAR38 lamps, and low-voltage relay lighting controls.” Surrounded by architecture and light, he found himself drawn to theater and stage lighting in high school and college. After graduating, he worked for a laser light show company for several years, but a desire to get back to design led him to a lighting class at the Boston Architectural College. His teacher was Paul Zaferiou, a principal at lighting firm Lam Partners. Hard work has taken care of the rest; Heinmiller has carved out the second phase of his professional career with Lam Partners working on a bevy of award-winning projects and serving as the profession’s guide to lighting and energy code regulations.
What fascinates you about light?
It’s still surprising how subjective “good lighting” is. There is no one “right” answer.
Do you have a lighting design philosophy?
It’s what Bill Lam taught us: quality, not quantity; meet human needs; it’s about the architecture, not the light fixture; and lighting design is an inseparable part of architectural design, it’s not a separate technical exercise.
How has the practice of lighting design changed since you started working?
Speed. The expectation today for instant turnaround by owners, and even architectural colleagues, is striking.
Most misunderstood aspect of lighting design?
That lighting design is just “doing the calculations”—getting the “light levels” and “photometrics” right. There’s also those who think it’s just about picking fixtures.
Best lighting lesson learned from working on a project?
Make sure the detail drawings are all figured out and if you have a non-standard solution you’ve never done before, do a mock-up.
How are new lighting technologies, such as LEDs, affecting the industry and design?
It’s given designers a whole new language. That being said, the fundamentals of lighting design remain the same, we just have new tools.
What advice would you give a young lighting designer just starting out?
Network. Get to know people. Never stop learning. School is just the beginning.