In honor of the fifth annual A|L Light and Architecture Design Awards, 10 industry professionals gathered on Oct. 23, 2008, at Parsons the New School for Design for a roundtable discussion.
Roundtable participants included: Francesca Bettridge, principal of Cline Bettridge Berstein Lighting Design; Laura Briggs, partner at BriggsKnowles Architecture+Design and a member of the A|L awards jury; Paul Gregory, principal of Focus Lighting; Barbara Horton, senior principal at Horton Lees Brogden (HLB) Lighting Design; Stephen Lees, senior principal at HLB; Martin Lupton, director of lighting at BDP; Rebecca Malkin, lighting designer at Renfro Design Group; Derek Porter, director of Parsons' MFA in Lighting Design program and principal of Derek Porter Studio; Randy Sabedra, principal of RS Lighting Design; and Suzan Tillotson, principal of Tillotson Design Associates.
The discussion focused on what defines architectural lighting design. Moderated by ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING editor Elizabeth Donoff, the panelists debated whether a lighting designer is an artist or a craftsman; how technology, sustainability, and code requirements influence projects and process; and the importance of education.
“We should be striving toward a definition of our profession, and we can therefore sit within that definition and call ourselves lighting designers,” Lupton noted. As each participant stated their backgrounds, it was discovered that none of them had formally studied lighting design, but they did discuss the importance of lighting design education today. “If you come out of the few programs that offer lighting design education in the world, you are going to have a knowledge base regarding human factors, technologies, applications, and intellect that you will not gain whatsoever if you just enter the profession and practice it,” Porter explained.
When reflecting on being a lighting designer, Bettridge said, “I have to say the part I enjoy the most is that conceptual first dream [of a design] and then figuring out how to do it and being inventive in that way.” Tillotson agreed, pointing out that many clients want a lighting designer because of their ability to visualize. “You put the room together and see it and communicate it,” she added. Although a clear definition of architectural lighting design never formalized, there was no mistaking the passion for and continuing evolution of the lighting profession.