A love letter to the lighting profession might be the best way to describe lighting great Howard Brandston's newly penned 138-page volume published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Insight gathered from more than 50 years in the lighting industry, coupled with the author's unique sense of wit and inquisitiveness, make for an engaging read.
Organized into four sections—“Learning to See,” “Taking Responsibility,” “Getting Creative,” and “Communication”—Brandston challenges architects and lighting designers to be proactive in their life and their work, never discounting an image or an experience as irrelevant. Anything can spark creativity.
For Brandston, lighting is an art, and to think of it only in terms of lighting calculations and energy codes is to miss out on the artistic journey of exploration that lighting can provide for designers. Brandston recounts his experiences in lighting with both a philosophical mindset and practicality. Peppered throughout the book and supplementing the text are images of some of the projects Brandston has worked on, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Chihuly Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, and the Fossil Hall at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Specific project discussions of some of the work Brandston is best known for—including the relighting of the Statue of Liberty in 1986; the lighting concept for St. Meinrad's Archabbey, a Benedictine monastery in southern Indiana; and the lighting master plan for Detroit's business district—offer a behind-the-scenes-look at the issues involved with the design of these projects. However, as Brandston recounts the steps, this reader was left wondering if it can really be so simple, given the complexities of the project process, to get clients to change scope of work and budget, to “see the light” so to speak, even if it means a better overall outcome.
Essays from Peter Boyce, professor emeritus of architecture and Human Factors program leader at Rensselaer's Lighting Research Center in Troy, N.Y., and neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks complement Brandston's text. These authors speak to the importance lighting plays in our everyday lives and built environments.
A series of appendixes conclude the book. Appendix I addresses popular lighting terms such as “glare.” In Appendix II, “Ethics and Design,” Brandston debates the energy code versus quality of light issue. Finally, Appendix III—”Wit and Wisdom”—offers Brandston at his best with sound bites of advice.
Part lighting primer and part general advice, Brandston combines knowledge with experience and science with emotion. Learning to See as a lighting text is as unique as its author.