Lighting designer Phil Gabriel passed away on Aug. 9. A great advocate of the profession and of lighting education, his efforts on behalf of the lighting design community will be missed.
Trained in architecture and interior design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the early 1960s, Gabriel started his professional career in New York working in the offices of architects Marcel Breuer and Edward Barnes among others. While a student at Pratt he entered and won an Illuminating Engineering Society student lighting competition. At the awards dinner Gabriel met lighting designer Howard Brandston. The meeting served as the start of their life-long friendship. “Knowing Howard Brandston over those years and being in and out of his office and seeing how he worked, this formed a model for me of how to practice,” Gabriel said during an interview conducted by Architectural Lighting Magazine in Dec. 2013. The One-on-One interview with Gabriel appeared in the Jan/Feb 2104 issue of the publication.
In the early 1970s Gabriel moved to Canada. He opened his own firm Gabriel/design, now Gabriel Mackinnon, in 1972. Over time the office developed a project portfolio that included a diverse range of work including schools, theaters, museums, hotels, stores, churches, and historic restorations. His design philosophy focused on solutions “…where the light reveals a space without drawing attention to itself.”
Gabriel was committed to his profession and educating the next generation of lighting designers. He was a Fellow of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and president of the association in 1998-1999. He was also a fellow and past president of the National Capital Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society.
Education, in his mind, was the essential cornerstone to the future longevity of the profession. He was passionate about lighting education and served as president of the IALD Education Trust helping to establish the Trust’s Ambassador outreach program that connects lighting design students at the university level with lighting design professionals. Education, in his mind was the essential cornerstone to the future longevity of the profession. “Any profession has a strong academic educational base; that’s what holds it together,” he said during the December 2013 interview with Architectural Lighting. “Lighting is so young and dispersed. We need university degrees in lighting design. We can’t continue to be satisfied with people coming out of architecture, interior, and theater schools with only a tiny bit of lighting experience,” There are only 20-plus programs worldwide that offer some kind of lighting degree, and just seven in the U.S. We need to help grow their programs. It is essential to the future of our profession.”
According to the firm’s website a memorial service will be planned in Ottowa at a later date. Information will be posted as details are worked out. In the meantime, donations can be made to the IALD Education Trust.