In the beginning, there was Charles Linn. Twenty years later, we recognize the decisive contribution Architectural Lighting's first editor-in-chief made to the business of lighting design when he took on the start-up magazine, which at the time was based in Springfield, Oregon. Trained as an architect, Linn brought to his position a first-hand knowledge of the practitioners the magazine was trying to reach, as well as an eagerness to learn and spread the word about the then nascent profession of lighting design. It was Linn's early energy that initially establish A|L as the voluble champion of the architectural lighting industry it is today. A|L
It's one of those things that was lucky-one snap decision that changed my life. I was living in Denver. The commute and the weather were getting to me. On the eve of a huge snow storm, I drove down to the newsstand and got a Portland, Oregon, newspaper, because that's where my brother lived. There was an ad for an editor at a national trade magazine.
The company-Astor Publishing-produced magazines for the pharmaceutical and analytical instruments industries. It had titles like Pharmaceutical Technology and Spectroscopy. The publisher, Ed Astor, was an entrepreneur. He loved to try new magazines; he loved to try everything. So his researcher went to the library at the University of Oregon and started digging through all the periodicals and thought, hey, lighting is an important topic and there's not much here. The only choice was Lighting Design and Application, which was an analytical magazine. Astor thought it would be interesting to target architects. This happened at a moment when there was a lot of innovation.
Yes. The IALD was getting a critical mass of members. The lighting designer was emerging as a legitimately recognized sub specialty.
There's a four-year cycle where everybody wakes up and says we have to do something; then there's a six-year cycle of product development, and a two-year cycle where things enter the market. Architectural Lighting happened about 12 years after the energy crisis, so suddenly, you have all of these new technologies: MR16s, compact and T8 fluorescents, compact metal halides, reflector design that was never possible before, lighting rendering software, second-generation electronic ballasts. All of this stuff was coming together at the same time. I was a very unlikely guy in an unlikely place working for an unlikely company, and yet, it was easy to see. All I knew at the time was, God, there's a lot happening here.
I had just been to the international daylighting conference. I tried very hard to cover the issue in Architectural Lighting, but it just fell flat. As the energy crisis eased, interest gradually went away. Daylighting has been around for years, but no one has cared much about it. Some of the projects we covered could get you LEED points today. It's like the lost Rosetta stone-it sort of proves that it's not really all that new.
There have always been certain architects who thought of buildings as apertures and containers for light. You heard people like Eero Saarinen, Lou Kahn, and Edward Durell Stone talk about it, the really good architects. Maybe part of what makes them great is they see this, they see light.
It does take the same skill of visualization. It demands curiosity and that you love lighting the way the people who do the projects love lighting. Meeting Howard Brandston for the first time was very intimidating. 'You guys are out in Oregon,' he said. 'Who are you? You have to do something really great or people aren't going to respond.' It was a real challenge to gain acceptance from the lighting design community because I was an outsider.
After the mid 1980s and going into the 90s, technically we sort of hit a plateau, and there was a lot of complaining even among the lighting designers: 'We go to Lightfair; there's nothing new. Maybe it should be every two years ... .'
It was always being asked. We had a couple of years where people really got complacent, though I wouldn't say that the lamp manufacturers became complacent about creating light sources that were more powerful and energy efficient. I think the T5 lamp is awesome.
Now, LEED and energy prices are going to push innovation, and the renewed interest in daylighting will make the profession embrace it as a real technology that's worth using. I see two other things that are driving innovation: First of all, the development of microprocessors that can run ballasts in a more fine-tuned way than ever before. And second, manufacturing has gone over to Asia. The lighting equipment manufacturers in the United States were homegrown by real entrepreneurs-people like Edison Price and the Rambusch Lighting company. When you move manufacturing overseas, the question becomes: Can R&D be far behind? One wonders how much further reflector design can really go. How much further can you take indirect uplighting? But things like LEDs will open up a range of new R&D. Can we use our engineering and ability to innovate-which is inherent in our manufacturing tradition-to lead the way into the next generation of lighting? That is the challenge that faces the manufacturing industry here, and the only way in which the United States will retain its position as the leader.