Detective Note

Vol.038 – Scope of Lighting Design


Theme: Scope of Lighting Design

Interviewer: Sunyoung Hwang


Sunyoung:Would like to have a talk with Mr. Mende regarding scope of our work, architectural lighting design. Sometimes it is hard to tell how much we should take care of the ‘other’ lighting that are not under our usual contractual scope but still affects architectural lighting.

Mende:(While drawing a diagram) We take part of architectural lighting so do not hesitate to propose architectural design. Sometimes, there are overlaps between structure, mechanical engineering or even energy consumption calculation such as Greenmark. I am a little afraid that lighting design these days are becoming to be too technical. Also project mapping and media facade, I would say entertaining part for commercial advertisement and graphics for events.. Scope is always overlapping and regarding our contract to clients, it is difficult to say ‘no’ all the time for those areas.

Sunyoung:That is right.. it is difficult to draw line sometimes. By the way, I prepared some visuals to share with you. These are pictures of event lighting for Christmas and Mid-Autumn festival happened last year. Although event lighting is always temporary, many times, I found that it does not really go well with the architectural environment it is placed in. It was quite sad to see. Even my friend who has no background in art or design would say it looks horrible. As a lighting designer, I feel somewhat responsible on lighting environment we face daily and I was thinking that maybe someone needs to control the look of these event lighting in overall.

Mende: You mean someone to control between architectural lighting and event lighting?


Mende:Are you, yourself are interested in event lighting? It might be one possibility that every lighting being done by us, but ummmm…

Sunyoung:I think at some point, we need to deal with decorative lighting, event lighting an etc. We can draw line to it or collaborate or we can step further and embrace it. I think it turns out better when we stretch out more and take care of other areas. I don’t know. It is already a lot of work for architectural lighting, if we tried to do more, maybe we lose professionalism. So far, the trend is scope of work becomes detailed and specialized but don’t you think in the future the scope may merge together? And we may have to collaborate with many people in the different field even more than now?

Mende:I agree, boundary will be lower.

Sunyoung:I see.. I also would like to talk about decorative light fittings. What is your view regarding choice of decorative lighting for the hotel room?

Mende:Usually we do not design decorative lighting fixtures. If we design decorative fixture as a item of furniture, it will consume a lot of time and energy and we have to have a responsibility of the aesthetic of it. However, sometimes for some hotels, we do help design decorative lighting design fixtures.

Sunyoung:Is this the area we need to respect interior designer’s choice? Even when it is not properly working from lighting point of view?

Mende:We lighting designer need to collaborate with interior designer to propose such decorative lighting fixture for the clients. It is difficult but everyone has taste and sense of aesthetic. We need to respect each other. This is a profession that requires flexibility. Do you like to design decorative lighting fixture sometimes?

Sunyoung:Yes, It would be interesting although I know it is a hard work. Well.. when I was staying in this hotel, although many lighting decorative lighting fixtures were placed it the hotel room. They were not working functional enough to shine at your face or task areas. This made me think oh it would have been interior designer’s idea. I get their concept but lighting effect wise, space wise, the effect is not maximized. These little things.. I think it can be improved just like how i thought for event lighting.

Mende:As i spoke to you earlier, architectural lighting stands in between wide range of overlaps. It is in between engineering and artistic side. When client asks for artistic side, we have to know always that we are not pure artist but at the same time we are not pure engineer. At the same time, we are also not an event organizer. but we can have flexibility to work close to them.

Sunyoung:I see. I am bringing up another topic. How about grow light? We get to face grow light in many of our projects these days. We are not a specialist in this area and we cannot calculate light levels needed for specific plants. But we cannot totally avoid being not involved. I found this interesting.

Mende:It is like emergency light. Necessary but usually distracting. We can help modify the housing of the fixture or hide them. It would again not be our usual scope of work.
Project mapping for media facade. Many people misunderstand we are doing this job. People cannot differentiate event lighting on facade and architectural lighting design. This job belongs to event designer. I would not say it is not architectural lighting designer’s job, but graphic designer.
For media facade.. Client often ask us for contents. We have done this job couple of times but finally I have found that this is not our scope of job. This is a graphic job. From then on, we hardly accept this kind of work.


Mende:Many times client asks us for signage lighting design. But we would say we are not signage lighting designers. Signage needs to glow.. eventually it will affect night view.

Sunyoung:Yes, we usually have warm colour temperature facade lighting and there we have cool white signage lighting..

Mende:Luminous signage is always ‘white’. they do not use lower colour temperature.

Sunyoung:Yes, I think they are afraid of signage visibility if lower colour temperature is used

Mende: I still think lighting design needs to be flexible. In the future, lighting designer may destroy border for other fields even for architecture. I am thinking how our scope of work should be.

Sunyoung: I guess this is a progress.

Mende: It is little dangerous to easily accept so many things.

Sunyoung:So compared to 10years ago and 20 years ago, is it more complicated to be a lighting designer?

Mende: It is definitely more complicated. Manufacturers and even for facade or structural engineering company they may propose for lighting.

Sunyoung:Facade engineer company propose for lighting?!!

Mende:Yes, nowadays everyone can get into the field of lighting design due to new technology. The barrier is a lot lower compared to the past. This is why I am thinking whether we need to have flexibility and have collaboration. We may have slightly different companies.
something like LPA entertainment..LPA signage.. LPA decorative..haha.. This is a possibility. Future LPA will be done by young generation. It is not going to be stagnant. It is going to be constantly changing. Not to strictly defence architectural lighting design scope of work, we should be flexible to extend our scope.

Sunyoung:Our aim is to make things better (for lighting). We cannot just walk out after finishing our scope of work I guess.

Mende: I know some of staffs in LPA loves to design decorative lighting or plan for project mapping. I would usually tell them, we are architectural lighting designers, do not look at them! but in the future, maybe.

Sunyoung: I am coming from fine art background. I majored in glass making and I thought that I would go into lighting design field as in product design. But I stepped into architectural lighting because I loved the scale it deals with. I know it takes a lot of time to make a product and I was thinking to myself, if I am going to spend a lot of time making one little object, why don’t I go for bigger one that everyone recognizes and appreciates? It is same effort that it takes!
And after couple of years as an architectural lighting designer, I started to see things differently. I don’t think I would have been able to see it if I worked on decorative lighting design company. I probably would focus more on forms and shapes rather than light itself. We understand the light. I thought that if we place our input, we create better result for lighting for event, signage, decorative and etc.

Mende:This is a good point of view. You should have started with this statement and your

Sunyoung:haha.. I think my intro was a little not clear.

Mende: I met Ingo Maurer and I have been inspired by this way of his life and working systems. I have been talking with him..Maybe in future, I may have some idea to design fixture with him in that sense.

Sunyoung:Cannot wait for this to happen. Anyways, It has been an hour already. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts today. 🙂