by Joachim Ritter (to enjoy this blog take 15 minutes time)
Time and again we find ourselves confronted with the question as to what trends we can expect for lighting design in the future. And once we have an answer, we all need a little time to grow accustomed to the new ideas. Sometimes it seems to be impossible to imagine what the future holds in store. Just as it was impossible to imagine 100 years ago that man would fly to the moon or speak to friends or colleagues on the other side of the globe using a wireless telephone. We are repeatedly reminded that the TV series Star Trek was a huge inspiration for scientists when developing their respective research studies. What scientists have learnt and gained from the science fiction world, lighting designers can extract from theatre…
The lighting design of the future (and of the present too for that matter) is not only dynamic and laced with media elements, but also interactive. Tapio Rosenius is one of the key lighting designers who is currently inspiring the lighting design world with his work and realised projects. In his case, it was Silo 468 in Helsinki that started it all off – but this is only a hint of what is yet to come. The world is digital and the reality of architecture now has to compete with the fascination of the digital world we live in. This works best when you combine architecture with the digital world. Osram is currently developing a concept where fitting rooms in fashion stores are equipped with a media wall. If you want to check out how you look when trying on evening wear for a gala evening, for example, it will soon be possible to program an appropriate backdrop via an app.
I recently discovered videos of work designed by the Austrian scenographer and media designer Klaus Obermaier. They show what can be realised with light today using advanced technologies. The future in the world of light is all about interaction, just as it was all about dynamic light in the nineties of the last century – which is absolutely normal today. Obermaier captures the movements of dancers on stage and projects patterns and movements of light onto their dancing bodies.
What technologies and applications enable these stunning effects? How did Obermaier manage to continually focus his projections onto the body forms as they change in the course of the dance with such timed precision?
You think this is unreal? Not at all, when you consider that Mader Stublic Wiermann, together with Stefan Hofman, who was working with Licht Kunst Licht at the time, achieved similar effects on the Uniqa Tower in Vienna back in 2006.
by Joachim Ritter
That’s the way it goes nowadays: one person can represent a whole community. When German Bishop Josef Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, there was a general feeling among the German people that they had in part assumed papal responsibility and were, indeed, honoured to do so. “We are the Pope” it said in German newspapers. It was similar with Cardinal Karol Wojtyła from Kraków. As Pope John Paul II, he could be more than sure he had the Polish people behind him. Such developments always have an undeniable socio-political component and significance.
And now we are the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Physics – we being all those members of the lighting community who are currently benefiting from the development of the blue LED, which is responsible for instigating the dramatic changes the lighting industry is undergoing. However upset, or even enraged, some of us were when the incandescent lamp was finally pushed aside as an example of bygone inefficiency, the Nobel Prize announcement now fills us with honour and pride, given the extent to which the LED has changed our working world in the last 15 years, and indeed continues to do so on a dramatic scale.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 has been awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”. This was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, 7. October in Stockholm. The Nobel Committee described the Japanese physicists’ work as “revolutionary” research towards the invention of “new, energy-efficient and environment-friendly light sources”, and awarded them prize money of approximately 880,000 euros (eight million Swedish crowns).
Whether in the form of torches, smartphone displays, or rear lights or braking lights for cars: LEDs have become practically irreplaceable. Light-emitting diodes exist in red, amber, green, white and blue. For a long time, the search for a diode that would emit blue light was comparable to the quest for the Holy Grail.
Thanks to the research carried out by the three Japanese scientists, blue lasers and blue LEDs are now an integral part of modern-day technology. Since one quarter of the electricity consumed worldwide is for lighting, LED light sources are making a substantial contribution towards protecting natural resources, states the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In time for the upcoming International Year of Light 2015, an initiative of a large consortium of scientific bodies together with UNESCO, this recognition couldn’t have come at a better time. The decision will give the lighting world an additional push, and a good start for the year to come. And thank goodness it was the invention of the blue LED that was awarded the Nobel Prize and not of the compact fluorescent lamp, which also claims to use less energy than the incandescent lamp and was long claimed to be the solution for saving the polar ice caps and alpine ski slopes. At least the Nobel Committee did not allow themselves to be dazzled by marketing strategists like many a politician did. And even if the LED is not sufficient to save the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, we can all express our delight at this announcement and express our gratification by proudly announcing: we are the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Physics.
In spite of the fact that it is still a relatively young event, PLDC 2015 in Rome is already marked by history. The fifth edition of the global convention coincides in the coming year with another very special anniversary. On the occasion of PLDC we will be pubishing the 100th issue of the Professional Lighting Design (PLD) magazine.
The PLD was launched in 1996 in order to promote architectural lighting design as a profession and to explain what lighting design is using well researched texts and essays plus large images. At the time, many people only had a feeling that light was not only related to a technical discipline, but that designed lighting indeed has an impact on the way we live, work and behave. Only when scientific evidence of the additional photoreceptor (iPRGC) in the eye became available, together with findings regarding the significance of light for human beings, did lighting design gain the recognition it really duly deserved. The PLD was dedicated to presenting this level of information from the start and at the time was the first magazine worldwide to focus on specific content and to take a stand on lighting design as a profession. In the meantime a number of magazines have come into being around the world – and even more Internet platforms – that publish articles on designed lighting.
We are proud to see that many have opted to pursue this approach.
On the occasion of PLDC 2015 in Rome, we will be celebrating the 100th edition of the PLD and expressing our thanks to all who have supported us over the last 16 years.
As a token of our appreciation we will therefore be granting a 20% discount on PLDC full-conference tickets for all our subscribers. If you are not a subscriber and would like to change that (!), follow this link to make sure you remain informed and are aware of the latest developments in all lighting design related fields.
The international jury of experts for the Zumtobel Group Award 2014 selected projects from Arup Germany, Studio Tamassociati from Italy, and Elemental from Chile as the winners in their respective categories.
To promote innovations for to promote sustainability and enhance the quality of life in the built environment, the Zumtobel Group invited submissions for the award in three categories: Applied Innovations, Buildings, and Urban Development and Initiatives. The jury initially shortlisted 15 projects from among the 356 submissions for the fourth Zumtobel Group Award, which was again curated by Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin.
The winning projects are marked by their innovative and ground-breaking character: “The voting to find the number one project was very close in all three categories, because in each case we were able to choose from among a large number of heterogeneous projects of high quality,” says the chairman of the jury, Winy Maas. “One key criterion for the jury this year was the innovation factor, both in a technical sense and with a view to planning and participation processes as well as ecological and social challenges.”
Winner in the Applied Innovations category: SolarLeaf and Arup Deutschland GmbH
In the applied innovations category, the jury awarded first prize to the SolarLeaf façade co-developed by Arup Deutschland GmbH. The SolarLeaf façade is a building-integrated system that absorbs CO2 emissions and produces biomass and heat. The generation of these renewable energy resources is based on the biochemical process of photosynthesis and the cultivation of microalgae in flat-panel photo bioreactors which require no additional space and are largely immune to the weather conditions. The façade system was developed by Arup Deutschland in collaboration with SSC Strategic Science Consult GmbH and Colt International GmbH, with subsidies from the federal research initiative ZukunftBau. The system was first installed in a four-storey residential building designed by Spittlerwerk architects for the 2013 International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg. The SolarLeaf façade can play an important part in establishing zero-carbon building clusters that generate surplus energy.
Explaining the reasons for their choice, the jury said: “In the future we need to develop buildings which don’t just offer shelter and minimise energy consumption but also try to deliver answers to how we provide the urban environment with energy, water and better air quality. The SolarLeaf façade is an outstanding example here in that it generates energy without taking up additional space. This project is especially valuable because for the first time we have an application that actually works in an existing building.”
Winner in the buildings category: Port Sudan Paediatric Centre by Studio Tamassociati, Italy
The winner of the Zumtobel Group Award 2014 in the buildings category is the Studio Tamassociati architectural practice from Venice. They were commissioned by the Italian NGO “Emergency”, which provides free medical treatment to civilian victims of war, landmines and poverty, to build a children’s hospital in Sudan. Located in the strategically important city of Port Sudan, the clinic is one of the few facilities to provide free care for children in the region. In the prevailing extreme conditions – the hot desert climate and the political instability of the country – simplicity was the overriding design principle. Relying on the use of new and old technologies, the architects developed a system for cooling, air treatment, recycling, reallocation of local materials, landscape design and energy saving. The need to purify waste water from the centre presented an opportunity to build public gardens, which are the only public spaces far and wide. These gardens represent an important part of the healing process for patients.
Explaining their choice of the Port Sudan Paediatric Centre, the jury said: “In this project you can see right away that it responds to a social agenda. It makes a valuable contribution to the medical and social care of the local people and its holistic design process is very much in the spirit of the Zumtobel Group Award. The outcome is an ambitious design that is focused primarily on its practical purpose, without neglecting architectural, sustainability and aesthetic considerations.”
Winner in the Urban Development & Initiatives category: PRES Constitución by Elemental, Chile
First prize in the category Urban Development & Initiatives in the Zumtobel Group Award 2014 goes to the architectural practice Elemental for its master plan for the sustainable reconstruction of the city of Constitución in Chile. In 2010, Chile was hit by an earthquake followed by a tsunami. Constitución was destroyed by waves up to 12 metres high. Elemental was given just 100 days to come up with a master plan for the reconstruction of the city, which would also provide protection against future natural disasters – not only tsunamis but also seasonal flooding. In their concept, Elemental delivered a natural solution: planting a forest that would protect the city from future floods. In addition to the empirical evidence from the most recent tsunami, the architects relied on mathematical models and laboratory trials. Implementing their master plan proved very challenging both politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land along the riverbank. Elemental’s successful approach was to rely on participatory design to define the citizens’ needs and engage them in the planning process. Today, four years after the earthquake, the individual projects from the master plan are being implemented.
“In Constitución the population has managed to apply the necessary innovation to ensure its protection against future flooding. By adopting a bottom-up approach, in a very constructive way a joint decision has been reached regarding what the city should look like in the future. This exemplary concept is not restricted to Constitución, but could also apply in many regions around the world that have been destroyed by natural disasters,” said the jury, commenting on their selection in the Urban Development & Initiatives category.
The selection process for the Zumtobel Group Award 2014 comprised several stages. Early this year, from among all 356 submissions a pre-jury selected 15 projects from each category which were then presented to the main jury in May. The jury then nominated five projects per category. One winner was selected from the five nominated projects in each category. Each first prize carries a purse of € 50,000.
by Joachim Ritter
Lighting design has its origins in architecture and stage design. But in our modern world designing with light affects many areas of our lives and reaches far beyond the illumination of architectural space than we might think. And by that I do not mean that light can now be finely tuned to illuminate art, or how light impacts human health and well-being, and even support healing processes in hospitals. No, light is of more significance today than ever – for our technological future.
One example is the digital world. Designed light is of key importance in our world of bits and bytes. Computer-generated imagery is used to create entire films nowadays. Video games revolve to a large extent around creating new worlds in which a game is played, or rather experienced. Highly interactive applications indeed.
The media facades which have become a part of our urban lives are digital and interactive. We are no longer talking about the future. This is all happening in the here and now!
I recently watched a scientific documentary about how spaceships move through space. Man is moving deeper and deeper into the galaxy. There is talk of being able to fly people to Mars by 2022, or 2024 at the latest, and that Mars is to serve as a hub for space travel. The problem is that the fuel currently available is not enough to cover the distances planned. But guess what: the fuel of the future is … light! The idea is to set up a solar sail in outer space and the light radiated by the sun will move the spaceship forward as if driven by the wind. The rays of light are reflected by the hundred square metre sail, thus setting the spaceship in motion. You think this is still some kind of vision. No way! In spring this year (2014) successful tests were carried out that proved that this concept actually works.
Light is therefore not only confined to lighting our living, working or leisure spaces, or for illuminating facades. We need light for health, communication, digital life, energy and saving energy, agriculture and survival – in fact for everything that determines our life in the universe.
Albert Einstein was most likely aware of all this in his day and age. But explaining the significance of light to other people in those days was obviously too much of a challenge even for him…
by Joachim Ritter
I have good news for you – you do not have to wait another twelve months to get that PLDC feeling! This autumn already a number of international Partner Events and PLDC warm-ups will be taking place, which are all associated with PLDC 2015 and which we are supporting. Why? Well, we have been talking to the organisers and creative minds behind these various events and have established that we share a similar philosophy when it comes to staging conferences. It therefore makes sense for us to recommend these conferences to the lighting design community.
From 6. to 8. November the third EILD (Encuentro Iberoamericano de Lighting Design) conference will be held in Medellin in Columbia. The initiative started by the lighting design community in Latin America has developed to become a successful conference, this year with a practical workshop organised up front in the public realm. EILD conferences take place every two years, alternating with PLDC. After Valparaiso in Chile in 2010 and Queretero in Mexico in 2012, Medellin/Columbia is now the third location. The papers are excellent and the atmosphere positive and rewarding. EILD corresponds entirely with the idea behind PLDC.
The focus of the third version of EILD 2014, is reflected on the words of the poet Manoel Barros since the objective of this meeting is to show the participants how the work with light must be oriented to the OBSERVATION passing through the ACTION and ending in DESIRE.
To OBSERVE the existing light, understanding and discussing its environment and the culture that sorrounds it. TO DO, focusing on the action of creating a lighting project that ultimately ends in the DESIRE to see the final result of the process.
“Light for everyone, everyday””, aims to create spaces for discussion and reflection, where participants discover other aspects of lighting. This approach leans to the social impact that working with light generates, allowing the development of transformative projects.
The lighting conference taking place on 17. October in Istanbul/TR is especially interesting because the Turkish market is growing so dynamically right now. The one-day event is an official warm-up to PLDC 2015 in Rome. The topics are cutting-edge and the speakers first-class. With Tapio Rosenius, Koert Vermeulen, Allan Ruberg, and Nadine van Amersvoort and Teun Vinken the programme will be focussing on lighting in the public realm in the 21st century. This will include lighting for complex projects, the way urbanisation is shaping lighting solutions, new technologies for cultural heritage sites, and interaction design with light. In the coming years a new airport is to be built in Istanbul, the biggest in Europe apparently, and a master plan is being developed for an entire quarter of the city. A truly inspiring warm-up!
Two further Partner Events will be taking place simultaneously in Aarhus/Denmark and Teheran/Iran.
From 19. to 22. November, architects, designers and artists will meet with academia and industry at the Media Architecture Biennale in Aarhus, with a pre-event in Copenhagen. Across professions and nationalities, participants will be able to create and discuss the media architecture of the future and investigate how media architecture is already shaping people’s lives in cities around the world: via media facades and urban screens, and via buildings that communicate – be it with colourful LEDs, flashing light bulbs, or via heat-sensitive concrete that ‘freezes’ the shadows of passers-by.
Media architecture is an increasingly important digital layer in cities all over the world. It is a part of shopping malls, casinos, digital signs and commercials. And it holds great potential as a mouthpiece for the public and a peephole into the heart of the government. The latter was the case when citizens’ comments and the municipality activities were visualized on the Aarhus city hall tower during the Media Architecture Biennale 2012. It was also the case, when back in 2001 people in Berlin were invited to be part of an installation with animations using 144 lit-up windows in a central high-rise building – the Blinkenlights project.
MAB takes places every two years between the PLDC years.
Do you know where the biggest shopping mall in the world is currently being built? Wrong: not China, nor India. The correct answer is Teheran in Iran.
The second Iran Lighting Design Conference will also be taking place from 19. to 21. November, 2014 in Teheran/Iran. Why is this event worth a mention? Well, Iran is on the brink of a building boom. Political changes have led to western investors setting foot in the country and becoming pro-active. The will to modernise the Iranian society is very strong. The shopping mall currently under construction is by no means an isolated case. The road on which numerous malls are due to be built is 50 kilometres long.
Which is why the first conference last year attracted 1000 professionals. This year they are expecting up to 1500 attendees.
The conference is an official Partner Event of PLDC.
by Joachim Ritter
I don’t know how you feel when you see young people embarking on learning more about a specific topic or subject, and then starting to devote increasingly more time and attention to studying it, and in the end becoming totally engrossed. I have always found this very moving – especially when it comes to lighting design.
For a start, it is wonderful to see how the topic of Light can move the next generation. Light is clearly not boring, but exciting, diverse, multi-faceted – a design topic. But light is also complex and profound. Many people only discover just how complex and profound it is when they start to get more involved with (day)light and how – and above all why – it is applied. There is much to be discovered beneath the surface. Whole new worlds open up and every question posed gives rise to ten new ones.
That is why we never stop talking about light and lighting and want to know more. Young students nowadays go far deeper into the topic and pose questions that never even occurred to us 20 years ago. And yet sometimes these inquisitive young talents need a personal coach to help them reach their goals faster.
This is where The Challenge comes in. The Challenge is a student speaker competition which we are staging in the build-up to PLDC 2015 in Rome, where it reaches its climax.
In Round I, 47 students from 13 universities around the world stepped up to The Challenge and submitted topics they would like to give a presentation on. The challenge is to prepare, research and present a professional paper on an exciting and relevant topic. Before they are coached by six experienced lighting designers, they have to overcome a first hurdle and submit a three-minute filmed “elevator pitch” (Round II) explaining why the topic is important for them, what they want the audience to understand and how they intend to get their message across.
Which brings me back to one of the first comments I made in this blog. I was extremely moved to see how much time and effort many of these young people had invested to present themselves and their ideas.
We have put together a sampler of the filmed “elevator pitches” to give you an impression of the interest The Challenge has aroused and the commitment with which the students have applied themselves.
The submitted “elevator pitches” are now being reviewed and evaluated by the five professional designers and coaches – Iain Ruxton, Tapio Rosenius, Brendan Keely, Florence Lam and Emrah Baki Ulas – and the best 15 will be invited to present a 20-minute paper at the mini-conference in Edinburgh in February 2015 (Round III). The best five speakers in Edinburgh will be coached and prepared to present their papers to a professional audience at PLDC 2015 in Rome as part of the official programme. Each of the designers will coach one student. The students’ travel and hotel expenses will be paid and they each receive a ticket to PLDC. The best student speaker in Rome will be awarded a prize. And I am pretty sure the coaches will be as keen to see their student capture the audience’s undivided attention as the speakers themselves …
The PLDC team are already “hooked”!.
For partnering the project we express our sincere thanks to:
For more information see here
Why you should present a paper at PLDC.
by Joachim Ritter
“Is there any justifiable reason why I should share my know-how with anyone else?” That was a question that was heard a lot within the lighting design community 20 years ago – insofar as there was a lighting design community in those days. There were actually some designers who believed that presenting their work and ideas to a professional audience would mean they were generating their own competition. How crazy is that! Unanswered questions and curiosity are what drive people to thirst for knowledge.
Every one of us needs to find his/her own way to success, just as water has to find its own way from the mountain to the ocean. To believe that you can keep competition at arm’s length by keeping yourself to yourself is totally out of touch with reality. Those who avoid communicating with others are not likely to get wind of what else is going on in the field. And let’s face it – no-one is going to come looking for you.
In the meantime, we can say that friends and colleagues do communicate and help each other a lot, sharing information on many levels: a presenter at a conference not only inspires the audience listening to him; he is likewise inspired, and may well be challenged or questioned by those present. And that’s how it should be! Only if the people presenting the papers are questioned, and comments are made on the work presented, is it possible to draw the speaker’s attention to an issue or aspect he may have forgotten, or elements he may have overlooked, redirecting his thoughts and enabling him to expand his vision. In short: who can point out to me where I may be going wrong, if I don’t discuss my views with others? Who can put a finger on a possible misalignment in my view if I never explain my perception of a specific issue or topic to anyone else?
Today, more than ever, conferences are places where attendees exchange ideas and challenge each other. Events where people gain acknowledgement, or stand corrected, seek and find inspiration and possibly professional reorientation while developing their personal careers. That is what makes a modern conference. That is the stuff that PLDC, in particular, is made of and the reason why PLDC generates so much energy over the four days. More than 1500 like-minded lighting professionals together create a huge wave of enthusiasm and conviction that can advance progress and maintain ongoing developments. The better the papers are with regard to content, the more intensive PLDC becomes, and the more extensive the progress is that is made by each individual and by the lighting design community as a whole.
… which is why we do our utmost to acquire the best possible speakers, people who are specialists in their own field, creative minds that make a difference, authors of the latest findings from the research world.
Anyone presenting a paper at PLDC not only gives. He/she receives in return feedback and response that will shape his/her career.
Submit your paper at www.pld-c.com.
The Kelpies – mysterious horse-shaped water spirits/GB
A comment by Joachim Ritter
This project is a stunning example of the scope of modern lighting technologies. Simple colour-changing and lighting control, and precise colour definition and focussing make possible today what was inconceivable in the past. The Kelpies project, which was designed for The Helix, a large outdoor recreational area in Falkirk, Scotland is an example of a design-oriented lighting scheme, and also of how modern lighting technologies can tell stories and take art to another dimension which was not feasible before digital lighting came on the scene. Those who up to now have shown doubts as to whether art should be illuminated after dark, and have advocated leaving it to “rest” at night, have to admit when they see this project that without modern lighting technologies art risks losing some of its self confidence and power of expression – and we lose the opportunity to narrate stories visually, which is what the works were originally created for.
That would mean that many works of art only communicate half of what they were intended to. Daylight alone is seldom sufficient to get people excited about storytelling, or to enable them to feel the kind of mystical connotations intelligent beings are capable of developing in their minds. It is the artificial light that brings the sculptures to life, acts as a catalyst and turns them into something people want to listen to or contemplate and behold.
What is this project all about?
A Kelpie is a water demon that can assume different forms. Kelpies feature in Celtic mythology, usually taking the form of unkempt horses with ragged manes that prey on solitary humans. As soon as a Kelpie has managed to get someone to mount them, they bear their victim to the depths of the nearest loch and devour them. In legends Kelpies are tamed or subdued through magic at the point in time when they are bridled. If the rider succeeds in bridling one of the mystical horses, this marks the beginning of a secret bond between the two and the Kelpie will serve the rider for the rest of his life.
When Scottish artist Andy Scott designed “The Kelpies” sculpture, two huge mystical horses’ heads, for The Helix in Falkirk, Scotland, you might say it was his way of taming these mighty creatures.
The horses’ heads stand tall and graceful on a lake and are made of steel plate. By day the monumental sculptures dominate the landscape, calm and present – just how horses are in fact. For many, the shape of a horse is perfection itself. The sculptures that Andy Scott has created are magnificent. But by night they become as magical as their reputation.
The mystical heads glow from within and change colour, sparking our imagination. They are also reflected in the water, the very element in which they pursue their mystical activities. The myths and legends around these horse-shaped water creatures is supported and interpreted through light. When the moon rises to create the backdrop to the setting, the mysterious and the stunning become one.
Of course the designers are justified in using coloured light for these sculptures! Especially the colour blue, even if blue is not a colour you would normally associate with a horse. In this case it is part of the narrative. Not green or pink, nor yellow. Water plays a key role in the legends around these creatures, and the colour blue establishes the link.
Mythology and fables are somewhat surreal and show us what we want to believe. What else apart from light or drugs has the power to transport us into such fantasy worlds?
Andy Scott and Reg Gove certainly appear to have tamed these Kelpies and gained their trust. Thank goodness – otherwise they would still be lurking at the bottom of some dark Scottish lake …
Sculpture design: Andy Scott
Lighting design: Reg Gove, Lightfolio Ltd.
Lighting technology: ElektoLED
Photos: Graeme Gilmour
When I grew up there were just two sorts of mechanical engineer, the one that worked on your car (often mistitled) and the professional one. That’s a little unfair to car mechanics, but I don’t mean to be. A mechanic is indeed a skilled person, but the term engineer is often attributed to people who don’t deserve it.
Before you throw the article aside with derision, hear me out. I, like many designers, feel the skills, experience and qualifications I hold have been hard earned, perhaps I also benefit from a little talent too, but like many I find lots of young talent snipping at my heels and claiming to be a lighting designer, or indeed a lighting engineer. Often I get asked why it is anyone can be called a lighting designer and all to often I get asked how anyone who works for a lighting manufacturer can ever claim to be a lighting designer at all. The world it seems is all about claim and counter claim and the rush to earn your stripes.
So, why this article and why get so hot and bothered about the route to becoming chartered as a lighting designer? Well for one, I think professional recognition is vital to our profession. How can you prove your reputation to clients? Either you show them a superb portfolio, or you gain some letters after your name and prove your competence on an ongoing basis.
The first method for me is actually a route to the second, but it lacks something. Whilst a portfolio demonstrates your creative side, perhaps your technical ability, even your ability to pull off large and complicated projects, it does lack some basics. Where does it demonstrate learning, pushing your boundaries, training and developing others, management ability, giving back to the community and so on? Honestly? You could demonstrate all these things via some form of portfolio, you could even add your school certificates and a diary of all the events you attended and you’d be no less worthy then a chartered professional perhaps. In fact, perhaps that’s my point. The route to CEng isn’t that difficult if you have done all these things. Of course you have to argue the semantics of whether you are an engineer or a designer, but in my mind there is very little difference, indeed one cannot function successfully unless you have some element of the skillsets that make both.
- a person who plans the look or workings of something prior to it being made, by preparing drawings or plans
|synonyms:||creator, deviser, producer, inventor, originator, planner, author, artificer, fabricator;|
- a person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or structures.
|synonyms:||designer, planner, builder, architect, producer, fabricator, developer, creator;|
Perhaps the definition suggests you can be and engineer who designs, but as a designer cannot be an engineer, but that’s just non-sense. The question should be, as a lighting designer can you become professionally recognised by a professional body? The answer is of course yes. In my case CIBSE was the chosen organisation, the SLL being an integral part of why CIBSE exists.
Your next worry of course would be about how easy the process is. I have to admit, I left this application for too many years as I worried that, even with a qualification in Mechanical Engineering, I would not be possible to be recognised for my lighting career.
Let’s put that one to bed. As CEng MCIBSE FSLL there are certain codes of practice I have to abide by. One of those is to tell clients openly where my expertise lies. If you find me claiming to be an experienced mechanical engineer (or mechanic for that matter) then that wouldn’t be professional. Lighting is my chosen career and my specialist area and that is why I achieved CEng.
Actually, it’s not that simple. The registration process for the Engineering Council checks a wide range of core competencies, most of them based on your working experience, they can be summarise: -
- The theoretical knowledge to solve problems in new technologies and develop new analytical techniques
- Successful application of the knowledge to deliver innovative products and services and/or take technical responsibility for complex engineering systems
- Accountability for project, finance and personnel management and managing trade-offs between technical and socio-economic factors
- Skill sets necessary to develop other technical staff
- Effective interpersonal skills in communicating technical matters.
Not only does that sound a sensible skill set for any client to seek in a lighting designer, it also reminds me of many of the world’s top lighting designers.
So, how to apply. Well for one thing, the application is certainly easier than getting to the point of applying. If you think becoming CEng is easy, or should be, then forget it. If you can reasonably read through the Engineering Council competencies and find yourself saying yes to most of them, then start the application. If you find the answer to most is no, then simply be a specialist, be that mechanic, excellent at what you do but not the fully rounded professional at the top of the game, OR, focus in on filling the gaps in your experience. Did I just build my part up as a fully rounded pro? I hope not, as a professional I know all too well where I still need to learn, and there is a lifetime of that to go yet.
Once you’ve got over the basic hurdle of actually being experienced enough, dig out that CV, put it together with the portfolio, highlight places where you demonstrate each of the competencies required and then you’ve done the hard bit of applying. Just a few pages of forms to go about who you are. Once you sit down to it, well put it this way, it’s going to take less time than the experience did, perhaps a few hours work if you keep your training records and CV up to date, maybe a few days if you have to start the whole thing from scratch.
Of course you still have to stress about the professional interview! That dreaded hour long interview in front of your peers to see if you really are as good as you claim. Actually it’s a little bit friendlier than that. I’ve been to many worse customer meetings and been asked many more difficult questions. A short presentation to back up your application form, add in a few questions to check you really are who you claim and you really did achieve all you claim and it’s over. The panellists were knowledgeable and polite; the only tough bit came at the end… “No we can’t tell you if you passed!” was the answer.
Still want to be a professional, designer or engineer? Don’t worry about the title; I know some really great engineers and some equally great designers. Most of them have the competencies, the skill, the experience to make it easily through to CEng. Some need to decide that CEng is right for them, some need to wait for the title CDes or similar to become available, some need to lose their prejudice and recognise that professional recognition is good for them, for our customers and in the long term for lighting. For those not up to the mark that CEng sets, try IEng but remember there is time yet, experience takes time. Grab a glass of Rioja with me sometime and we can discuss how to get there. In the meantime, continue the journey and make the lighting profession just what it deserves