ANSI/IES RP-16 Nomenclature and Definitions for Illuminating Engineering has long been one of the two major documents defining terms related to lighting design (the other is CIE ILV: International Lighting Vocabulary). RP-16-10 (the 2010 version of the Recommended Practice) is now available online as a searchable database. From the first page you can click on terms to see the definition and you can also search by keyword. If you don’t already own RP-16 bookmark this now!
Yesterday we surveyed a site in D.C. for a possible new Vapiano restaurant. The NYC flagship renovation begins soon, and a new location opens in Chicago later this year, all with lighting design by Studio T+L.
In a project meeting yesterday a team member said that LED stage lights would save the owner money. While there are many reasons to include LED lights in a theatre’s equipment inventory, cost savings is not one of them. We’ve written a white paper, LEDs In Stage Lighting, that includes an economic analysis and simple rate of return. Get a copy here.
Our own Lenore Doxsee will be lighting “Remains” a new work by John Jasperse at BAM’s Next Wave Festival this fall. The dance piece will run from September 21 – 24 at the Harvey Theatre. BAM describes the piece as “sampling fragments and phrases from the radical practices of his forbears while repurposing them within the contemporary present.”
Watch this interview with Mr. Jasperse.
We’ve had several people call this year to ask, “Why should I hire Studio T+L when the local sales rep/distributor has offered to do the work?” In one instance the caller was an interior designer we’ve worked with before who wanted help in explaining the role of a lighting designer to a client. In another, it was the client of an architect who was urging that we be brought on board as a theatre consultant. In all cases the owner was looking to save money, and saw adding another consultant to the design team as a potential waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Why Hire A Lighting Designer?
For starters, the local sales rep or distributor isn’t going to do the work of a lighting designer. She/he will suggest fixtures from the manufacturers that she/he represents. It will be up to the architect/interior designer/electrical engineer to determine if the suggested fixtures meet the project’s needs. What the rep or distributor won’t do is invest the time in meetings with the owner and design team to fully understand the project. The rep or distributor won’t develop a complete approach to the design that includes illumination levels, distribution, aesthetics, and controls. The rep or distributor won’t implement that design by selecting appropriate fixtures and controls, testing those selections through calculations or mockups, and creating the construction documentation. The rep or distributor won’t be available throughout construction to inspect the progress of the work, answer the contractor’s questions, focus the fixtures, and set levels in the control system.
Now, sales reps play a valuable role in acting as a liaison between the design community and the rep’s manufacturers. Distributors play a valuable role in procuring lighting equipment for the electrical contractor and delivering it to the site on time. To increase their sales, and their profit, they may offer assistance to architects, interior designers, electrical engineers, and owners, usually at no charge. That assistance may be useful, but no one should fool themselves into believing they are getting a fully developed design from someone who will participate in the project from start to finish. That’s what a professional lighting designer does, though, and is one of the reasons to hire one.
Why Hire A Theatre Consultant?
Theater consultants are hired for the same reasons as lighting designers, only more so, as we’ve written here. Designing a performing arts space requires extensive collaboration between the architect, owner, users, and theatre consultant, beginning with the very first meeting. The most obvious part of a theatre consultant’s work is designing and documenting the theatre’s special requirements – the form and layout of the theatre, space adjacencies, stage rigging, dimming and control, seating, etc. This work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. At Studio T+L we often say that design is as much a process as it is the product that is delivered at the end of that process. We listen carefully to the artists’ needs and desires, convey them to the design team in language they can understand, and advocate for those needs and desires throughout the design and construction process. We listen to the design and construction team and explain their needs and concerns to the artists. By assisting and guiding the collaboration we help to assure a successful project for everyone.
As in the lighting world, the local sales rep or distributor can’t and won’t design the project. Can they assist in a one-for-one replacement of old equipment? Absolutely. Can they sell the project a set of equipment (rigging, dimming, etc.)? Yes. But they will not, and cannot, provide impartial, wide ranging expertise from start to finish to develop, design, and build a fully thought out and integrated performing arts building. Those important services are only provided by a theatre consultant.
Elizabeth Donoff asks “International Year of What?” in her editorial in this month’s Architectural Lighting, and I have to agree with her. Early last year I noted that our professional organizations showed no plans to take advantage of the International Year of Light, and indeed nothing worth mentioning happened. The professional societies of the lighting community (IES, IALD, etc.) added the International Year of Light logo to their web sites, but that’s about all. They held no significant events, published no important documents, and made no efforts to raise the visibility of the profession with potential employers (architects and owners) or with the public at large. The IALD boasts that their regularly scheduled events were added to the IYL calendar, but say nothing as to what resulted, probably because the result was nothing. Lightfair 2015 was business as usual, I saw no recognition of IYL.
The entertainment industry did no better. United Scenic Artists Local 829, the union for theatrical designers, didn’t recognize the opportunities, nor did USITT, and at LDI (the entertainment industry equivalent of Lightfair) there was no sign that anyone knew about IYL.
As I’ve written before (see here and here, for example), and as many of us know, far too many projects are built with poor lighting because lighting design is seen as an added cost that can be avoided by having the architect, electrical engineer, or lighting sales person provide the “design” instead of a trained, professional lighting designer. Hoping this will change won’t change this. On an individual level, designers can educate their clients about the benefits of thoughtfully designed lighting, but it takes a larger, more expensive effort to reach those who don’t interact with lighting designers. Only manufacturers or professional organizations have the resources.
What could they have done in 2015, or what can they do this year? For starters, I’d like to see the IALD and/or the IES sponsor sessions on lighting design at the annual conventions of organizations such as AIA, ASID, and SCUP. Let’s get in front of the decision makers and teach them about what good lighting can mean to them. Topics such as energy efficiency, code compliance, and daylighting, as well as the more artistic and aesthetic sides of lighting design, are all appropriate and would, I think, be well attended. If we want lighting design to be seen as an integral part of any building project we have to work at it. Adding a logo to a web site isn’t enough.