Manchester Concert Hall Lighting

My Life in Light [Surviving Records of My Design Work]

In a previous life I worked as an architectural lighting designer. Having originally been a stage lighting designer in my youth I moved on to buildings when I started to have children and my life became distinctly more complicated. Most of my archives from the years of lighting design have gone but two documents have survivied which give an overview of the design work I did.

I have put these two documents on site to finally put them out into the public domain. They give a fascinating overview of the kind of work that I did and the results I achieved. The two documents are 'The Light Book', a compilation of images of completed projects, originally published privately, and 'Inspiration and Light', the text of a presentation I gave to a conference many years ago that outlined my philosophical approach to lighting.

Light

As a designer, I worked with light in the way I felt about life. I was concerned with the connection between visible light and our inner experience of light. What we do speaks to our inner souls. The work we do displays much of who we are.

I became involved in lighting in the theatre, because I wanted to get involved in what people saw, how they saw things and how they felt about it. Lighting not only enables vision in a physical sense, but it also underlines the vision people have for their lives. It underlaid the vision I had for my life.

Light helps people to understand buildings and the spaces they live in. It helps them not just to see their way around them, but to understand their nature, their form, their use, what they are for and what they are about. Buildings are accentuated by light, as are our lives. Light is about emotion, whether it's the more obvious manipulation that happens in the theatre, or the more subtle results of great architectural lighting.

From within, not from behind, a light shines through us onto things. It makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. We are casting the shadow obscuring what we're looking at, or creating the light that illuminates the world around us. Light opens up everything, and we fool ourselves if we think the world is revealed just by our own efforts. It is also revealed by something greater inside us.

Inspiration and Light

The presentation, 'Inspiration and Light', was given to an audience of lighting designers from around the world. In it I talked about how inner light could lead them to greater influence as lighting designers, and how, if they connect to the light inside, they could grow and develop and become the designers who make a difference in the profession and the world.

The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.

Felix Adler

The Essence of Light

I looked at light through a number of different lenses, looking at what it is, where it comes from, how we react to it and how it influences life. Light is critical in the creation and definition of architecture but it also has a life of its own, a life outside architecture and lighting design, a life in the world at large.

Living Light

The essence and science of light, what is it, how it works.

A double helix of certainty and uncertainty threads its way through light and its history. Scientists understand and yet don’t. As soon as its nature becomes clear it disappears into a mist.

A double helix of creation and seeing threads its way through light. Living light is about how light is made, the science of light, it is also about how we see it. These two aspects of light are the essential components of light. They are both necessary and both very interesting.

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.

Michael Strassfeld

Discovered Light

How light is seen in the world, natural light in all its forms, the world of light and dark.

Discovered light, for me, is light as we experience it in the world. It is the light of nature that is created for us to live in. It is light unobstructed by the actions of man through buildings or other devices. It is the raw natural power of light in our environment.

Two lights brighten our world. One is provided by the sun, but another answers to it—the light of the eye. Only through their intertwining do we see, that lacking either, we are blind.

Arthur Zajonc

Imagined Light

Light in Art, how light is interpreted.

Imagined light is what comes from the mind of man. It is not concerned with the scientific source of light but with its representation. How can you imagine it in your mind, how can you re-create it? This has mostly been the concern of artists through history. They have tried to encapsulate light on canvas, tried to reproduce its power. Often they succeed in representing it well but do they succeed in helping us to understand it?

Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by color.

Paul Cezanne

Created Light

How light is used or harnessed, in architecture and all forms of lighting design and light art.

Created light is what we deal with in lighting design. We create light, we create lighting effects. We deal in static and dynamic light. Our understanding of created light is deep but often limited. It is often limited to the world we know, the world of lighting design and sometimes the world of theatre.

There is no better way, there is no more open door, by which you can enter the study of natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.

Michael Faraday

Spiritual Light

How we take light inside, how it becomes us, how it connects with living light.

For me, light underlies the vision I have for my life, it is a central part of it, and becoming internalized, it underpins everything. The fact that I, some years ago, internalized my views on light, underpins my vision for life and it underpins my dreams.

Of the original phenomena, light is the most enthralling.

Leonardo da Vinci

Buildings are accentuated by light, as are our lives. Light is about emotion, whether it’s the more obvious in manipulation that happens in the theater, or the more subtle results of great architectural lighting.

All our feelings are influenced by natural light.

The Light Book

'The Light Book' covers four main categories of projects I worked on. There were many different types of projects I dealt with but the major results fell into these categories. Follow the link to the site to see the many images.

Cathedrals

Cathedrals embody powerful images of a country's cultural and built heritage. They are both liturgical and historic spaces that are enjoyed for their dedication to God and for history. The lighting needs to respect and account for the day to day needs of the clergy and congregation as well as highlight the building for tourists. This all needs to be created within the context of an ancient building that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Museums

Museums present complex lighting problems in requiring a balance between the technical requirements of the exhibits and their visibility to the visitors. Behind this is a need to light the architecture such that it supports the exhibits without over-powering them. One of the greatest challenges is to light galleries as if they are flooded with daylight while needing to exclude the daylight to preserve the paintings.

Exteriors

Exterior lighting takes many forms and provides a way to improve the environment in our cities. At one end of the spectrum is the need to light particular features, such as bridges, and at the other end are city lighting strategies. Strategies are complex studies that look at the way a city is set out and attempt to present a night-time view that is markedly different from the day-time view. When creating a strategy it is necessary to look at areas in their context in terms of colour, brightness and people flow.

Theatres

Theatres are exciting buildings to light. Architectural lighting in a theatre considers the auditorium, foyer and exterior light. This must always provide a backdrop to the performance that is at the core of the building. The nature of the performance lighting is constantly changing so the architectural lighting needs to be able to work with whatever the stage lighting becomes. The nature of the building and its architecture is critical designing the lighting. Historic theatres, particularly in London, are looked after carefully and are often historic monuments needing sensitive treatment.