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We chat with the winners of this years Lighting Architecture Movement Project (LAMP) international lighting design competition.
We introduced you to the finalists of the Lighting Architecture Movement Project’s (LAMP) annual design competition last month and now—with the exhibit set to open this evening —it’s time to meet the winners. Western Living sat down with some of the designers from the established, emerging and student categories to get the scoop on their approach to this year’s “crystallize” theme competition.
Alex Josephson is the co-founder of Toronto architecture and design firm, Partisans. His winning design, Gweilo, merges space, architecture, light, sculpture and fibre optics—the idea of how light transmits through plastics or glass—in one dynamic fixture.WL: Where did the inspiration for Gweilo come from?AJ: You know when you’re in the shower and you’re kind of in a meditative state? My shower has a view of the Toronto skyline; it was early and I remember the incredible southern light coming through the curtain and it was this “Aha!” moment. We’ve been thinking about light for awhile (“How can you make light drape? How can you make light pool?”) and it finally donned on us. We’ve had a lot of experience in the past with thermoforming plastic and this is basically a custom process of thermoforming acrylics to become these incredible sculptures.WL: I’ve never seen anything like Gweilo before. Was it difficult to bring this vision to life?AJ: It’s an ongoing process. I think, with anything, it’s about constantly trying to make things better. We’re constantly looking to reinvest in Gweilo because we really believe in it as a family of lights: they can come out of the floor, they can come out of the ceiling or out of the wall, they can divide rooms or sit on a table. The scale of this idea is so malleable. I think we’ve only scratched the surface.WL: The LAMP competition brings several art forms together under one roof. Do you often try to create installations and art pieces rather than strictly functional products?AJ: I kind of have this idea that beauty emerges when design misbehaves. Typically, light will just illuminate something, but Gweilo is not just doing that—it’s creating spaces and experiences. That’s the thing that differentiates this idea from everything else. When you buy a light fixture, it’s a decorative approach to covering a light source. I want the light to be the source. Our project comes across as complex but it’s actually minimal in its most pared down definition.
Jin Choi and Thomas Shine are principals at Choi and Shine Architects in Brookline, MA. The two bring a well-balanced mix of ambitious and practical aesthetics to all of their experimental design projects, including their winning submission: The BIT Light.WL: Do you often try to participate in competitions? JC: Not regularly, but whenever there are advertisements for new competitions we see whether we can come up with an idea fairly quickly or not.TS: If we think we have a nice idea we enter, but it also depends on our workload. There are a lot of competitions that go by, but we try to do a few every year if we can. The initial idea was Jin’s. I have an engineering background and Jin has an architecture background so there’s sort of a dynamic in the office where, typically, Jin will come up with an idea and I’ll say, “It’s not possible,” and then we sort of bat it back and forth until we resolve it. Jin is inspirational. She’ll have an idea and it comes out whole whereas I’m much more iterative. I have to work at a problem and whittle away at it until I get the solution I like.JC: I’ll talk about the inspiration and Thomas can talk about the details because that’s how it works. I dream the impossible and Thomas makes it happen.WL: What can you tell me about The BIT Light? How did you come up with the idea?JC: The idea came from the frustration of not being able to adjust the light levels that illuminate my son’s room. I didn’t want to add more fixtures—it’s already cluttered—but I thought maybe we could change the light fixture. It’s something that is a little more experimental, a little more user interactive. I’m very familiar with my son’s toys so I thought of something like Lego and then I thought, “What if the conductivity could all be taken care of by a magnet?” That’s sort of how it started. Then Thomas goes, “It’s a good idea, but not possible.” TS: I understand the science and the physics very well. It’s a challenge to bridge art with what’s possible in physics. We dive into the dark all the time and don’t quite know where we’re going until we try things.JC: Even if it works electrically, if it doesn’t work with our vision, then we have to work again.WL: Sounds like you make a great team.JC: So far so good!
Emerging designer Randall Zieber was more than ready to participate in this year’s LAMP competition: “I have hundreds and hundreds of little sketches that I’ve done. It’s just a matter of having the time to realize them,” he says, “This competition sort of enabled me to do that.” Did it ever! Zieber submitted four designs and it’s most fitting that the sculpturesque Alabaster earned him a spot in the finals.WL: Have you always been interested in lighting design?RZ: Early on I studied electronics, but as far as design goes I don’t have any training; though I do have many years of practicing art and sculpture. I’ve been following design and I’ve been working for more than 20 years as a sculptor, so that’s the artistic side. I do draw and design other things besides lighting, but for some reason lighting seems to be one of those things that really appeals to me. I guess it’s a good way for me to combine a bit of my background and my interests with my experience—it all sort of culminates into one thing.WL: How does Alabaster reflect your experiences as both a designer and sculptor?RZ: I was trying to work with all of the ideas that came into my head and I developed prototypes for four of them, but Alabaster is the one that’s a sculpture almost as much as it is a lamp design. The main material I like to work in is stone so the alabaster is a material that I’m familiar with. It can take on many different colours or it can have different veins, clouds and patterns. You don’t really know when looking at the crust or skin of an alabaster what it will look like or how the light will go through it. Every piece can be a little bit different and that, to me, is really exciting. Aesthetically, I was just trying to consider the different combination of shapes (some of them are shorter and fatter while others are longer and skinnier) and then I thought, “That’s not enough,” so the copper top was added. It’s nice to make something that’s a sculpture but also a design product. It’s a little bit of both.WL: Do you think lighting design will be something you continue to do in the future?RZ: I have a few businesses right now and part of my thought is to try and get a little bit out of the business I’m doing and a little more into design. It’s kind of the time in my career where there’s an impetus for change and a desire to try something new. I definitely think trying to develop design and lighting into a business is one of my big goals for the upcoming year. Collaborating with other artists would also be nice seeing as I’ve been working on my own for such a long time.
For Masters of Architecture students Christina Wilkinson and Danna Lei, LAMP provided the perfect opportunity for them to experiment with something new. Heavily inspired by the idea of movement, their winning submission, Diverge, presents a dynamic and unexpected approach to lighting design.WL: What encouraged you to enter the lamp competition?DL: We’ve done some architecture competitions before and we’re also interested in small-scale projects, so this was the perfect competition for us to participate in. We’re also interested in installations and how humans interact with them.CW: We have been trying to do a couple of competitions throughout our degree because we find it’s a really good way of exploring different thing that we didn’t get a chance to do in school. Lighting has such a huge impact in architecture—it’s all about the lighting. I think that’s why we went into it.WL: Students were asked only to submit digital renderings of their designs. How did you being to conceptualize your idea?CW: The first thing we decided on as a team was the dichroic film. Once we figured out we wanted to use dichroic film that’s when we really started thinking about how we could render it. That was the main part of our renders: We had to make sure it would look very similar to how the film acts in real life because that’s the main part of our lamp.DL: We also like to play with applying new materials to lighting. When we did our research we didn’t really see concrete applied to lighting so that was kind of another starting point when we played with materials.WL: What did you think of this year’s “crystallize” theme?CW: I love the theme—I thought it was really great! As soon as we thought of “crystallize” we went through so many ideas before landing on what we came up with, but we knew we wanted to create something that can be changed. We weren’t just thinking of a lamp. We were thinking, “What if it’s a coffee table? What if it’s a stool? What if you could lean against it? What if you could get four or five of them in a room and create an entire landscape?” I think that’s what “crystallize” meant for us and we just sort of ran with it.
Want to see more? The top 10 designs from both the established and emerging categories will be on display this weekend at Jan Kath Studio (505 Railway St., Vancouver). Entrance is by donation. For more information, visit welovelamp.ca.