A sustainable talk with the lighting designer Dean Skira

Skira Ltd. is croatian leading lighting design company specialized in all aspects of commercial, urban and residential lighting projects. The company is led by Dean Skira, lighting designer with rich international experience.

1. Usually a designer needs to compromise while working on a project. It could be geometry, cost, material or texture. However, there is always something that he will never give up. What is it for you?

The MAIN IDEA, the VISION, the bright light bulb above your head when it CLICKS. That is the basis of all design and there should not be compromise on that. How can you compromise on something as personal as the initial idea which is the foundation of the rest of the project? I can allow that the idea is not accepted, but then you are the wrong person on this job, or the investor does not share your vision, than is better to move on....the rest is all technicality and practical design process….. following the rules and regulations...fine we can do that ...but the creative approach and the idea itself is so very personal...we are talking about art not numbers, art that in this moment, where all technologies and materials are so rapidly changing, is the only essential and stable element of a quality project ...this is how I see my profession....art for which we use lots of different tools, fixtures, sources, controls...but always integrated within ceilings, walls, floors, ground...our ideas must seamlessly follow the form which illuminates and at the same time create new forms with light and shadow as symbiosis of many tangible forms. Sounds complicated but I think that lighting design isn’t about calculation or specification it is about envisioning the space, volumes and atmosphere, it is connected with the culture, the “genius loci” of the site and the architecture in order to create emotions.

2. Nowadays, sustainability is a big issue that concerns us personally. What is your point of view on this topic? How sustainable could a lighting project be without losing its concept and essence?

I complete all my lectures with the sentence „ Lighting is not for architecture, but for the people that live in it“I think that this is where the story of sustainability and energy savings begins and ends. As I said , the designer is a creative professional with great responsibility towards people that live in the buildings. We all know by now, how daylight or electric light influences our perception of space, our emotions and well been. We also know how to save energy by not compromising that ….do we? Ask any lighting professional and he knows the answer, but do the general public who are buying CFL lamps for their living room knows the answer ? I think not. There is great part of misinformed general public which are seeing the CFL lamp as greatest energy saver of all, but they just don’t know the rest of the story and very few people will tell it out loud. I think that in 21 century, compromising our experience value for pretending to save KWh is not exactly what I would call progress. We all tend to enjoy
outdoor space on sunny days, happy end in the movie shows our heroes ride towards the sunset, romance with candlelight is inevitable seen in our lives. Why can’t we have a piece of that in our office or our home? I think we should. We know how to design it using the best technology available in the market today in order to create it. We know what brings all this positive emotions. As a space user and as a lighting professional I disagree with an approach that merely considers only the total watt consumption. It should be about long term biological, emotional and visual experience value and not only about KWh.

3. What is the balance between sustainability and design? How do you find it in your projects? What is your start point?

I always start first with the creative idea, following the function of the space, trying to integrate the idea within the given space according to its architectural complexity, geographical position, local culture, historical heritage and so on…..After I am comfortable with my concept I will try to realize it with the least amount of energy consumption, least possible need for maintenance and initial cost. I am aware of it and I have the responsibility to ask myself which is the significance that my design will have in 10 - 15 years. That is why my projects are so detailed and my request to contractor to follow the project to the last dot is so rigorous.

I believe that me and my staff are able to envision and specify the best of what is technologically available in the market today. Unfortunately in today’s world, the initial cost is too many times the most important criteria on choosing the equipment. There is no sustainability and energy efficiency where price is the key issue in decision making in any given project. Quality lighting fixture, sources and stable user friendly control systems are initially relatively expensive, but only good tolls can secure long term savings and almost maintenance free building when it comes to lighting. My opinion is that the way to sustainability is by exploring new low cost energy and hi quality materials. Initial low cost buildings which will require remodeling or refurbishing in short period of time, is not how we are going to save the planet. We should establish a certain “pedigree” of sustainable buildings, enhance the owners pride and make the inhabitants simply happy and comfortable not only short after inauguration, but for generations to come. Lighting designer has a important role in this process and should not compromise his creativity and technical knowledge by any means.

by Valentina Doro
Issue nr 2_2011

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