My PLDC 2017:
Juliet Rennie
Society of Light and Lighting, London

The best talk/lecture(s) I attended was/were…..

I particularly enjoyed Malcolm Innes’ talk, Lighting for Cities Inhabited by People, not Cars, which took place on the first day of the conference. Malcolm outlined a project that he had worked on in his home town, Edinburgh where he was asked to help with lighting 12 of the city’s famous Closes. These are narrow pedestrian alleyways, which create shortcuts through both the new and historical parts of the city.

The 12 Closes Project aimed to change the perception of these spaces within the city through a process of community co-design. Malcolm commented that initially this aspect of the project was viewed as somewhat of a hindrance but, as it developed it became clear that the local and experiential knowledge of these spaces was invaluable.

Malcolm described the community as experts of their own spaces, meaning that they had an inherent understanding of the requirements for operating within them. Whilst being informed by People Centred or Human Centred Design, this project aimed to engage with the community as designers, rather than just as inspiration for the design. Malcolm outlined the revelatory power of the torch beam and the concealing shadow it created in getting a better understanding of how the community viewed these spaces and the features that they appreciated within them.
Whilst we have an understanding of the impact that lighting can have on perceived safety, I enjoyed the fact that this project went beyond this and instead engaged the community in the heritage of the city and its architecture, reintroducing a sense of pride in their surroundings. To quote Malcolm, the community co-design process ‘gives overt permission to own and affect their city,’ which seems an invaluable exercise in highlighting the importance of quality lighting both within our industry and for broader public benefit.

The best social event I attended was……

Whilst I enjoyed Friday evening’s events and hospitality at Flos and Erco, along with the opportunity to catch up with friends within the lighting community, a particular highlight was a tour of the Palace of Versailles on Thursday evening with Soraa. Viewing the stunning ceiling in the Royal Chapel and the Hall of Mirrors without having to negotiate crowds of people was a true privilege. Having also recently attended the Museum Lighting Symposium and Workshops at UCL, it was interesting to consider the amount of research that would have had to go into ensuring the preservation of the art and furnishings!

I was inspired by……

I was lucky enough to attend the Educator’s Meeting on 1st November. Working for the Society of Light and Lighting, sharing knowledge and promoting lighting education are matters which are close to our hearts. It was wonderful to be in a room surrounded by some of the most informed, proactive and passionate people currently involved in lighting education whilst they shared ideas on how to improve and make lighting education more accessible.

Dr Natasya Bystryantseva from The Higher School of Lighting Design at ITMO University in St. Petersburg discussed the possibility of forming a universal algorithm to create a unique specialism. This was in relation to educational approach and providing the optimum tools for the generation of ideas.

From there, the discussion led to a potential need to rethink the language that we use, with the suggestion that it might be time for the lighting industry to form its own nomenclature for the application and visual effect of light. There were mixed opinions about the invention of new language but agreement that there was a need to eliminate cliché and reclaim certain parts of language to adequately describe the art and science of lighting.

This then led to an idea which Malcolm Innes of Napier University and Emre Güneş had discussed that morning over breakfast. They suggested that we should be working towards the development of an online resource, which operates on a similar model to TED, gathering lighting content together on one platform. Educators could then curate the content to suit the needs of their individual students, depending on their area of research.

Ideally, the funding would need to come from lighting manufacturers, with the hope that more accessible lighting education is beneficial for all involved within the industry. This platform would in no way be designed to compete with face to face learning but rather to create more opportunities for people to start their own lighting courses internationally, particularly in regions where there are few or no lighting programs at the moment.

I wish they would……

Film the sessions! There were some very hard decisions as to who to go and see and I would love to be able to watch some of the ones that I couldn’t make it along to.

The theme for 2017 if “Shift happens”. What “shifts” in thought, practice or technology did you take note of?

I’m not sure that I saw any drastic shifts in thought but I believe there was an emphasis on the value of human experience and creativity in the face of developing technologies and automated processes. A number of the talks I attended highlighted the importance of defining the role of human experience within the creative/design process.

Mark Major highlighted the worth of continuing traditional methods of visualisation and design, whilst also utilising tools such as VR to illustrate certain lighting effects or atmospheres. Whereas, Tapio Rosenius suggested that in a changing landscape, we need to look beyond our specialism and even those within related disciplines to expand our creative scope, commenting that ‘the only thing which cannot be automated is our creativity.’

My overall feeling about PLDC 2017 is…..

I came away from PLDC feeling inspired and with a sense of renewed motivation in the lighting design course that I am currently doing.

In my work with the Society of Light and Lighting, one of the things I do is help with the marketing and organisation of the Young Lighter of the Year competition and the Jean Heap Research Bursary. Listening to some of the talks and speaking to lighting professionals has given me new ideas on how to approach these schemes and the types of topics and research that we might want to explore.

I think that the programme of presentations and talks at PLDC was excellent. I only wish that the sessions had been filmed so that I could catch up on some of the ones that I missed.

Most of all, I enjoyed the enthusiasm shared by those who attended and the desire to develop and share our current lighting knowledge, whether that’s working within the lighting industry or looking to other disciplines to broaden our creative horizons. I felt a sense of professional community and the passion which people have to lighting, education and research is infectious.

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