A new concept event from Messe Frankfurt, the Chinese Lighting Designer’s Association and its International Advisory Council.

2017 Event Review by Martin Klaasen

The SILF was held at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre from the 5-7th September and saw its number of exhibitors doubled from last year. The Lighting Design Agora (LDA) which is located inside the main hall is the combined brainchild of the Chinese Lighting Designer’s Association (CLDA, Lear Hsieh), it’s International Advisory Council (IAC, James Wallace & Martin Klaasen) and Messe Frankfurt Hong Kong (MFHK. Scarlet Mak). The LDA aims to bring together the lighting designers (international, regional and local), the design & engineering industry (architects, interior designers, electrical engineers), the lighting manufacturers and the key players in the industry like developers, operators, governments and other end users. Each play a role in the final success and quality of a lighting project installation and therefore creating a platform for dialogue, communication and value awareness between all key players is crucial in creating a better general awareness of the benefits of better quality lighting and lighting design. China is the birthplace of most of today’s LED lighting production so creating an event like the LDA that addresses the (quality) issues at source make total sense. Working from inside out, rather than outside in.

As there is a general perception and stigma attached to the fact that everything that is “made in China” is cheap and of poor quality there is a need to differentiate and separate the perceived “good” and “bad”. Many international manufacturers shun the Hong Kong and Guangzhou lighting fairs for exactly that reason. With the SILF, MFHK is keen to develop a high-quality fair environment that differentiates itself from these (cheap) OEM/ local product driven fairs, ultimately creating a fair with quality, value and leading innovation that could potentially rival Light & Build in Frankfurt. With that in mind the LDA is an enclosed event inside the main hall that strictly houses the international sponsoring manufacturers only. It is important to make that distinction and separation. The “centre-court” of the LDA is a speaker’s arena where international and regionally well-known lighting experts share their experience with the public in an intimate and controlled environment. The 3-day event, consists of a two day international event organised by the IAC with international and regional speakers and a one day event with local well known lighting designers organised by the CLDA.

The Lighting Design Agora stand

The first LDA was held last year on a small scale to try out its formula and assess the response from the audience, participating speakers and international lighting manufacturers. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive which motivated the organisers (MFHK) to dramatically expand the LDA event space for this year by doubling its size. While the SILF is organised by MFHK (with the Guangyia Group), the international LDA event program is prepared and managed by the IAC. The size and volume of the LDA (>700m2!) looked daunting in preparation, but right from the start on Day 1 we attracted a near full house audience which was a big relief. The high attendance was maintained throughout the event. In a post debrief we assessed that most our goals in terms of quality speakers, topics and audience reach was well achieved. As I write this review the plans for an even better LDA are already set in motion!

The speaker program for days 1 and 2

As mentioned before the LDA is an event within an event. The main hall is your typical fairground with (for now) mainly local manufacturers booths, similar as what you see in lighting fairs around the world. The distinction is that the LDA is enclosed to make a clear separation between the perceived high-quality international well-known manufacturers and the local manufacturers. With this concept, we aim to build the quality value from inside out.
Overall all sessions were very well attended. As the LDA is an open walk-in concept, people can join or leave the speaker’s arena at any time depending on their interest in the subject. The event program consisted of 4 sessions. The first day saw presentations about the future of smart lighting and the challenges that the IoT brings to lighting design. The sessions on day two touched upon value creation through lighting design in hospitality and the benefits of good lighting design in commercial environments. At the end of each session there was a moderated panel discussion with all the speakers providing a platform for the audience to ask questions to the experts.

Day 1, morning session: The Future of Smart Lighting

The event was moderated by Martin Klaasen, from Klaasen Lighting Design, executive member of the IAC and one of the creators of the event. Here is a recap of the sessions:

Martin Introducing and moderating the event

We started the program with a keynote address by Prof Horng- Ching Hsiao from the National University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, who enlightened the crowd with his topic “New Technologies for Lighting Design”.

Prof Hsiao

He was followed by Portugese born, UK Based lighting designer Pedro Pinto, owner of Pinto Lighting Design, who presented his views of: “The Future of Smart Lighting in Small and Medium Projects”.

Pedro Pinto

IGuzzini’s Luca Tarsetti, General Manager of IGuzzini in China and one of the event sponsors, then presented the “Future of Smart Lighting” and giving us a sneak preview about IGuzzini’s latest art project (Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua) after the enormous success in lighting Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper in Milano.

Luca Tarsetti, IGuzzini

The morning round of speakers was completed by Meike Goessling, an associate Director of Lightvision Design, based in Hong Kong. Her presentation was entitled “Light Smart”.

Meike Goessling

All speakers then joined on stage for a panel discussion about the various subjects, challenges and opportunities generated by their respective presentations. It rounded up our morning session about the Future of Smart Lighting.
The simultaneous translations contributed to making all presentations go smoothly.

Simultaneous translation booth – audience – public interest

Day 1, afternoon session: Lighting and the IoT
Right in the footsteps of the morning topic, we started the afternoon session with a presentation on the Iot by Johan Moritz, a senior lighting designer with the City of Malmo in Sweden, kicking off the proceedings with his presentation about “Lighting and the IoT”.

Johan Moritz

Our second sponsor, Luci, followed with an interesting presentation by Mr Jie, Luci’s manager in China, about the impact of Iot on lighting products and their controls.

Mr Jie and Luci Stand

“The application of IoT on Lighting in Segmented Fields” was presented by Prof. Yandan Lin from Shanghai’s Fudan University’s Department of Illuminating Engineering and Light Sources, as the last speaker for the session.

Prof Yandan Lin and the panel discussions

A lively panel discussion involving all presenters of the afternoon session concluded the day, the IoT was obviously on people’s minds!

Day 2, morning session: Hospitality Lighting

Day 2 was purposely aimed at trendy applications in lighting. In China specifically and Asia in general a big majority of projects are in the hospitality so it made sense to us to dedicate some time to it.

Our keynote speaker starting the day was the founding partner of InSitu Asia, Mr Arjan de Boer, based in Singapore. As a previous hotelier with Alila and Regent Hotels and now developer and investor with many interests in Asia, we were blessed to have a non-lighting designer giving us insights of how good lighting design makes sense from a financial and value added perspective. His presentation “Hotel Value Creation through Lighting Design” was highly educational for everyone.

Arjan de Boer

Having subsequently one of the top hospitality lighting designers, Nathan Thompson, principal of the Flaming Beacon from Melbourne Australia, speaking about “Arranging Brightness for Fine Hotels” was a perfect choice and follow up. The imagery was a delight to watch for all.

Nathan Thompson

While perhaps an odd one out the following presentation by our third sponsor by Mr Frost Chou from Asensetek did make “sense”. Asensetek produces very high quality spectrometers and many lighting designers use the tool and software to verify manufacturer claims about lighting performances. I have been an enthusiastic user for the past few years.

Mr Frost Chou and the Asensetek booth

Dr Acharawan Chutarat (“Acha”), a lecturer at Bangkok’s King Mongkut’s University of Technology ThonBurri (KMUTT), completed the morning speakers with her engaging presentation” Hospitality Lighting design; its Potential and Way Forward”

Dr Acharawan

The morning speakers then joined me on stage for the panel discussions and questions from the audience.

Day 2, Afternoon session: Commercial and Retail Lighting
Like hospitality lighting, this session also touches on one of the most popular applications in this part of the world and we were grateful to see the afternoon session kicked off by Paul Traynor, Principal and Owner of Light Bureau form the UK. His presentation entitled simply “The Future of Commercial Lighting” in reality touched upon everything that is relevant in today’s lighting world, smart lighting, circadian lighting and lighting as a service. Specifically this last topic is one that we need to keep an eye on and one that I personally have also included in many of my presentation as kay subject of the future.

Paul Trainor

Mr Leo, Lutron’s sales manager in China then gave an engaging presentation about the opportunities and challenges of lighting controls in the new world reality of smart lighting and the IoT. Having paired up with Apple, it seems that Lutron is geared up for the future…Lutron was the proud sponsor of the Lutron Coffee Bar, a place where many of us made stops for a coffee shot!

Lutron’s Mr Le and the popular Lutron Coffee Bar

No other then Warren Julian, emeritus professor Architecture Design and Planning at the University of Sydney had the honours of closing out the event with a master class presentation entitled “Commercial Office and Retail Lighting; Opportunities and Challenges”. Whoever had planned to leave, changed their minds and we ended the day with a spellbound full house audience!

Warren Julian

It was not surprising that the ensuing panel discussion had many tongues wagging with Warren at one point leaving the stage to give the audience direct pointers showing lighting principles and effects applied in parts of the Lighting Design Agora stand!

Final panel discussions

Day 2, Evening Gala Dinner
The international part of the event was concluded with a Gala dinner in the evening sponsored by Osram. It was a moment to thank all participating speakers, acknowledge all the sponsors and give thanks to the CLDA, the IAC and Guangyia-Messe Frankfurt for their untiring support to the event.

Lear, Lidia, Lear toasting to a good end

Lear addressing on behalf of the CLDA

The session topics were selected because of their relevance to the Chinese / Asian market, which partly explains the continuous high attendance. There is no doubt that the quality of the speakers and their ability to capture the crowd played a crucial role as well. It is no surprise that smart lighting and lighting and the IoT had peoples interest. However there where two topics that generated extra attention. The first by our keynote speaker on day two, Arjan de Boer, who opened lighting designers’ eyes about how lighting design adds to the value creation and brand image of a hotel sharing actual facts and figures about revenues and brand loyalty. That was real interesting outsiders look at the value of lighting design. Paul Trainor’s take on “Light as a Service”, was the other topic that provided great insight towards the new world which is moving towards a service driven industry. There is no doubt that lighting will follow sooner rather than later!

Everything in China (and Asia) revolves around money first. If you don’t understand client decisions or contractor actions you can always boil it down to the dollars and cents. Quality is easily sacrificed in the process. There seems to be little pride in achieving quality results, however this is changing. The fact that we can hold our LDA in Shanghai is driven by this wind of change. Were manufacturers in China were initially copying the looks of lighting products, they are now managing to produce similar performance quality of lighting products. This is a big step forward. It won’t be long before (if not already) China will be leading innovations in lighting technology with the rest of the world copying the “copiers”

The lighting design practice in China is moving along the same lines. From my position in the IAC I have close contacts with the Chinese lighting design fraternity and I can say in acknowledgement that there are some very talented and experienced lighting designers in China. Some run big practices with very successful projects. It is not surprising that these lighting designers are spreading their wings and are starting to work overseas. At the same time, we see overseas consultants entering the Chinese market, a big market with many projects, some very big. It is inevitable that there are potential culture clashes in both directions that will need to be overcome. This is where the IAC sees an important task of being the bridge and mentor to those seeking to work in China or abroad. The LDA was brought to life as one of the tools to help bridge these differences and create better awareness and understanding.

Event Organisers: Guangya-Messes Frankfurt (HK) – Scarlet Mak
Event Program and Content Design: CLDA (Lear Hsieh)/ IAC (Martin Klaasen/ James Wallace)
Main Event Sponsors: IGuzzini – Luci – Endo – Asensetek
Coffee Bar: Lutron
Gala Dinner: Osram
Photo’s: Martin Klaasen/ Scarlet Mak (MKHK)

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