In our role as architectural lighting manufacturers, we bridge the gap between design thinking and the end technology. Part of this is translating the expertise and creativity of lighting designers into physical entities. And it’s a job we take very seriously.
When a lighting designer approaches us with a brief, they entrust us with their ideas. Helping them turn an outstanding concept into a reality is what success looks like for us.
To explore this working relationship further, we picked the brains of a lighting specialist. We sat down with Chris Sutherland, a Design Director at independent lighting design studio, StudioFRACTAL. He talked to us about his experiences as a designer and of the industry as a whole.
Q: Hi Chris. Can you tell us a little about your background?
A: I’ve worked in architectural lighting design for almost 13 years, both in the UK and Australia. I’ve been a Design Director at StudioFRACTAL for the past 8 years.
Prior to entering the world of architectural lighting design, I worked as a Stage Lighting Designer and Theatre Electrician, having undertaken a degree in Theatre Design and Technology.
Q: So, you’ve been in the world of lighting design for 19 years, do you still enjoy it as much as you did when you first started out?
A: I love it.
Q: How has the industry changed in the time you’ve been a designer?
A: During my time in the industry, there appears to have been a big increase in the type of projects that use Lighting Designers. People are really beginning to understand the benefits of having good lighting in their working, leisure and living environments. This includes visual appreciation, but also an acknowledgement of the health and social impacts lighting has on all of us.
With this wider appreciation comes more projects, but also increased competition. And the last few years have seen an increase in the quantity of lighting design practices out there…. although not all are independent design companies like ours!
There’s been a notable increase in the number of overseas projects involving UK-based lighting designers, which is also a positive thing for the industry.
Q: In what ways do you see the landscape developing in the next few years?
A: It’s a tricky one to predict. It would appear there’s been some slowdown in the UK due to the political situation with the Brexit influence, but also with a reduction in publicly-funded projects.
I think it’s important for the industry to continue educating people on the benefits that good lighting design and product selection can bring to environments. In general, though, I believe the industry will continue to grow with lighting design practices being used on a wider range of projects.
Q: StudioFRACTAL and Kemps have worked together on dozens of projects over the years. For what reasons might you choose Kemps for a particular project?
A: Quality, service and honesty.
Of course, it’s important the products are built to last and be as energy efficient as possible, but it’s also the extra service and consideration we receive in terms of design development, samples and testing.
Kemps’ understanding and ability to entertain our ideas, including bespoke products, is what enables us to continually select them for our lighting projects. Their aftersales service and contractor ‘hand holding’ are also important to us.
Q: When you have a bespoke fixture in mind, what boxes are you looking to be ticked with the finished product?
A: I’d have to say…
- The final look and finish, both in terms of the quality of light and material finishes.
- The flexibility of the manufacturer. If they engage with us to develop the product during the design process, rather than just wanting a final solution straight away.
- Longevity of the product and the manufacturers or fabricators that can provide this.
- Trust in our working relationship with the selected manufacturer – and trust that they can deliver. It’s as important to us that we have a clear and open understanding of what’s required and what can or can’t be achieved. Saying ‘no’ can be just as important as saying ‘yes’ to a request.
- A handle on costs, meaning the product can be produced in-line with the client’s budget.
- Pride in what we’ve created.
Q: Can you tell us about a recent project you’ve been really pleased with, and why?
A: It’d have to be the Royal Opera House which was completed back in September 2018.
The Royal Opera House’s ‘Open Up’ project has granted public access to one of the world’s pre-eminent cultural institutions for the first time.
StudioFRACTAL provided a comprehensive lighting design to the Open Up areas. From the outset, the lighting strategy was to reinforce the client’s aspirations to be more welcoming and visible – and to complement and enhance the architectural vision of creating lightness within the expanded foyer and front-of-house areas.
Bespoke lighting designed for the project includes glass risers illuminating the sweeping staircase; contemporary theatre projectors in the main foyer; pendants in the Linbury Foyer bar and period themed restaurant terrace lanterns.
Q: What does 2019 have in store for StudioFRACTAL?
A: Hopefully more of the same. Good projects that are both enjoyable to work on and continue to challenge us. A busy year is already shaping up.
StudioFRACTAL is one of the UK’s leading independent lighting design studios. They have an extensive portfolio of work, including high-profile commercial and public realm developments, such as Salford’s Media City and the Royal Opera House, London. Kemps has worked with StudioFRACTAL for 8 years.
You can read more about the products we supplied for the Royal Opera House in our blog, ‘Lighting a Masterpiece: The Royal Opera House.’ Or take a look at some of the other standout projects we’ve completed with StudioFRACTAL, including Heathrow’s T5 First Class Wing and the Kings Cross Square redevelopment.