“We only know the world as it is evoked by light” – Louis Kahn, a master of light in architecture

I’ve had the privilege of traveling to five continents and 47 countries – so far.  Light, whether in nature or the built environment, has always been an experiential learning opportunity, allowing travelers to revel in its magic. Whether experiencing the beauty the aurora borealis in the night skies of Alaska, or the ephemeral light of the underground cave of the Grotto Azura in Italy – I am always awed and inspired by light.

As lighting designers, we are trained in the science and art of light in the built environment. We apply our expertise to uniquely influence and experience our visual settings. We strive to create a better world by leading with lighting design excellence to cultivate the appreciation of the power of light. And oddly enough, we also deeply value darkness. I am reminded of the first time I visited Maasai villages in Tanzania and Kenya. This ancient culture lives only by nature’s light. The traditional hut is designed with a single skylight at the center of the conical shaped space with a glowing fire below. The design of the structure features a long narrow entry that allows for your eyes to adjust to the dark windowless interiors as you pass through its length.

In contrast, my travels have also brought me to the exhilarating lights of Ginza and Times Square. These places are so well framed by light that we do not even have to say where they are. Heading to Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Sydney, and Paris, we see the exuberance of light splashed on the facades of buildings, reflected in water, outlining an entire skyline, or telling a story through light – bold, colorful, dynamic, energizing, and transformative. Light has the incredible power to bring people together, even for a single moment.

On a more recent trip to Dubai in 2018, I experienced light in a completely different way. The heat of the day keeps people in conditioned spaces and the pale beige desert, insipid sea, and neutral blue sky create a monotone landscape. By dusk the promise of a cooler night transforms life on the streets with people walking, shopping, dining, and gathering for entertainment and sports. Light beckons you to the great mosques bathed in electric blue light or captivates us with the dynamic, colorful light shows on the façade of the Burj Khalifa. This nightly shift in lighting and activity was a spectacular transformation to watch in undeniable contrast from the monochromatic landscape experienced just beyond the city.

Lighting in major urban environments is how most of our world’s population lives today and our reliance on light to perform ordinary tasks has impacted how we live, travel, work or play. As lighting designers, we bear the burden of responsibility to apply our artistry of light in meaningful ways, respect the cultures and environments we have the privilege to work in, and to create balance for healthier living.

We believe in the three rights: the right light, in the right place, at the right time – that is the power of light.