For the inaugural edition of our new blog series, Lunching with Luminaries, we’re diverting from our typical lighting design-related discussion and taking a lunch break with Simi Burg from our Miami studio and Guy Smith from our Los Angeles studio. We covered a wide range of topics and got some insight into their day-to-day lives, so read on for a fun East vs. West Coast dynamic and plenty of inspiration!
Let’s set the stage: What are you eating for lunch?
Simi: Leftovers! My husband and I love cooking – often we get inspiration from Half Baked Harvest – and we always make sure we have enough for the next day.
Guy: I typically keep a couple of Trader Joe’s staples on hand for a quick lunch. Today, I’m having their curry chicken salad with sesame crackers and Havarti slices.
What sparks creativity for you?
Simi: I love to design with a team. I like to bounce ideas around and see what sticks and often find that one idea will spur another. Interesting precedents are always a good place to start! I am also inspired by traveling and movies, and seeing how light is used in really unique ways.
Guy: Sometimes, when I’m with friends, I will outwardly speak about ideas and then one idea will trip over the next one – everything is sort of a free-for-all until you arrive at something that truly makes sense. Sometimes, my friends look at me funny and I say, “You guys, I’m an architect.” I’m a designer. I like to talk about the possibilities. Even if it sounds a little scary, let’s throw it out and get the reaction.
Describe your average day.
Simi: Well, coffee first! I just had a newborn, so I get to have baby snuggles in the morning. Then, I get myself ready and walk my golden retriever to the office. Once I’m at the office, every day is different, which I love. Sometimes I feel like I’m a race car driver constantly changing gears – it’s all about being transformative. Throughout the day, I’m coordinating with HLBers in the Miami office and across the world – it could be about design, corporate strategy, mentoring, finance, marketing, or chasing down project opportunities. Sometimes I go out for networking events or site visits and other days I’m head down writing proposals or designing.
Guy: When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is positive reinforcement. When you have a challenging day, there’s no time for worrying or dwelling on things that could go wrong. Next, I’ll have my morning coffee. Once I get in the car, I listen to great music and enjoy my drive through a beautiful part of town – I’ve got a really pleasant commute. I try to get in the office early to beat the crowd, so to speak. The day’s work is an ever-changing mix of meetings, calls, and preparations for everything from business development, team reviews, and project proposals to design studies, presentation sketches, site visits, and day-to-day operations decision–making.
Describe lighting design in 3 words.
Simi: Specialized, luminous, storytelling.
Guy: Essential, powerful, magical.
What’s your favorite way to stay plugged in to the design community outside of the office?
Simi: I try and attend a lot of industry networking events – my goal is to do something at least twice a month. Usually, you can find me at IIDA South Florida or AIA Miami. Lately, I’ve been going to a lot of AIA Miami emerging professional events, which has been a fun place to see the next generation, and CREW Miami, which has a lot of great mentoring opportunities.
Guy: I attend AIA events and try to stay connected to LA’s vibrant contemporary arts community. Getting to local/regional civic and business gatherings like Los Angeles Headquarters (LAHQ) or Westside Urban Forum is always a great way to meet new people and talk to old friends while keeping abreast of current issues that affect our profession.
What is a place that inspires you?
Simi: I love the Miami Design District – specifically at night, because every high-end retail store has a different façade and they’re all lit differently. It’s a place where architects and designers can push the limits of façade work and how light can be integrated into it. I get a lot of ideas there.
I’m also inspired by my happy place, which is out on the water. I love to go fishing. Seeing the way the morning light hits the water is so exciting. You have these beautiful sunrises – the colors of the sky plus the sparkle of the light reflecting off the water. I’m always trying to recreate that magic in the built environment.
Guy: I’m lucky to have a view from my home that I don’t think people realize exists in Los Angeles. I can see through the valley and Silver Lake in Hollywood all at the same time and it gives me a sense of awe, which helps me grasp how the world presents itself to us and how we react to it. Every day is a different canopy of light – it has different sunsets, different moods. It really inspires me and gets me out of the day-to-day minutia. It feels so optimistic because you see countless homes and lots of green, even though it’s a city of 4 million people.
What’s the best kept secret in your city?
Simi: You can basically take your dog anywhere in Miami! Most restaurants will give you at least a bowl of water and then a handful will give you a dog bed for your dog to lay in, so that’s pretty awesome. My 55-pound golden retriever goes everywhere with me.
Guy: It’s kind of surprising to people that Los Angeles is so walkable and human-scaled if you find the right place. My comfort zone is the older parts of the city like Windsor Square, Victoria Square, or Hancock Park, which is my favorite. I tell people that if you want to do a day of walking, just go into Hancock Park and look at the homes with their trees and gardens. There are fir trees that are at least 100 feet tall – one yard has three of them. It feels like it’s somewhere like Yosemite but it’s right in the middle of LA.