As a bit of a Christmas treat I recently got asked to interview lighting designer Paula Rainha. Paula has just finished on a project I’m extremely envious of – the Philips Light World Tour.
The Light World Tour was a chance to follow the experience and travels of Paula as she discovered the world’s most inspirational lighting installations and designs in the world over a three month period at the tail end of 2011.
From the likes of Dubai (a place I’m slightly more familiar with) to Tokyo, Perth, Laukvik and more (places I’m certainly not!). You can check out the full route here and judging by the regularly updated blog the whole experience looked rather spectacular.
And so given the opportunity to ask a few questions I got in touch and it went something like this…
Inspirational Geek: So Paula, for my readers that may not be so familiar with you, I believe you trained as an architect, what made you make the move into lighting?
Paula Rainha: At some point in my life I had to choose between Dance and Architecture, and I eventually chose the latter. When I finished Architecture, part of me still wanted to connect the two subjects and I started looking for a course in light stage design. I ended up finding a lighting master at an Architectural School, which interested me. Since then it just made sense working in Architectural Lighting.
IG: What inspires your work?
PR: Creativity and people more than anything. I love the human side of design either by working with people or designing for people as the end users.
IG: It must have been such a fantastic opportunity for you to explore the world, myself amongst many others were quite jealous! What have you learnt whilst on the WT?
PR: Light is not something that you can actually see from pretty pictures but you actually need to experience it, if you think that perception is one of the key elements for lighting. So having had the chance of perceiving it myself was a great learning process for me as a professional and as an individual. I always tried to talk to as much people as I could, not only designers or architects but general people and this was really interesting also because all the cultural differences on how people perceive lighting. People are not really aware of the importance of lighting and neither how good lighting design can be beneficial for them.
IG: I’ve been following the WT blog and one of my favourite photos of yours has been the peony petals on the beautiful facade of the Liuli China Museum in Shanghai. What were the particular highlights and experiences for you?
PR: I loved that museum too. It was very special. The intensity and speed of the trip was actually determinant on how experienced it. Everything was really intense and is very fresh on my mind, meaning that I still find it very difficult to have enough distance to judge what were my highlights. I think the most interesting part of the trip was actually the human side of it: talking to people, meeting different designers, architects, friends and just learning from what I saw and heard.
IG: What was your favourite stop off on the tour?
PR: I love all the big metropolis such as London, NYC, Sydney, Hong-Kong, Tokyo, Berlin, Amsterdam but I also liked the natural landscapes such as Arizona and the Lofoten Islands in Norway.
IG: What was your favourite lighting installation / design that you encountered?
PR: Most of the light art installations I found were really interesting to experience, from Janet Echelman´s sculptures in Sydney, Phoenix & Porto to Victoria Coeln´s light-colour paints in Vienna or Olafur´s installations in Oslo & Copenhagen amongst others.
Janet Echelman light sculptures in Sydney and Phoenix.
Victoria Coeln’s Chromotop in the Stephansdom, Vienna
IG: What are the biggest differences in lighting design you encountered between different countries and cultures on the tour? How does LD in the far east for example, compare to Europe?
PR: I was actually quite surprised to realise that Lighting Design is not that well known or developed as I had imagined, even in bigger cities or more developed countries. Obviously with the actual economic situation across Europe the development of light design might become slower than actually some places in the Far East. In China for example I heard that clients and investors are becoming more aware of the potential of light and asking for lighting consultants to be part of the design teams.
IG: Has your perception of lighting industry changed since you’ve been on this tour?
PR: Yes, it has changed in the sense that the lighting industry actually should be raising the importance of good lighting around the world. The more I learn about light, the more I think this would be crucial and beneficial for all of us.
Olafur in Oslo
IG: The tour has been quite full on for you, what do you plan to do now you’re back?
PR: I would like to be more involved in raising awareness of the importance of light in our own environments. Nevertheless I´m still thinking of what to do with all the information I gathered throughout these three months, it would be interesting to turn this into something more physical either a publication or an exhibition. These are just some thoughts for now…
IG: Does anything frustrate you about the industry?
PR: There is nothing major that frustrates me about the industry but I´d like to see manufacturers and designers pushing towards the same goal and that would be good lighting.
IG: Which project or piece of work of yours are you most proud of?
PR: I would like to see the Mayfair & Belgravia lighting masterplan in London being implemented from when I worked at BDP Lighting. Every time I pass a COS (Collection of Style) store around the world I know that I was part of this when I developed all the roll out manual with Campbell Design. Or recently, a temporary exhibition for the Triennale of Architecture in Lisbon, where overcoming the challenge of time, budget and design and the site constraints was very self rewarding.
IG: Who, if any, are your design heroes?
PR: I´m not sure if I have design heroes but I find that many light artists are a real source of inspiration. Secretly I feel that one day I´d like to do amazing things such as the ones of James Turrel and Olafur Eliasson´s for example.
Your Blind Passenger in Copenhagen
A big thanks to Paula for taking the time out to answer my questions, and to Philips in their support of the World Tour itself. You can check out loads more great photos over on the Light WT Flickr stream, and there are some lovely videos on the Philips You Tube channel too.
All photos and images used here with permission. Copyright © Paula Rainha.
Have you just finished an exciting trip or project you’d like to get featured on Inspirational Geek? Or is there somebody you would like to see interviewed? Then please get in touch or leave a comment below.