City Lights

The sheer scale of Dubai’s ambitious retail and hospitality projects demands an intense level of design expertise and nowhere is this more true than Dubailand’s US$2 billion City of Arabia project due for completion in 2008. The developer, Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group, has chosen visual planners and lighting designer, LDP to design the lighting concepts. CID talks to director, Dhruvajyoti Ghose.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  October 2, 2006

|~|Q&A-body6.gif|~||~|The sheer scale of Dubai’s ambitious retail and hospitality projects demands an intense level of design expertise and nowhere is this more true than Dubailand’s US$2 billion City of Arabia project due for completion in 2008. The developer, Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group, has chosen P&T (Palmer & Turner) Architects and Engineers as the lead consultancy with retail design specialist, Portland Design creating an accessible design concept for the consumers. Integral to the end product are the innovative lighting solutions that the visual planners and lighting designer, LDP, is implementing. CID talks to director, Dhruvajyoti Ghose.

CID: How did you get interested in lighting design?

During my architectural education I was deeply interested in the modulation of daylight within building interiors. This coupled with a keen appreciation of architectural photography formed the basis of my initiation to lighting design. I always somehow assumed that artificial lighting within buildings just ‘happened’ – it was a necessity and there was little possibility of any control over it. Like many architects the only aspect that I considered was the visual aesthetics of the lighting fixtures. It was an eureka moment when I realised that lighting within a space could be designed and was a powerful transformer of perception. From this point onwards it became an obsession and gradually superceded my architectural career.

||**|||~|Q&A-body2.gif|~||~|CID: Can you give us a brief rundown of your career so far?

After practicing as an architect for over ten years, the last five of which were in tandem with my growing interest in lighting, I decided to focus on becoming a full time practitioner of lighting design. I joined LDP in London and simultaneously completed my Masters in Light and Lighting from the Bartlett Institute at the University College of London. In 2000 I moved to Sydney to work on the Federation Square project and have been based there ever since.

CID: What are the highlights of your career so far?

Working on the lighting of Somerset House and the Aurora cruise liner for P&O were memorable events for me while in London. After moving to Sydney the opportunity to work on the Federation Square in Melbourne and the Sydney Opera House has been an extraordinary experience. These coupled with some landmark projects in India, China and Asia have formed some of the major highlights so far. However, the most enriching experience has been the chance to collaborate with some brilliant architects and designers from all over the world.

CID: For a large commercial project can you explain the various design stages you go through?

Due to an increasingly competitive commercial market, differences in brand positioning are brought about by better design rather than increased budgets. This imposes a greater need for true creativity in the creation of distinctive ambiences and lighting is right there in the thick of it.
Our initial step is to set out a detailed reverse-brief, which allows the design team to understand the directions that we would be looking to develop the scheme towards. This is followed by a presentation of the concepts that have emerged through brainstorming and design workshops. Once the client has accepted the concepts, we prepare technical documentation that allows the design to be realised. Finally, we produce a set of tender documents that allows the execution team to price the work and carry out the installation.

||**|||~|Q&Abody3.gif|~||~|CID:The City of Arabia is a massive project, both in size and in reputation.Why do you think you won the contract for the lighting?

LDP has a proven track record of handling large-scale projects with innovative ideas and solutions. For example, the relighting programme of the Sydney Opera House; the total lighting refurbishment programme throughout all public circulation areas of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre; all airside areas of Singapore’s Changi Airport; we did the lighting masterplan for the central city and approaches of Auckland City and the lighting of all internal public areas and exterior of Kuala Lumpur’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Our experience in retail environments surely played a part along with the depth of resource available to service an extremely demanding project.

CID: How closely did you work with the architects and interior designers?

Very closely indeed! Our work is not a sequential task – we position ourselves firmly as part of the design process and always get involved in design discussions and development. The role of the lighting consultant is to provide the final realisation of the efforts of the entire team as poor or inappropriate lighting can easily ruin all the trouble that has been taken by the interior designers and architects.

||**|||~|Q&A-body4.gif|~||~|CID: Can you explain the lighting decisions and type of lighting you have gone for both on the external facades and inside the actual mall?

Lighting at City of Arabia is used to accentuate the architecture and create a distinctive night-time image. The lighting we chose for the exterior façades emphasises the articulated fenestration of the buildings. The vertical planes are accentuated with soft washes and the pilasters boast offset accents, which balance the traditional architectural rhythm. It is lit using flat washes with slight relief at the entrances. To retain the traditional architectural forms, coloured lighting is limited to a few key understated accents.
The mall’s lighting has a dual role of creating retail ambience and way finding. It is also essential to have variety of lighting options to sustain visitor interest. The North Portal entrance for example has an “Alice in Wonderland” quality of scale-change where the visitor becomes dwarfed by the immense glowing green leaves overhead.

Theatrical lighting is the keyword for this particular zone, with animated water pools creating additional drama. Custom filtering, diffusion and redirection solutions are being implemented within skylights to retain the focus on the retail merchandise without harsh glare. Traditional mushrabiyah screens will be used as a form of daylight control.

CID: How is designing in Dubai different from designing in other parts of the world?

Dubai offers an extraordinary prospect for creative design. The density of high-end projects evolving in close competition with each other gives rise to an increased dependence on the power of good design to create points of difference. Clients are no longer hesitant to pursue innovative designs. It has become the design benchmark for many of the countries in this part of the world.
One of the factors that working in Dubai imposes on us is the compressed time frame for delivering projects. We are already facing situations where we have to advise some prospective clients of our inability to undertake the work unless reasonable time is made available for us to deliver them at the high expectation levels. We are fully committed to increasing our presence in Dubai and the Middle East and will be exhibiting at the Cityscape exhibition later this year.

||**|||~|Q&A-body-5.gif|~||~|CID: What advances are there in the commercial lighting industry and what other trends are you seeing?

We will see increased options using LED based technologies for direct lighting and the arrival of the micro-fluorescent lamp. These technologies will improve the energy efficiency of installations. Greater investment in lighting control technology will minimise the wastage of light in spaces where people are not continuously present. Lighting will gradually begin to move away from using point sources directed at surfaces to luminous materials that form the surfaces.

CID: What advice can you give to commercial interior designers on making the most of their designs with the correct lighting?

Lighting is not rocket science — it requires an intuitive understanding of the visual environment and a clear logical approach to achieve it. Most designers are trained to be able to do this, it is just a matter of not getting deflected by other considerations. One of the common pitfalls is to delegate this to an equipment supplier who, with due respect to their abilities, are not usually trained in design. I have found that most interior designers and architects produce designs that are superior to the manufacturer / supplier generated schemes. The next piece of advice is intended for designers and clients – do not blindly trust a pretty picture – using photo editing software and commercial rendering packages it is possible to create effects that are impossible to achieve. It takes a vast amount of design experience to produce images that truly represent the final results that may be achieved in a project. ||**||

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