JANUARY 2016 HIGHLIGHT
Name: Abhay Wadhwa
Firm: AWA Lighting Designers
Practicing City: Brooklyn, NY
Type of Work: Lighting Design
Featured Project: Singapore Chancery
Location: New York City US
Completion Date: 2014
Your Role: Lighting Design Principal
Project Description: For the exterior lighting of the Singapore Chancery in New York City, we wanted to create a design that provided a layered lighting response to create a versatile façade so the client can adjust the visual appearance of the building at night. We designed the lighting of the façade to create a visual identification from in front of building, across the street and blocks away. The facade lighting was integrated into the interior facade panels along with the MEP to create one system along the facade.
For the building’s interior spaces, we used lighting to accentuate each type of space to create distinguishable spaces. We created a versatile lighting system for the multipurpose room that both highlights the architecture of the space and allows the owner to respond to the different uses of the space. We created a uniform lighting approach for the “atrium” that made it visually identifiable from the exterior of the building.
Q & A
How did you first learn about architecture and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
As a young boy, I liked to create things and had a knack for making things. As a 17-year-old, I was told I should study architecture, and that was the prime reason why I enrolled for architecture at the JJ School of Architecture in 1987.
There was this one particular students conference of architecture that I was organizing. Just before we were about to begin the man who was in-charge of the light and music needed some help and I volunteered to help him out with focusing the lights for the stage. So I climbed up on the catwalk and was setting up the lights, and at that moment in Dec 1988 in Mumbai, I knew I wanted to venture into lighting design. In those few seconds I knew this is what I wanted to do. It was almost like an instant realization. Now when I look back, I still get goose bumps because I did not realize I was going to stick with it for this long but even back then I knew that I loved it.
What do you do?
I am the Founder and Design Principal of AWA Lighting Designers. I try to see lighting beyond just its intended purpose of providing light levels. Here at AWA, I craft a story using lighting design and technology to create moments of experience, that factor into the psyche and emotions of those who work, live or visit the spaces designed by AWA.
I am committed to taking a “poetic” approach to lighting, even on large-scale projects, one that enhances significant points of focus and reveals subtle architectural details and rhythms. We do this with the intention to achieve our goal: to operate the most sought-after lighting design firm in the world- not for our size or delivery alone, but for the thought partnership and value addition that we bring to our projects.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Developing relationships with diverse and engaging clients. We have found that the best relationships are fostered with clients who want their designs to evoke a specific sense of place, brand, or community. We believe that client-oriented, site-specific, customized light solutions enhance the users’ experience of a building or structure. Maintaining an open line of communication, a commitment to stellar results, and an interest in best practices helps us to strengthen these relationships and to keep our clients coming back.
Being a good neighbor. We’re committed to being engaged participants in our communities. We contribute pro bono design service, volunteer work, and donation to community projects such as housing for the homeless, awareness events and installations, and fixture design for impoverished regions. Moreover, we’re committed to identifying solutions that will contribute to the greater good. For more on this, please look at our ‘In the Community’ section of the website.
Navigating the delicate balance between science and art. Technically informed, we are free to explore creative expression with confidence in execution. As individuals, we strive to maintain our creative passions beyond the office, and watch our designs strengthen upon team collaboration.
What excites you in the work you do?
Working with light is what excites me. I perceive light as a plastic medium, a medium with a certain volume, a medium with a certain porosity which fills the space- some of it you can walk through and I call that ambient light, while the other type creates boundaries and edges and defines space. It is like luminous clay, to be sculpted and colored for art, and then diagnosed and modulated for functional requirements. Since we are an international lighting studio, we also like to “think global, act local and stay positive!”
Light is the medium, while lighting is a concept and a point of view. Light is the means to an end; lighting is the vehicle for these means and the truthfulness of creation and sincerity to the space lit is the final goal.
The art of lighting is the art of emphasis, of deft shadow manipulation, of contrast engineering, of establishing visual hierarchies, of balancing focal points, color and intensity, and of crafting darkness.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
What I am inspired by is the cultural and emotional effect of lighting. My passion for light design is evident – whether it is the Sixth Crossing Bridge in Dubai, the tallest and single arch span bridge in the world or the Monsoon Bar with its breathtaking “light carpet” effect, every AWA project adds ambience to the conversation of light and design. Even the LED retrofitting of NYC’s Holland Tunnel creates a journey of scientific advances combined with beauty, touching the lives of daily commuters.
As for people, James Turrell is a very inspiring light artist. And then there are two of my professors- Mark Rea and Russ Leslie at the Lighting Research Center who have always inspired me to be better and do better. From being their student, I have now been their colleague and teaching with them for the past twelve years and every time I meet them, I come back an inspired human being.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to architecture)?
Being nominated for the “40 Under 40 Hall of Fame” by the Building, Design & Construction Industry in the United States.
How long have you been involved with nycoba NOMA?
For the past year, though the intent had been present for many more years. I have to give credit to Pascale who was relentless in making sure I became a member.
Why are you a nycoba NOMA member?
Because of Pascale. And to share my experience and guide younger members.
Visit awalightingdesigners.com for additional information.