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Carmenza Henao Londoño is Colombia’s first independent lighting designer. We caught up with her to find out about her views on light.
Carmenza Henao Londono - Palos verdes © Exacta

What kind of career have you had?


I ended up in this profession when I was offered the opportunity of becoming a business consultant in a lighting firm. I fell in love with light, and within 18 months, I sold my timber company to my partner and threw myself entirely into lighting.

Urban Plaza, EK Hotel - Rodrigo Samper © Carmenza Henao agency

How did you become Colombia’s first independent lighting designer?


I worked for nine years at the first company, then I became independent, and in 1992 I took part in the design of the Centro Andino Mall in Bogotá. That was the first project in Colombia where someone was paid for lighting design. In 2000, I resigned and set up my own business which concentrated on advising. My first project was a small office, where I was able to keep the commercial side of the work separate. Without having a deliberate plan, I created lighting design in Colombia.

Castle of San Felipe de Barajas - Carmenza Henao Londono © Edgar Colla

What does light mean to you?


Everything. Light is a social topic that covers everything: man’s best friend, the sun, reflections, shadows. Light has been converted into a responsibility, light regains spaces, beautifies, shows defects. Without light, nothing functions. What is your best lighting design and why?The San Felipe de Barajas Castle in Cartagena, which I did with Philips. It was a huge responsibility, and you don’t often get the chance to illuminate such an iconic building.

Castle of San Felipe de Barajas - Carmenza Henao Londono © Edgar Colla

How do you see the future of professional lighting design?


I believe that there is a commitment to energy saving, but we must take care not to overlook brightness and color rendering, which are as important as comfort and aesthetics. LED technology has changed our way of thinking. It has increased people’s awareness of energy saving.

Paralelo 26 - Architect Contexto Urbano - Carmenza Henao Londono © Juan Fernando Castro

What do you need to take into account when working on a contemporary lighting project?


You don’t design for yourself, you design for the client. The hard part is to interpret the client’s wishes and at the same time be satisfied with the result as a professional.

You need to know who you’re designing for and also do a good job of managing all the aspects relating to technology, standards, budgets and energy awareness.

What did it mean to be a judge for the Iluminet awards?


It was a huge honor. When you see the stature of the judges with whom the projects are being discussed, you feel very proud. Many top-class projects were submitted and there was a great deal of professionalism, quality and creativity.We’re doing things well in Colombia. When we evaluated the projects we did so without knowing who was doing them, and the Colombian projects proved to be outstanding. One of them is worth mentioning in any part of the world: Un Litro de Luz (A Liter of Light).

La Porciuncula square and church © Carmenza Henao agency

Do you think there is a trend towards repetitiveness in lighting design?


It’s very difficult to repeat designs because every space is different. Even when you’re lighting spaces that are the same, you have to bear in mind that the client and the decoration are different, so even if you use the same products it will look different. You’d have to make an effort to be repetitive.It doesn’t bother me that they say “Carmenza Henao was here,” because there’s a balance in the design, not because it’s repetitive…