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Victor Palacio


Lighting designer  

Ideas en luz 

Mexico City, Mexico


Interview by Nick Bleeker and Chere Griffin

Liverpool Department Store – Mexico City, Mexico. © Josefina Barroso
Architect Ben van Berkel
Victor Palacio, Founder of “ideas en luz” in Mexico City, has a passion for both engineering and architecture. Starting as an electronics engineer, he then joined his father in the commercial lighting industry and developed a keen interest in museum lighting. After further developing this expertise through a post-graduate degree in architectural preservation and co-developing a museum-specific lighting course, he founded ideas en luz in 2005. His passion further extends into shaping the lighting design industry through his involvement with the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), where he was recently elected President.

As president of IALD, what do you hope to accomplish?

IALD has a clear mission; to promote the visible success of our lighting design members. That gives us focus and aligns us. By doing so, we ultimately create a better world through leadership and excellence in lighting design. Towards that, personally I have three major goals in mind. The first is community development. As part of IALD’s globalization, we are building a strong presence around the world as well as collaborations with relevant organizations. We developed conferences including Enlighten Americas, Enlighten Asia and Enlighten Europe, and we also support workshops and activities at other shows, like LIGHTFAIR and Light + Building. 

Second, we are raising the profile of the profession. We have committees on energy and regulatory affairs that are devoted to public policy. We recognize practitioner’s excellence through a well-reputed awards program. And we also have two important sister entities, the IALD Educational Trust to focus on supporting academic activities, and the Lighting Industry Resource Council (LIRC) to enhance communication between our members, partners and manufacturers. 

Third, we champion efforts for the recognition of practitioners, leading to the development of the Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) certification. Right now, it is an independent program, but we provide funding for it, along with a task force and certification specialists to develop it. IALD also supports its members in adjacent fields and conferences. 

There are two ways in which I am interested in providing support for these three goals. First is through strategic thinking. Part of my responsibility as President of the association is to tune into what’s happening globally, and use this information to guide the Board towards strategies that are aligned with our mission. 

Next is to create bridges between different regions of the world, particularly between lighting designer communities. For the first time, we have a non-native English speaking IALD president; this is a good sign that IALD is an international association. I look forward to building connections globally. I’m passionate about this, and I think this is one of the reasons that they elected me for this position.

You bring up a good point about lighting from a global standpoint. It sounds like you reach across the globe to get people on the same page. Why is that important to you?

Let’s use the analogy of cuisine, because we have a lot in common with that. Cuisine is a passionate profession. You must have a deep passion for cuisine to be a good chef. You need to know local ingredients; you need to plan and design. You expect to create a great impact with your work. We have all that in common. For lighting designers, it’s interesting that although there is not yet a specific academic career path for lighting design, aside from special courses and some post-graduate programs, we all found the same process to develop our work. 

We have the same standards in terms of quality, and we share the same passion. And like chefs, we have local flavor, and that is very important. This means that we can do the same work, but the outcomes are different. For example, before LEDs appeared on the market, I could say that Mexican and Latin American lighting design was a bit more colorful than designs in other regions of the world. 

Some cultures add more or less dramatic elements than others, or maybe prefer a certain color temperature or position. Local flavor exists, and it’s important because it brings a unique outcome for lighting design. But behind that, we follow the same standards.
Centro Universidad de Diseño, Mexico City, Mexico - Lighting design Ideas en luz © Victor Pallacio

Do you have certain tools or styles or patterns that you use over and over again; or is each project so different that there is nothing standard?

The best tools I use are the questions that I ask, because there is no lighting design recipe that can be applied everywhere. Templates kill creativity and are a disservice to clients. Each design is different, and each client has their own needs and circumstances. With that being said, I start each project by asking the same questions. What are the owner’s project expectations? What are the activities that a user will perform in the space, what will maintenance expect from a system? And of course, concept is critical, so how can we add value to the project through light? 

My questions are my toolbox; they help to capture the essence of the project. When I was doing lighting engineering years ago, the questions were very technical, like desired light levels and color temperatures, but then I learned that the designer makes decisions on the technical issues. We need to listen to our clients and use questions to understand their needs.

How has LED influenced your lighting designs compared to other lighting technologies?

Light sources are moving from electrical to electronic, and that makes for a different world, and it’s still evolving. I compare that to what happened with phones. Not so long ago, we had phones with a wire connected to a wall outlet, and its sole purpose was to facilitate a conversation with someone in another place. Nowadays, there’s so much technology integrated into a phone that conversing is only one small part of its multi-functionality. LEDs are following that path, where lighting systems will provide much more than visual light, they will provide communications. 

Lighting systems can provide wayfinding information, or tell people to keep alert. We can now harvest daylight and balance it with artificial light. The possibilities that LEDs provide are amazing, and that influences our work in many ways. We need to learn new ways to use technology and this is a breath of fresh air, because we don’t need to keep the same design paradigms. It used to be that lighting designs were planned according to ceiling modules, 1x1 or 1x2 or 2x2. You don’t have to do that anymore, the field is open with possibilities.
Interview published in Luminous Spec Newsletter Fall 2016

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