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Paul Gunawan

Lighting significantly influences our well-being 

paul gunawan, lighting designer, litac consultant, indonesia, jakarta

Paul Gunawan
Lighting designer

Litac Consultant

Indonesia, Jakarta
 

Interview by Jean-Luc Wittersheim

Indonesian lighting designer Paul Gunawan believes that lighting significantly influences our well-being and a building’s values. He foresees a future where lighting design’s development will help professionalize buildings’ illumination, making them more comfortable for their residents while also enhancing their architectural beauty.
Paul Gunawan © Cédric Helsly 
PIK Avenue, Jakarta, Indonesia - PTI Architects -
Litac Consultant © Cédric Helsly

Lighting is a passion for you. Where does this passion come from?

Paul Gunawan: I started professionally around 1995 but I first got into lighting design, thanks to my background, when I was still little. My parents worked in design and art, which trained me to see objects with different light compositions. Then I became interested in photography, which taught me how lighting affects objects in terms of color and intensity. Next I studied building physics, where I learned about lighting design and acoustics in addition to other architectural matters. I also love drawing, and started painting when I was still very little, which interested me in light and what it affects.

What are the key goals of your lighting and acoustic design agency?

One of my key goals is to make people realize the importance of good lighting and its impact on their daily lives – something that is generally underestimated. The lighting conditions in which you live can have beneficial or negative effects on your health, your comfort, your morale, etc. Another mission is to showcase the professional skills and qualities of Indonesian lighting designers– their taste and know-how. There is an emerging generation of extremely creative lighting designers in Indonesia. The need is there - and growing. People are becoming more educated, more aware, of the issues related to quality lighting.
The lighting conditions in which you live can have beneficial or negative effects on your health”

What achievements are you most proud of?

The next ones! I think of all my projects as achievements; the next one will always be better than the previous one! 
 

My office is an achievement; I work with very good people whom I appreciate very much. Not all of them come from a lighting or architectural background, but it's satisfying to watch them become involved with lighting and experimenting to get the best possible lighting result.

I also take great satisfaction in positive comments from building owners - and from residents who appreciate living in a properly lit place. Of course, the lighting has to function as it's supposed to and fulfill its primary function of effective illumination. But you also have to touch people emotionally, excite their sensibility. Lighting choices and techniques must contribute to the quality of living and well-being.

 

Finally, it's important to do lighting which has an effect on the immediate environment, which escalates the whole area and makes it vibrant, lively, exciting - when before it was troubled and neglected – and to contribute to the economic development of a once unpopular neighborhood thanks to appropriate lighting.

PIK Avenue, Jakarta, Indonesia - PTI Architects - Litac Consultant © Cédric Helsly

What are the challenges for the future of your profession?

I would like to see more standardized terms or standardized quality in lighting. Now it's like a jungle where there are no real common values. Another emerging challenge is how lighting can be tailored to each person's preferences.  We should customize ambient lighting, as we do with smartphones, so that you select what you need, and what you don't. I would love to see lighting become more integrated into materials, so that it becomes an integral part of the building's architecture and space rather than an additional element. 
 

At some point it will become necessary to have somebody who cares about your lighting; because you spend half your life in an artificially lit environment; so it’s of crucial importance and that's one of our missions.

What’s most important is how lighting can excite people and get them emotionally affected by the space”.

To what extent does lighting influence the perception of a building?

Light must create emotions and excitement. It's about giving value to the building, communicating a positive message, so that people passing by say: "Wow, there's something going on here". The light "sells" the building and its purpose even before you enter it. For this reason, there are many studies to be carried out in advance: what techniques and materials will you use? What brightness and what power to install? How far should the light extend and at what pitch? What should the data transfer speed be? You need to deal with all this while also taking into account the building's functions, its architectural design, and the environment. It's a global approach that requires controlling many parameters while respecting the client's specifications. Light is an essential part of the perception of a building and of its representation. It's essential not to underestimate it.

What's most important is the way that lighting can excite people and get them emotionally affected by the space. You need to be vibrant, you need to be exciting; you need to proclaim that this is a commercial building, and it is exciting.

Is a new profession of lighting designer emerging?

When I started in 1995, people were not aware of lighting design as a profession. Most thinking was about the technical side rather than the design; lighting designers worked under the architects. It was a struggle to convince clients and architects that, in addition to electrical techniques and efficiency, there's also beauty. Achievements come through collaborative work, through culture inspiring architecture and from all fields influencing each other. At the time the options for lighting fixtures and sources were very limited so we kept using the same techniques. Now we have many more technical possibilities, which we can use in service of an artistic vision, integrated in a global project.

How do architects react to this evolution?

Architects are always worried that the lighting will kill their building. 
 

So there's a lot of convincing to do, by showing what can be done, what can be controlled. Lighting is dangerous if it isn't controlled – or a real asset if it enhances the shape of the night-time building. Architecture has benefitted from its exposure to new ways of thinking by artists, painters, sculptors, fashion designers... and now lighting designers!

Interview published in Luminous issue 21

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