Have you ever wondered what is style? Well, I have. 

Everyone talks about style, in EVERYTHING, not just when they talk about Coco Chanel, or architecture (like Churrigueresco style), but EVERYTHING.

You can listen that something "is not my style", or that clients ask you to transform their 1960's apartment into an old summer house British style. (what do they want when they say this?). You can also hear about stylists who dress different actors at Oscars, and other Red carpets, and the word is bouncing everywhere all the time. But what is style?

According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, style is "a particular way in which something is done, created or performed, a particular form or design of something, or a way of behaving or of doing things" (you can read the full definition of style in this link). So it's basically a way of doing things, but how can a way of preparing breakfast can become a style? Can it?

I've been in several courses and workshops lately, I feel I had not a free week in November, if I think about it. Most of these workshops have been design oriented, though none if them had anything to do with the other, actually. I like to do this to have a different ways to see life. In some of these workshops, the word "style" actually comes out and is discussed, in other... not so much. There are some workshops in which I can feel it's being erased (or tried to be erased by imposing their own), and others in which the word is never mentioned, but somehow you feel encouraged to develop your own. 

From these workshops and what I've been feeling, as far as I understand, style is finding a voice and using it. If it's your voice, then it's amazing, if it's a copy, then... Not so much, but it can be the beginning of a journey. 

I understand now, why an old architect got angry when told his work was a copy of his youth's master's. He found his own voice through his master's teachings, but it was still his voice. 

Talking about masters and courses and workshops I would love to talk about the teaching-learning process. I find the way of teaching is really important. I've realized there are people who believe in teaching the technical part and guiding you in the search of your voice, and others who impose their voice while teaching, believing the student will learn to do things "the right way" to their eyes, but forgetting everyone has a voice and "the one and only right answer" is not a real thing. The results are, of course, really different. You can have self-thinkers (dangerous, but more challenging and able to be treated as equals), and clones who will adore you and follow you without second thoughts. I think that the saddest and most dangerous ones are the second ones, as students, when they become professionals, lack the enthusiasm of researching or proposing, because they already feel they have all the answers. And the saddest thing is that I believe the teachers of the second group don't really do this on purpose, and are not the evil super villain o the story. 

What if I want my own style?
Ok. Let's say I had the first kind of teachers, I am trying to discover my voice and I want to have a style of my own. How can I do it? 

So far, I've figured out a style, when being seen by others, it's more like a signature. When people see it, they can recognize what or who's style it is. I need to say what, because maybe it's not a person's style, but more like an era, or a location (pizza Chicago style?).

During the editorial design course I took several weeks ago, I asked the teacher how to create a style. She gave quite a long answer, but, from what I could extract and can remember, you basically needed time and work, and a bit (well, maybe a lot) of exposure, so people can recognize it's your work without having your name physically written on it. Think about Frank Gehry, you can easily recognise what he has done. His style is so recognisable that even the Simpson's made a parody of him in one of their episodes. Think about Jackie O, people go into stores looking for dresses Jackie O style. Or an era, like Adele's makeup which is so much 60's style. 


Image taken from exquisitehugs.com 

Image taken from http://fashionstylefan.com/

The three of them have something in common: they are easily recognisable. When you see Adele's cat eye, you think immediately in the 60's, It's become her signature look, but if any other girl used that same look, you would think 60's makeup. When yo see a dress that looks like the ones Jackie O used you'll think about her, regardless of the price or main function of the dress (you'll still think about Jackie whether it is a wedding dress or a coctail dress). 

I've worked with three lighting designers before, and I can recognize the work of one of them when walking around the city. I might not like it, but he has certainly developed a style. It is not widely recognisable, as the others I have mentioned, but the ones who know his work, will recognise it immediately. I guess the others have bigger exposure, and that's the reason expose plays an important part in creating a style.

In conclusion, you can develop a style, and even though it will be complicated, it will be worth it, as you'll become unique and irreplaceable.


TNT Lighting Detectives. Mexico 2015. Part II: Madero

A friend told me he would love to see the results, and I saw a publication on the results of the workshop where things we never said were published as "our results", so I decided it would be fantastic to publish my team's results.

To refresh your memory, I'll tell you we walked Madero street from Zocalo (the most important square in Mexico) to Eje Central (an important avenue in Mexico city). Madero street is a pedestrian street, downtown. It's an important street where you can find lots of people, either walking, watching, buying, selling, observing or being observed, you can also find stores, from jewelry to cloths, or even fruit stores, churches, restaurants, hotels... Oh, and let's remember
These are some of the buildings that can be seen in this street.

Among all the things we saw, we had to take pictures and find heroes and villains. We chose four different heroes and four different villains. Those decisions were tough.

Our heroes were:

Madero street.
Mainly because it was alive! How many streets you find that actually live like that, with some many people and movement, and actions, no matter what time of day, or what day it is? 

Madero Street. Different times o day.

The monkey!!!!
This monkey was amazing; great surprise. We found it as a hero not because of how it was lit, but the act that it was lit. It was street art, and something unexpected to see. It was not commerce or anything you would be expecting, it was street art and unexpected. The fact that you could see it at night, because it was lit up, that gesture, was the hero.
THE MONKEY. Look out for him when you visit this street, day or night.

Pull and Bear
This is an international style building. Someone may think it doesn't belong to this street, but it so belongs in here... It breaks the context, that's true, but Mexico city is not famous for its uniformity, and this street, full of so many styles, is a true representative of Mexico city. Anyways, what caught our eye in this building was how it was lit. We think it is a really well done lighting design that handles the color ombre of the glass box through light, giving the building its essence.
Surprisingly, the only moment you lost it was being right in front of it, but is was a landmark.

This building is the Museum of Mexican Design.It was one of the few buildings in which we could see an intention. You could feel it had personality, and that's important for a building, for anyone and anything actually.
Warm and cold light help give this building a personality.

And out villains were the next.

High contrast
An over lit street and the most important square in the country in darkness? And the small square next to it, where nothing happens at night, over lit as well? Are you serious?
This picture was taken from the middle of the square. Can you see he high contrast, darkness, and light pollution?

Unbalanced lighting
Are you joking? Some of the most important buildings in the city and nobody took the time to light it well?
What do you think about this? Informal or formal lighting, it's unbalanced.

In here, glare is the real villain, or the pole's villainistic superpower, because it's also arranged in a very strict grid that ruins the view of so many facades.
Our friend, the Light pole.

Light Pollution
And this is  THE VILLAIN, everywhere. Light pollution is a terrible problem found in so many cities... It affects our health, animals' health, insects health, plants health... We need dark skies!!! We need to see the stars again!!!
Luckily, there are people with fantastic projects, such as Noche Zero , and others who measure the darkness of skies. We were lucky enough to meet them (Manuel Ramírez- Geography-, Diana García -photographer-, Sofía Solis - philosopher and Héctor Solano- environmental researcher). Well, we just met Manuel and Héctor, and they gave us and explained us the information they could collect.

The first graphic shows us the light levels along the street and in the square. 
Can you see how deeply it falls in the square?

The second graphic tells us how much of green, red and blue light was found along the street, depending on the lamp lighting that area.

These are the 10 different pictures taken from the 10 different sites in which they took the measurements. It's done with a fish eye and a special camera. Check out the evolution, from the street to the square.

And then, came the proposals.

We thought about changing the poles, but give them a second chance as we believe in second chances. The grid should brake, and the poles should be relocated next to the facades, but without interrupting them, let's say, just in between the different facades, with warm, dim light towards the center of the street, letting the store windows light some of the path. We should lower the light levels in the whole street, and luckily, reduce the light pollution.

This wonderful drawing was done by Mari Kubota. She does know how to draw!

Some buildings, important buildings, should be lit, and their luminaries used again.
This is the entrance of Casa de los Azulejos, a building covered in tiles, which cannot be appreciated because of the bad lighting.

In the square, the facades should be redesigned and have one concept for the buildings surrounding the square, not making everything different and begging for attention.

These were also our proposals to these buildings found surrounding the square.

These were basically our results, what we got after discussing and thinking on what to do. I'm listing again, the team members.
Leaders: Jan Ejhed, Mari Kubota and Gustavo Aviles.
Team: Adrián Melendez (Philips), Rogelio González (Architect), Rodrigo Pérez (Architect), Israel García (Architect), Elisa A. Fernández (Landscape Architect), Karla Rodríguez (AccuityBrands), Alejandra Gómez (Architect), Daniela Pérez (Lamp), Nick Tokieda (Bussines Concertan) and me. 
All the images were taken from our final presentation, in which all the team worked, and the Light pollution graphics, were given by the group I talked about.


TNT Lighting Detectives 2015- Mexico city edition.

Exploring Madero St. Looking for heroes and villains.

What is a lighting detective? Who are the lighting detectives? Is this workshop worthy? Shall I go?
All this questions popped into my head when a girl I met in Queretaluz (a workshop I took some years ago) wrote about it in the Facebook group. I immediately looked for it online and asked on Facebook (my way of communicating with the lighting community, it seems). I was told to give it a try and that I wouldn't regret, so I did.

I received no information until a week before, and was changed the night before. All of this made me doubtful about going or not. Plus it was in downtown and I didn't feel comfortable being in there, on my own, specifically at midnight, when I had to take a cab for coming back home. But... It had been expensive, and I had already paid, so I went.

The new email said we had to be there on Thursday at 3:00 pm. I arrived at 3pm and had to wait for two hours, because the leaders wouldn't be coming until 5 and nobody had anything organised for us until then. So far, things were not starting well and I would have left, but I knew teachers from KTH (where I studied my master in lighting) were coming, so I decided to wait to say hi. I think I was more excited about seeing them than about the workshop.

The leaders finally arrived and I was the happiest person on earth when I saw Agneta and Jan Ejhed. Soon we past to the museum's auditorium (it was on the Museum of Light, in Mexico city), and were given a brief introduction on the workshop. Really brief introduction... So, as hungry as we were (the lunch time in Mexico is from 2 to 4, and as we were kept in the museum, waiting since 3, most of us hadn't eaten), we got into our groups and began the city walk through our already assigned sites (we had no chance to choose nor a site, nor a leader). I was really happy when I knew Jan would be my leader. Gustavo Aviles was the other leader of the group, as well as the lively Mari Kubota.
In this meeting, we were told what was a lighting detective and the fundamental rules for a lighting detective, which would be in our membership card.

This is the membership card. I'm an official Lighting detective! In the back, we can see the rules for being a Lighting detective:
1. Get angry with surrounding light pollution.
2. Deep and accurate observation o light on site.
3. Do be impressed wit artistic lighting.
4. Calmly detect inspiring lighting designs.
5. Continuosly accumulate experience in lighting.

We began walking and taking pictures. Madero is not a long street, and I've walked it several times before, but this was the first time it took me so long to wall it and I got go see many details I normally ignore. Even as a pedestrian, you don't observe much of your surroundings if you are not paying attention. Now, we were looking for something other than a store or the fastest way to get to a certain street: we were looking for heores and villains.

Picture taken from Zocalo square. It is noticeable the high contrast of the square with its surroundings, the bad lighting design of the facades, and how they have nothing in common among them. They lack unity, and are not a readable ending for MAdero street.

We walked from the Museum of Light to Eje Central through Madero and then back to Zocalo (the main square). Our group had some guests, like people from the media and a couple of security guys. Talking about security, one thing that caught my attention was Jan's comment. He's a Swede, who's traveled all around the world and lives in one of the most calmed and beautiful countries. I don't know what the world thinks about Mexico, and insecurity, but Jan said, in the middle of the third biggest square in the world which was pitch black, he didn't feel it was a dangerous place. Neither do I, actually (most if the time), but it's not he first time a foreigner asks me about safety in Mexico. I was happy Jan pointed this out.

With Gustavo as our guide, we walked around Zocalo and to another squared which was quite a contrast in lux levels, but quite empty as well. Gustavo said it had been lit up by a French company. I wonder why our city light has to be designed by French instead of convoking an open contest.
Anyways that day I met part of my team and decided to continue with the workshop until the end.
Next day I arrived late, but we still didn't have a room for working, nor printer, nor material for the boards we had to present next evening, so I kind of arrived early. We were supposed to begin working at 9:00 am, but we had a room (one exhibition room, actually) around 10:30. We began the discussion with Jan. I love working with him. One great thing about the way he leads a workshop, or a master is that he listens. He lets you discover what's happening. I think discovering things and discovering your voice is more important than someone telling you all his answers. He leads the discussion, participated in it, and made us think. As I've said before, o believe thinking is one of the most amazing things you can do, rather than learning by repetition or by following orders. I believe in thinkers, not in automats. We discussed our heroes and villains, and got to a few conclusions. The next step was finding the right picture to portray them. Mari began with the projection of her pictures, which we also discussed, and then we began choosing the materials to work with. 

Lunch time finally arrived (at 1:00pm, they were told it would be until 1:30pm) and the leaders left. We stayed with a promise of someone going to close the room so we could eat. 10 minutes after the leaders had left, two boys arrived looking for Gustavo. We hadn't seen him so far, despite he was our leader, but a girl thought about asking them what they wanted him for. I'm glad she did. They measure the darkness in skies.  I had no idea that could be done, but it is actually a thing. I knew about light pollution, but had no idea it could be measured. They explained us how they do it and showed is some graphics done with their results. Then we left the room for lunch (the room would be finally closed) and we kept on talking. One of the great things about workshops is the people you get to meet. There are generally so many interesting people with such a diverse background from whom you can learn so many things. I love workshops.  

We returned and kept working for a couple of hours, until 6, when we had to leave to another museum: Palace Old Medicine School. Some of us left, that was originally my plan, but I stayed because of a friend who went there. She was so excited about Jan and Agneta being in Mexico, she had to meet them. That evening there were some conferences by some of the leaders (not one theme that could make all of them fit in, unfortunately), and afterwards a cocktail. One of the great things about this lighting gatherings is that you get to see friends you met long ago and haven't seen in a while. In the workshops and conferences I've been overseas, they call this time to mingle, and talking to everyone is actually encouraged. I stayed really little time as I was really tired and had to prepare some material for the very next day. It was going to be a long day and I didn't want to take my computer.

Next day I arrived in a hurry, but I was told it didn't matter as we still didn't have the boards and some material for working. That day we worked so hard. Everybody in different things, but never stopped. Mari made some beautiful drawings and showed me some of her work presentations, so we could have ideas on how to light old buildings. Jan approached everyone encouraging us and suggesting ways of doing things. Later, he told us it had been really easy to work with us as it seemed we knew what we were doing and organised ourselves.Gustavo popped up with different sugestions and helped doing the boards. We were so busy that day, we didn't even eat.
Finally, at 7:00 pm (though marked at 6 in the program), the presentations began and we were able to see what the other teams had been doing, as well as present what we had been doing. Yo could feel the nerviousness of the speakers as well as the happiness of everyone. It was a workshop highly enjoyed. 

All o us talked about heroes and villains, and showed our proposals. Pictures were taken, lots of them. People were happy, and I'm sure everyone, even the leaders, learnt a lot.

I can say I loved the workshop, seeing Jan and Agneta, the people I met, and the discussions. I would have liked there would be more time for mingle, specially with the different leaders that have so much to say. In other workshops and conferences, I've learnt a lot from people that was not in my team during meals. And finally, I would have loved the organisation to be better. 

Oh, one more thing to say. I find it surprising that most of the participants were either students from the Specialization in UNAM, or sponsors, and many people from other universities, or even the same university but still in Architecture school, didn't know this was taking place. These students teamed up and went to their site prior to the workshop, and their participation would be graded. We reached a point in which I felt it was a workshop from the specialization course, where everyone had the same way of thinking on light and how things should be done, rather than an international workshop where you could learna  lot from different people. It felt as if the international workshop was an excuse to get support from the sponsors and to bring the leaders from all over the world for a group of students. In that case, organising a workshop sponsored by the university would have been the best: it would have been kept among them and still free for the students (yes, it was free for students and some sponsors got up to 2 places, it had a cost for the few of us that didn't belong into those categories. This was written nowhere.) Sponsors also complained about giving them catalogues for everyone, which were not given to us and being left out of some events their own company sponsored.

I loved the workshop, but not so much the organisation. For more information on TNT Lighting Detectives, you can visit it's site: http://shomei-tanteidan.org/en/

Hugs and kisses,

PS. I promise I'll talk about fashion and style in my next post, and it will not just be about clothing.