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.


Good design and bad design

Is there something such as bad design or is everything allowed?

Last week I took a course on editorial design. The course was very well prepared and it involved theory, exercises and activities. One of those was a "show and tell" of good and bad design. One of the students said she found really difficult to find good and bad design as rules and fashion kept changing. Her answer made me think and several questions popped in my head: is good design the same as fashion? What's the difference between good and bad design? Is fashion and style the same? What is style? What is good design? These are enough questions for two posts, so two posts will be.

Does bad design exist?
Short answer: yes.
One day I read (or heard, I actually don't remember) that it's rather difficult to determine whether you are a good person or not, as we don't have a one and only known purpose as human beings, so we cannot decipher whether we are good or bad as we can say pretty sure whether a cup of hot chocolate, a lip gloss or even a car is good or bad, or at least good or bad quality (I've noticed nowadays people is afraid to say something is bad, it's more common to hear it's not what I expected, or it didn't work for me, or similar stuff).
The point is, we are able to determine whether it's good or bad design, even if we don't know why. My primary example is a chair. Everybody knows what a chair is and has used one, therefore, knows what it's used for and what to expect from one. There are lots of chairs out there, and I've seated in lots of different chairs through my life, but not all of those were well designed. Let me explain: chairs were designed or copied from a chair that was designed and famous, but the result was not always a good one. There are many beautiful or interesting chairs out there, cheap or expensive, made with the most beautiful materials... But as uncomfortable as just they can be. There are beautiful chairs in expensive restaurants, designed just for them by a wonderful design firm, in which you just cannot sit for the entire meal. That is the best example I could think of a bad design. 

image taken from iconicinteriors.com

Example of good design: Eames Style Plywood LCW Lounge Chair. 

Design inspired by Charles and Ray Eames

Going back to the editorial design course, we could round up what bad design was, not just for a chair or editorial design, but in general, and discovered that the key was the audience.

The audience? Yes, I know it's strange, but not so much if you think about it. I like to call it "the user", but it's the same: who is the design's target. 

image taken from publicrelationssydney.com.au

If you are designing for kids, you cannot take decisions for grown ups, because the measurements, abilities and interests (among other things), are different. If your design is adequate for your target audience, and accomplishes its main purpose, then it might be a good design. If you use the golden number, the finest materials and the final product looks beautiful, but it doesn't appeal the desired audience, or doesn't accomplishes its main purpose, then it's a bad design. 

Oh, and design is not the same as fashion nor as style, but the next post will be about that. 

Hugs and kisses and lots of love from the bottom of my heart.


Appartment lighting

Living spaces can be really difficult to design. I get a kind of "writer's block" when I know I have to design one, or design something related to them. Just knowing you are responsible of so many lives (kinf of) is panicking.

I know I'm not the responsible of their lives per se, but I do believe that architecture can help modify people's behaviour, can intervene in their decisions, and can help them be happier and healthier or sick. Like deciding whether to enter a shop or not just because it has a step, or looks cozzy or expensive, or getting sick because your house is full of tiny details that are perfect places for gathering dust, you have poor lighting, little or no fresh air or almost no daylight. Architecture, and design can modify life.

Right now I'm doing an appartment building with a previous story. It was a slippers factory that was to be closed. It seems sales are not good anymore as almost anything is cheaper if imported from China. It's terrible, but nothing to be done to rescue it, so the owner thought of selling it, and a friend of his told him to change it into an appartment building. The city is making it easier to build appartments in that zone, so it was the perfect timing.

That friend of him used to be my boss, so he asked me to design the appartments. I designed differerent buildings trying to respect the structure as much as possible, as well as the client requirements and the city rules. After several projects, lots of projects if I may say, one was finally chosen, and I thought everything was over, but it wasn't.

I was asked to do the interiors, as well as the lighting design, and the selling brochures, and every little detail that comes with that.

Although I find it scaring, lighting an appartment is at the same time exciting and one of my favorite challenges. I still remember the first studio appartment I lit on my own, and how it changed my client's social life. He sent me a flower+fruit basquet as a thank you.  It reminded me why I've chosen architecture in first place: I wanted to change people's lives by changing their environment... and I was able to do that through lighting design (and a bit of interior design).

I've lit up shopping malls, offices, restaurants, I've worked in Lighting design firms, and on my own, and even been in some workshops, and I found that little studio appartment in NYC the most rewarding and complex project up to now, due to the distance, the lack of budget and how happy the client became.