We took time out during Belektro In Berlin to meet up with one of the Lighting Industry’s Brightest and most talented designers, Sabine De Schutter...
MM: You were recently named in Lighting Magazine 40 under 40, what does it mean to you to be recognised in this way?
SDS: It’s a great honour, I was very surprised when I heard I was selected. Receiving recognition for something you work hard for and are passionate about is the best thing that can happen!
MM: When and how did you first discover your passion for lighting?
SDS: When I was finishing my masters in interior architecture we had a short lighting design module. And somehow it got me!
After I started working, I kept on thinking about the lighting module and how lighting had an impact on space. However, in the architecture office where I worked, the lighting planning was outsourced to manufacturers. Nobody seemed to know enough about lighting.
All these things together made me decide to enrol at the University of Wismar, a year later.
MM: In 2013 you said ‘I want to make lighting design more accessible’ what did you mean by this and do you think things have changed in the last three years?
SDS: I don’t think things have changed much, three years is too short a time span. Accessible lighting for me is good quality lighting that reaches everyone. This could be public lighting in streets, parks, schools, hospitals, social housing or offices. Too often lighting is planned from a mere functional perspective and lighting can do much more than that.
I hope to see more awareness for lighting in social and public projects.
Picture: Giving life to the dark at the Voidu Bridge, Tartu Estonia - image, Annika Haas
MM: There’s a lot of buzz words in the industry, Human Centred lighting is one of them, you have a different view to the industry view?
SDS: It’s very big buzz word, and I have a very different idea of what I would call human centred. Dynamic white lighting is not necessarily that. However, I do believe having warm, neutral to cold lighting in one fixture, is a nice technological advancement.
Then again, human centred lighting, is for me far more complex than that. It would take into account the task that is to be carried out and the emotional, atmospheric and physiological needs of a person.
MM: What do you enjoy most about your job?
SDS: I like the process of working and creating in itself. Secondly, I also like the impact design can have on a space and the reactions you get from people on that. Just today, I had a client presentation and when I demonstrated some lighting effects they were amazed. I really like moments like these, where you can share your fascination with others.
Picture: De Schutter and a team of 10 students worked on the largets ever site at this years Lights in Alingsas festival, Sweden - image, Patric Gunnar
MM: Are you quite hands on?
SDS: Computers are a necessary evil, but sometimes I just have to slowdown, think with my hands and make it out of paper instead of making a 3D.
MM: What’s your biggest challenge as a Lighting Designer?
SDS: There are so many challenges, on so many levels. One is making people aware of what light can do. Secondly, lighting should not just be added to a space.
MM: Out of all your designs which do you consider your best?
SDS: Hopefully I’ve not done my best work yet…
MM: When do you think you’ll be ready to do your best work?
SDS: I’m very motivated to get out of bed and start working, so once I’ve lost that motivation then I’ve probably I achieved what I wanted to.
MM: And if different which is your worst design?
SDS: The worst don’t get realised, they are locked in the archive!
MM: What would be your dream lighting project?
SDS: I know what it could be, but I don’t want to jinx it! Let’s just say I’ve taken the first steps. But I don’t expect to get there any time soon!
MM: When and why did you start using LEDs?
SDS: LEDs were introduced during my studies. There was even one module dedicated to research on design with LEDs.
MM: Do you still use halogen/CFL?
SDS: Yep! Not that much anymore though, mostly on projects with smaller budgets.
MM: What’s the main difference between the two light sources?
SDS: The colour temperatures with LEDs are so different. If you specify 2700 Kelvin, is not 2700K for all manufacturers. Some are more green, others more red or yellow, but on the specs they all look the same. Therefore, I have to request a lot of samples and test!
MM: As a manufacturer, what can we do to help Lighting Designers?
SDS: Standardisation of colour temperatures would be helpful. Then I would know if the LEDs really have the same colour or not.
MM: What do you see as the future of Lighting Design?
SDS: The future will be challenging; lighting is getting so flexible, very digital, and I think many more people and companies of all kind will enter the profession.
Also, I’m a bit worried when I see some of the colour splashes in urban environments, LEDs gave way to coloured lighting, and you see lighting schemes on an automatic RGB colour run. Our challenge is to keep on educating people about the good and the evil of lighting. And that concept is important.
MM: What do you think to the current push towards home automation?
SDS: I think there is a lot that can be done with home automation, security, light, heat, and saving energy. However, I don’t think sensors should follow people. I don’t like the approach of lights that brighten and dim as you walk down the street, as I don’t want to be under the light all the time.
I wonder in which direction it will go, it can be used in a positive way, but also against us. The more digital it gets the more potential there is for it to get hacked. I don’t think everything should be digital.
MM: what do you think about the halogen ban?
SDS: For me the lighting industry is pushing the ban too much. I think the technology should first be ready to deliver equal quality (no flicker, good colour rendering, colour temperature) at a similar price as halogen sources, with lower energy consumption. And automatically, when people see their bills reduce, the demand for LEDs will rise. That could cause an automatic fade out of halogen sources.
MM: You say you use LED in most of your projects, so do you think for example a GU10 is already at a place where it has a good enough replacement for halogen?
SDS: Many of the products we can specify are of good quality, GU10 spots are good for many applications, with warm colour temperatures. We are seeing prices reduce and quality rise.
Find out more about Sabine and her work