Confessions of a lighting designer – sparks and relationships

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    Confessions of a lighting designer – sparks and relationships

    In the second editorial of the ‘confessions of a lighting designer’ series, Gary Thornton, senior project designer at neolight global, explores lighting relationships…

    Following our previous article, the hotel guest experience can be considered as being framed physically by the architecture, informed by the interior design, and reinforced by the service that you receive, but transcending across all of those to make it an outstanding experience is the intangible – great lighting design.

    We find now that hotels in particular, and most of the major operators now, have a good understanding of the positive role of the lighting designer on a project. For our part, we believe that we bring a unique creative flair to each project, combined with technical expertise that satisfies all of the relevant codes, of which there are many stringent ones to work with now. Combined with a clear understanding of the commercial aspects of projects are our ability to communicate well, hotel clients are very receptive and willing to discuss new ideas within their own frameworks.

    One demonstrable aspect of a client or a hotel operator really understanding what it is that lighting designers do, and the value that lighting can bring to an environment, is repeat business and working with the same design team time and time again.

    For neolight this is clear in our continuing relationship with Address Hotels + Resorts, the premium luxury hotel group launched by Emaar Hospitality Group, for which we have been involved, in full or in part, for a number of their properties in Dubai.

    A key contributing factor to the ongoing relationship is because of our expertise and experience within the luxury hospitality sector in the Middle East region.  We understand their design ethos and principles, their exceptional service standards, and how they position themselves in the business/leisure/luxury market in order to be able to enhance all of their guest experiences through light.

    Started by Alan Mitchell in 2003, neolight’s first experience with Address Hotels started in 2004 and the iconic flagship property in Dubai – The Address Downtown, located across the water and the famous fountains from the Burj Khalifa.

    neolight were lucky enough to get onto the Address Downtown development via the architects, WS Atkins and Partners Overseas. Alan Mitchell had been associate director at JSA, working with Atkins on the Jumeirah Beach Resort, plus the façade of the now iconic Burj Al Arab. Due to the close working relationship, Atkin’s top management sought Alan and his new company for the team, and neolight were introduced to Mirage Mille (now Mirage Leisure and Development) in 2004.

    Address Downtown became a huge success for Address Hotels and led the way to another new working relationship between neolight and Mirage. neolight continue to work on most of their large scale developments, like the Saadiyat St Regis, Abu Dhabi and Caesars Palace at Bluewaters Island, Dubai.

    In fact, neolight did all the front of house lighting at Bluewaters Island which included two hotels, eleven residential blocks, a dedicated shopping souk, and all of the public realm. Currently neolight are working on The Island in Dubai – a WASL development with MGM, Bellagio and Aria hotels plus a custom 320 seat theatre and 5000 capacity Multi Purpose Venue.

    Image credit: neolight

    After the success of the first Address Hotel, neolight were again appointed as part of the team for the Address Boulevard in Dubai for which we designed and completed the façade lighting for the new flagship property located beside the Burj Khalifa.

    Since then, we have been engaged to complete the 80 storey double tower know as Address Jumeirah Gate. For this, we value engineered the entire package as well as renewed the façade lighting with a fresh new design, suitable for the current climate and client expectations.

    Notably projects with Address Hotels show their ability to bring together a great team and drive the team to provide the best possible solution. Working in the Middle East in hospitality brings its own unique challenges but the Address Hotels have a clear focus and drive, and this helps in creating exciting and vibrant designs.

    Even beyond the wider design team of consultants, good working relationships with the General Managers of the properties are also maintained.  On more than one occasion we have been requested back directly by Address to look at an area they are updating, or a new space they are revising for lighting input which is testament to how they value our work and ethos.

    Along-side repeat work with Address Hotels we were appointed to work on Vida hotels with the same client, Emaar, and have since completed façade lighting for the Vida Residence Downtown as well as all FOH lighting for Vida Dubai Creek harbour.

    Success is in listening to, and delivering, what the client wants

    Over the years, we have kept in close contact with Emaar, the owner of the Address Hotels, and due to the ongoing relationship were appointed lighting designers for the Opera House Dubai, the first major performing space of its kind in the Emirates. This was a hugely successful project that saw neolight being awarded Best Entertainment and Leisure Project in the Light Middle East awards 2016.

    Image credit: neolight

    By nurturing the relationships we have with clients, a greater understanding and respect of their requirements are obtained, allowing us to provide a better service for future projects.

    For all the ongoing work with them, the very first Address remains a firm favourite.  The Address Downtown was one of the first major projects for neolight, and as such the memories, both good and bad, of the challenges we undertook in getting what at the time was one of the tallest hotels in the region to become an icon of the area was daunting to say the least, but we rose to the challenge and remember the opening night with affection. It received great critical acclaim and our success as a company owes a lot to the success of the hotel.

    Whilst building relationships with new clients and consultants are a core component of how we work, our working process, ethos, and delivered results are testament to it being rare that we only ever work with a client once. Growing existing relationships and showcasing the success of previous projects mean that we continue to work with all of these brands and clients, and hope to continue many more years of the same.

    Main image credit: neolight

    Hamish Kilburn / 28.10.2020


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