When we look at our surroundings, it is the movements and emotions of people and the features of structures and items around us that we usually notice. This perception is made possible by light, which many of us take for granted as it always brightens the world.
Renowned English architectural lighting designer Mark Sutton Vane, who recently visited Keystone Academy, explored the philosophical concept of light as being “all about people.”
“Light is much about the heart and soul as it is about physics,” Vane told his audience at his public presentation the Keystone High School Library on September 11. “It is because of light that we can see the objects around us and get emotions from them. And our heart feels what we see. And that object is telling a story, which can be hugely influenced by the lighting.”
As a leading light in his industry, Vane established his independent firm Sutton Vane Associates (SVA) where he employs his artistic practices of illuminating commercial and residential architectural designs. He shared the workings behind some of his most impressive lighting design projects, including illuminating the Olympic Park of the 2012 London Olympics and the temporary exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum.
He said the latter was one of the most challenging projects he has done as it required a special technique to draw the attention of museumgoers to a surviving patch of color on a Terracotta Warrior. This technique, he explained, illuminated a path with gradually dimming red lights, which made their eyes more sensitive to very faint light that beamed towards the ancient statue.
One of the audience members asked Vane how he is able to create a story using lights.
“The first thing we do when we start a project is we talk to the client and find out the issues of the architecture. In a sense, lighting designers are translators; We can take a client’s idea and translate it into reality. In other times, the client wants our imagination and experience to give them ideas of what to do.”
Vane used his project to light the Keystone High School Library as an example, explaining that its circular doorway is lit to emphasize this traditional Chinese architecture and make it more welcoming to community users.
In the other parts of his visit, Vane overviewed the architectural lighting of the performing arts halls, including the newly built hutong-styled Primary School Theater.
“What we’ve done with the lighting is to make people look at those features like bamboos and decorations around the doorway that give the theater its character,” Vane said, adding that he also reviewed how the lights inside the theater space can be controlled so it can lead the audience to focus on the stage and the performances.
Grade 12 student Yolanda Xu, who is part of a Chinese theater group, said Vane’s presentation provided insights into the importance of lighting as part of stage performances.
“Aside from learning the reality in productions, such as dealing with budget constraints, Mr. Vane gave examples that inspired me a lot. I also understood how architecture, lighting, and theater lighting design are related to one another and so we can use this idea to help our audience get our point,” Xu said.
Vane also spoke with two Diploma Programme (DP) Theatre classes about his experiences of lighting theater spaces and designing lights for stage performances. He also talked about the merits of his artistic practice as a career.
“For someone who wants to get into the field of lighting design, they have to know that successful lighting designers see surroundings visually. They are aware of the look the environments around them and start noting and remembering what things work and don’t work to get the emotions of what they see.
The renowned lighting designer, who is an architect by profession, also applauded Keystone’s efforts in improving the quality of its facilities, not just the lighting but also the architecture, color, furniture, and others, for the long term.
“These improvements make everyone in the Keystone community feel better. It becomes a virtuous circle as well because if it is a nice place, it attracts better people. And it is a great aspiration to have,” he said.