Singapore – Bangkok – Xian – Singapore
Weekend 7-8th September 2019
A busy past two weeks, with a lot happening in the office, commissioning of our latest high-end restaurant and OUE Bayfront as well as the near inescapable travel, this time to Bangkok for a project meeting and to Xi’an, China, which was the first stop on my 5 city “world tour” speaking schedule over the next 2 months.
The week started kind of sad as my long-time personal assistant and office manager Siew Mei announced that she would be leaving the company. Over the past 6 years she has been my rock and personal support so it feels up bit like a break up/divorce 😊. But all in good spirits and we seem to have found her perfect replacement…time will tell of course. Over the next couple of weeks, we will work on the transition to make sure it will be seamless and smooth. We all wish her well and will miss her dearly, after all we are a close-knit little family…
It reminded me that I have to keep up our internal staff training and personal development program so I invited our trainer Mark Stuart back to discuss the next workshop, which we plan later in November. We started this process a few years ago now and I have witnessed the personal growth of each of my staff in terms of confidence, assertiveness and presentation skills. Time and money well invested!
Light Talk 2
That’s it, we have completed the page layouts and finalised the participating sponsors. The reactions have been overwhelming. In the coming week we will do the final editing and go to print by the end of September, just in time for the planned book launch at PLDC in Rotterdam.
These one-day trips, leaving early morning, meeting 10am-17pm with the client and project team returning on a late evening flight, are highly efficient but also take a lot of energy. But because the time is limited the meetings are generally highly focussed with quick decision making a lot is achieved. I left back writing my report in the lounge reflecting on a fruitful meeting having wrapped up practically everything that had to be settled. A good day in the office…
LDoT is never far away on any given day of the week. Even more it is now an integral part of my every day activities. I met with one of our new IoT partners with the aim to develop an app for our Menu of Things that will be made available on both our partnership portal as well as on mobile devices. We are really excited about this. Still in confidential stage, but I hope to report on this very soon.
IALD SEA and CLD
Yah Li, who stewards the South East Asian chapter of the IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers), is currently touring the lighting designers in Singapore to not only encourage membership to IALD but also promote lighting designers to take up CLD, the Certified Lighting Designers certification. She also visited our office to encourage our staff. I strongly encourage this and offer my staff company contribution to obtain the membership and or certification as it benefits the company to have recognised designers as part of our team.
Over the past weeks we also made numerous trips to VUE, a new high-end restaurant that will be opening its doors to the public in about 2 weeks’ time. Its testing and commissioning time. Earlier in the week we had the chairman to come and visit the place. We are all very excited and the industry is already abuzz with the latest rooftop restaurant that will join the Marina Bay venues. I am very pleased with the end-result and am confident it will follow in the footsteps of our award-winning Atlas Bar…
LED in world news
It is not often that our lighting industry makes it to the world stage politics, but in the past week CNN reported on Trumps decision to roll back the requirement to use energy saving LED bulbs. In this segment during a town hall debate about climate change CNN asks Bernie Sanders about it…What’s going on in the US? I know that there are still a lot older generation lighting designers that would love to see the incandescent bulb back, but really in the “light” of
See Bernie Sanders interviewed by CNN here.
World tour stop 1: Xi’An, China
The first stop of my “world tour” speaking engagements was in Xi’An, the capital of Shaanxi province and home to the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang dynasties. It is also the eastern starting point of the famous Silk Road and most of all it is the city where the famed Terra Cotta warriors can be found, a must-see site and on my bucket list of places to visit ever since I first came to China 25 year ago.
I was in Xi’An in the first place as an invited key note speaker at an event that saw the design industry come together, interior designers, architects and lighting designers. More than 1000 attendees gathered at the Shangri-La Xi’An Grand Ballroom to attend sessions about hotel and retail applications. I was the key note speaker for lighting. In my presentation I shared how to create your own lighting design identity, learn from the masters but also learn from your own and other peoples’ mistakes…life is too short to make them all yourself! 😊
The format saw speakers from both lighting and interior design practices share their projects and experiences. I particularly liked the debate session that saw lighting designers pitted against interior designers debating the merits of independent lighting designers versus interior designers professing that as part of their services (as some do!). A great debate, even though I only got snippets via my translator…
The proceedings were followed by a gala dinner and award ceremony celebrating award winning designs in the various applications. A great event, honoured to be invited. Next stop Ho Chi Minh City in 2 weeks…
Terra Cotta Warriors
I was told that around 8000 life size, hand-moulded terra cotta soldiers can be found at the site in several “pits”. I visited the 3 that were open to the public, but was told more was still to be un-earthed. The army was buried together with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. According to our guide more than 700,000 people worked for 38 years to create these warriors. Note that not one is the same, they all have different facial expressions! They are all different! Amazing, I was in awe by the pure sight of it and blessed to have had the opportunity to see this in real life…
To end the blog with a bit of fun. This week we (KLD) was accidentally tagged in a post about South African tennis champion Raven Klaasen. Instead of Raven KLD was tagged in the post. We replied that we are not a tennis champion however we are award winning lighting designers…😊
Enjoy your time ahead!
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the gala & award dinner
Singapore – Xitang – Singapore
Weekend 24-25th August 2019
Another 2 weeks have flown by…In my first week, back in Singapore I spent a lot of time meeting people, physically and virtually through conference calls. Part in attendance to resolve issues for our projects progress and part in support of our LDoT activities which are becoming more and more important place in our daily activities. My second week was fully spent in Xitang, China, for the commissioning of what is fast becoming the talk of the town, the new Naera Hotel, hospitality mixed with an art gallery, spa and organics farming…
Project deliveries and payments
Despite the economic slowdown in the world, which I think everyone is feeling, the demand for our services in our ongoing projects and quotes for new projects is not letting up. We are as busy as ever, but feel it in the slow payments…the turnaround between invoicing and payment is getting much longer, some already several months, which is generally a sign of things slowing down. This is where we have to carefully balance our work output and deliverables with the client’s ability to pay for the services. Promises to pay is not the same as having money in the bank! We have several project situations where we are holding back our issues pending a payment that is to be “received”. It is a balancing act as we also do not wish to offend our clients. But without leverage we have not much to pressure the clients to prioritise the settlement of our outstanding invoices…
My week in Singapore was also full of LDoT related activities. As we have opened up our services to fellow lighting designers that are in need to integrate IoT and smart data platforms into their lighting, we have had exploratory discussions with lighting designers with more scheduled in the weeks to come. It is for this reason that we have now fully separated LDoT as an independently incorporated company. This has been enthusiastically received in the market and gives us more opportunities to collaborate. Our discussions about collaboration with existing and new LDoT partners is continuing unabated as we develop this service to become better and better. Most players in this new market are learning, discovering, adapting, but one thing we all have in common, is that you have to be in it to win it so to speak.
A big focus has been on developing our system integration team and with that also a revenue model. Because it is new to everyone, whether you are a vendor or a consultant like we are, defining the revenue stream that is also a win-win for the client is something that needs to be carefully developed. This no longer the delivery of hardware products, it is the delivery of a service, with ongoing support over time (data analytics, content management, etc). We are slowly getting there but only by going through the pilot projects will we be able to define exactly how this will work…it is therefore not a surprise that we will need investors to help us fund the early stages of this new data- industry. The reaction so far is very positive…
Light Talk 2
This week I also met with the team from Lighting Today Magazine who is helping me editing my second book Light Talk 2, 15 years in the life of light! The artwork concept and content pages have been completed and we are now finalising the individual page settings, additional commentary and illustrations so that we can go to print by the end of next month. I am super excited and if all goes well the book will be ready for launch at PLDC 2019 in Rotterdam, 23-26th October. Look out for it!
Naera Hotel, Xitang
This is probably one of the most exciting projects I have been involved with for a long time. It is not often that you are involved with the birth of a new brand. Naera has been created as a concept brand that merges top quality service hospitality, with art, health and organic farming to promote healthy food. Staff is being trained to provide top quality services, nothing is impossible, they will go out of the way to provide you with a comfortable stay. In my week at the hotel it was omnipresent in every detail of the service, you feel treated like royalty.
The hotel is also one big art gallery, with artworks from some of China’s most respected artists. The complete pool tiling is one big artwork from China’s famous artist Ding Yi. There are some more works of him displayed around the hotel. Other artists even from Taiwan and Japan have artworks in the hotel, which makes walking around one big and exciting discovery. Not surprisingly lighting plays a super important role in bringing the artworks out day and night! The exploration of artworks continues all the way into your room, in table decorations, accessories and so on.
Organic food and tea
One of the driving pillars of the hotel concept is that all food derives from organic farming. On a plot of land adjoining the hotel, organic farming will be a major draw for the guests. Experiencing the healthy food in the restaurant (they have more than 30 specialised chefs) is an important part of the experience. Our lighting has been designed to create the mood that goes with it. More then 2000 types of tea will be available and by rotating the types of tea available in your room you are virtually assured that you will never have the same tea in your room as a returning guest!
Relaxing the mind
The interior concept has very much been about relaxing the mind… from the moment you arrive in the enclosed exterior courtyard, you arrive in a different world, screened of from the busy street outside. The lobby is designed as a maze which helps you to unwind on your way to the reception and check in. Designed as a Chinese garden, filled with artworks that you discover around each new corner, you can feel your mind relax with every step. Our lighting is concealed, with softly glowing backlit rattan panels, invisible spots highlighting the artworks you discover on your way… a truly relaxing experience. The impact of the lighting here is immeasurable…
The icing on the cake for this hotel is the light show that we created using the public spaces that are build around the central courtyard which consist of a big water surface punctuated with some island trees, a central pavilion and a two walk ways that look like you walk on water when you cross over. Having a reflective water surface doubles the effect, which becomes magical when lighting is added. The architectural building concept has always been developed with this central feature in mind. Each of the public spaces (Lobby, Reception, Bar, Library, Restaurant, Tea House, Gym, Spa, Pool, etc) all look out to this central courtyard. With the soft moving coloured light show that plays for 15 mins every hour, people are drawn to relax and enjoy the spectacle with a drink or some food…it was the talk of every single guest who all proclaimed the uniqueness and magic of something they had never seen before.
After we had the official opening on Friday night, the guests stayed till deep in the night to enjoy the beauty of this magical spectacle. It was the birth of something very special, a brand I am sure you will see, hear or read about much more in the future. For us it was a grateful and satisfying conclusion to many years of hard work.
Xitang project video
As we did for our award winning Yangshuo project, my daughter Kyra came along to film the project, interview the key players like the owner, operator and lead designer with the aim to put together another project documentary. We also took the opportunity to interview Yvonne a TV personality who host many shows and was the MC for the opening event. It was very interesting to hear her feelings about this unique hotel.
Enjoy your time ahead!
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The arrival experience
Teaching the operator staff
Welcome in the room
Interviewing Yvonne. media personality from Shanghai TV and Channel Young
Singapore – Perth – Singapore
Long Weekend 9-12 August 2019
It becomes more and more obvious that keeping a disciplined routine of writing a blog becomes more difficult the longer the time between blogs. I have caught myself a few times totally forgetting about it. As I write my blog today it is Monday (a public holiday in Singapore) and only after checking the date of my last blog I realise it was already 2 weekends ago that I wrote my last blog…so here we go.
Being back in the office after having been away for a long period of time, tucked away in the French countryside, “deprived” of my regular active day to day communication, allows you to take stock of your own company and how it fares when you are away. I am blessed with a great team who steps up and take their responsibilities when I am away which of course provides me with a lot of peace of mind. While they step up to the plate when I am in the office, stepping up knowing that the boss may not necessarily be available to support or take action is another thing. I have said in the past that in my view the ideal situation for my company is that it can run without me without loosing the respect from our clients. Me being there is a bonus. We are working towards that and I am very grateful to my team for allowing me to take it easier. I can t see myself retiring anytime soon, I am too invested and passionate about what I am doing, but knowing I can slow down a bit and take some time out when I need it is important for the long run. The only way to keep doing what I love doing is by pacing myself…In the first week back in office I caught up with my team, met with some clients and slowly resumed my daily activities…
Midweek I flew to Perth to sit down with Ingmar to work on our LDoT plans and also finish my Light Talk video’s, long overdue. There is a clear slump in the economy world wide which can be felt in the projects that we are doing. Payments are markedly slower, though the number of projects and the amount of work in Asia Pacific in general does not seem to slow down, not sure what to think about that. The Australian market though is tough, the real estate market has lost a lot of its value, according to the latest figures up to 15-20% since the peak of the boom in 2013. One of our residential projects in Perth, a luxury apartment block, is now holding of selling of the plan because of that. We are finishing the project but in a bare format…new projects seem to be under the pump.
Economical downtime like this is in general a perfect time to focus on developing new opportunities, as we are doing with our LDoT platform. Besides preparing to present LDoT in a big way at PLDC in Rotterdam later this year, we are also preparing pitches to potential investors and shoring up our partnerships. Our LDoT website was recently revamped with till new features to be added. One of our main aims is to create a partner portal on our website to which you can subscribe to find or share information related to data analytics platforms, IoT partner offerings and find answers to questions you may have. One of the main features is likely to be our Menu of Things ™, that can be used to find out what you or you client may need…it is quite a complicated development but we hope to have it available in the months to come.
Privacy and The Great Hack
One of the biggest issues that will challenge anyone entering the IoT market, data analytics platforms and AI, is the personal privacy. For those who have not seen “The Great Hack”, a recent Netflix documentary about the role of now defunct Cambridge Analytica company in the American elections and other elections around the world including its relationship with Facebook, I can only recommend it. It is scary but it is real. It has reinforced my believe that I have to be in it so I can be part of a solution, standing on the side lines will not help. The progress in artificial intelligence and data collection technologies is frightening. But it is what is being collected and what is being done with it that we should be aware off. There is talk about digital data rights in the same way there are intellectual and property rights. You own your own data and should not be forced to give it away. It should be your choice and if people want it you should be able to monetise your data. As “the Great Hack” states, data demographics could be classified as a weapon. So as we move forward with our LDoT platform we have to make sure that whatever system we deliver it is end to end compliant with GDPR or any applicable privacy protection law. It is probably one of the biggest issues that involves the application of data analytics as part of our lighting installation…we are working on it!
Finally I managed to finalise the introductions to my Light Talk conversations so they are ready to be uploaded to our website and our KLD YouTube channel. We are looking at other podcast platforms as well. In my next blog I should be able to give you the details of the links to view the conversations I have had with experts in their field. watch this space for the uploads very soon…
Enjoy your time ahead!
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Data is the now worlds most valuable commodity, not oil…
Recording our promotional video for LDoT
The banking scandal in Australia that has much to do with the economy, inspiring book titles
Personal privacy, the Great Hack
The intro for the upcoming Light Talk conversations
Singapore – Guangzhou – Europe – Singapore – Shanghai/Xitang – Singapore
Weekend 27-28 July 2019
It has been a while and as you can see from the heading I have been places since my last blog. It started with my attendance to the Guangzhou International Lighting Fair, followed by my attendance to the Lamp Awards in Barcelona. I then spent a month in the South of France in “semi-retirement mode” enjoying the countryside before returning to Singapore and going back to the preopening ceremony of our Xitang project.
This year I had a panel moderator function at the fair leading a discussion about the future of smart city lighting. Joining me on stage where esteemed assistant professor Chanyaporn from the lighting Research and Innovation Centre School of Architecture and Design, Bangkok (yes a long name 😊), Mr James Wallace, Principal and Design Director of LightPlan from Perth, Australia creator of several city master plans and mr Frederic Couton, from the French city of Marseille as a representative of LUCI (Lighing Urban Community International), an international association of cities in the world. Encouraged by a capacity crowd the panel experts dived into questions about how the future of lighting, specifically in regards to smart intelligence and sustainability would impact on the future of city lighting planning. Having the feedback from an actual city (Marseille) brought a much valued aspect of reality into the discussions. A lively Q+A concluded the panel discussions.
Though I was originally not scheduled to speak at the event a last-minute pull-out of one of the key note speakers in the master sharing sessions opened up a slot which the organisers asked me to fill in. I obliged and shared my thoughts (surprise, surprise) about the new world of smart lighting infra-structures, my Lighting Design of Things vision for the future. The master series were very well attended with again lively Q+A sessions. The event concluded with a gala dinner. All in all a much better event then previous years as the key-note presentations and panel discussion sessions were much more focussed and targeted resulting in a better attendance and audience involvement.
Barcelona – Lamp Awards
From Guangzhou I flew straight to Barcelona with a transit stop at the new Istanbul airport. New or renovated airports as the toast of the world at the moment to coop with the enormous rise in world air travel. I have always liked Istanbul as a city and as a stopover and the new airport did certainly not disappoint.
It was an honour to be invited at the prestigious Lamp awards, admittedly I have never won a Lamp award, but being a fan of the Lamp lighting products, it was a pleasure to attend the event. It was meticulously organised with a pirate-themed party to celebrate the award winners. A panel of expert judges from the lighting design industry adjudicated the awards and it looked indeed like the best ones won, well done to all the winners.
Having never been to Barcelona before I took some time off to visit the city and of course Gaudi’s famous masterpiece La Sagrada Familia. By all accounts after more then 130 years of construction it may soon be finished (another few years…). Barcelona’s reputation as a beautiful and happening place was certainly justified, I will be back 😊
It sounds serious when I write it down but after 40 years in the business (I started in 1979!) it makes sense to start thinking about the next phase of my life. I will never fully retire, at least that is how I think now still being healthy and energetic, so hence the semi-retirement tag. What this means is taking more regularly time off for myself and that is what I did after Guangzhou and Barcelona. Switching off from the daily work noise in my beloved France where the main distractions are birds and nature and time literally takes a back seat really helps me recharge and relax. Knowing that I have a great team to keep servicing our clients when I am away is of course a necessary peace of mind. Going back to basics in countryside France also helps to put life and specifically our hectic lighting design work into perspective. We design highly complex lighting infra-structures with sophisticated controls, but in my little village we have no street lights and a simple bare bulb with a scoop reflector pendant hanging from the ceiling. The contrast couldn’t be bigger. At night the stars and the moon shine so brightly I am even able to take a picture of my own moon shadow!
Back to work – Xitang
After recharging my batteries for a month I was back at it last week, catching up with my team in Singapore and this week flew back to China to attend the pre-opening ceremony at our exciting Xitang project that will see its grand opening later in August. I reported extensively about it in last blog. The interesting thing for us is that we are part of a little bit of history. The client, together with a local Chinese operator, is creating a new brand in the hospitality market. The hotel brand, Naera, will find its origins in organic farming, art and sustainability. On a large plot just next to the hotel, the hotel will be developing organic farming, with cooking classes and using the generated organic food in the restaurants. It is also creating its own organic brand of tea and enlisted a specialised tea company to drive this. With more than 4000 types of tea apparently existing (more than 2000 in China alone), they want the guests to have a different tea experience every time they check in or dine. A tea and cocktail bar is planned in the commercial area. Art is also a big part of the hotel with more than a million Renminbi spend in artworks alone. In phase two of this project a commercial art precinct will be developed.
In a dedicated ceremony about 400 people, consisting of operator staff, site contractors, consultants, experts and other client related people were treated to an introduction to the project with presentations from the client, the operator and all involved consultants (undersigned included) to give everyone a sense of belonging and involvement in the project. From my point of view a great initiative as it gave the people that build and will manage and service the project a better understanding of what they are part off. It created a spirit of togetherness which was also the main theme of the ceremony.
I presented our work as lighting designers and to introduce a bit of fun I ended my presentation with the spoof we filmed during one of our site visits on the Mission Impossible 3 running scene that was actually filmed in Xitang. In that film segment Tom Cruise jumps out of a window, runs over bridges and through Xitang old town directed on the phone by his side kick. In our spoof Grace does the same and directs me to our site. It’s hilarious and had everyone abundantly laughing. In a review of the event I was later introduced as the Tom Cruise of the lighting design industry…a new high in my career?
See our spoof on Mission Impossible here
Enjoy your time ahead!
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Singapore – Shanghai/Xitang – Singapore
Weekend 7-8 June 2019
The last two weeks have been pretty full on; project deadlines, coordination meetings, sample reviews, conference calls, fee proposals, interviews…and a bit of travel. We are fortunate to have been appointed to some exciting new projects, which just kick started. Project cycles are always unpredictable and balancing new projects with ongoing work, making sure the team has ongoing work without over working, can be quite challenging. We have been interviewing new staff to make sure we can cope with our current work requirements. As I write this blog I am on my way back from Shanghai after an intensive but very satisfying 3 days on our project site in Xitang, about an hours’ drive out of Shanghai.
Going to site facing the hard realities of your own design are the most rewarding and revealing times of a project. I always tell my clients that my design is as good as its final implementation and being allowed to be part of that implementation gives the lighting designer the opportunity to cross the T’s and dot the I’s, making sure the very best can be achieved. The famous 80-20 rule applies here as well…80% of the project’s success lays in the last 20% of the implementation. Having a client that appreciates that and gives you the opportunity (like our Xitang client) to have a near free hand in completing the project is very gratifying as a designer.
Design and reality
Every designer should have the opportunity to see his or her design come to fruition to be physically involved to the very end. It is a very educational process and even after nearly 40 years I am amazed how much I learn each time I am on site. The issues you encounter on site help you to better design and anticipate for your next design. Our site visit to Xitang takes place about 1-2 months before the expected opening, a critical time when you still have the opportunity to change or correct things. With an understanding and willing client this is a great opportunity. Through an active Wechat group and constant communication with the project team, we have been kept up to date since our last visit in April, so we pretty much knew what to expect on site and we set on to work our way through the issues from the moment we set foot on site.
A project of this size, stretched over a large area, with many buildings and several floors are a recipe for a lot of physical endurance. Over the past few days I have done more than 20,000 steps/ day, climbed up and down countless stairs and step ladders, got down and dirty from early in the morning till late at night, 15 hours a day, with short meal breaks for lunch and dinner. These are the site marathons, where you try to achieve all you can during your trip. Good advance planning is crucial and we had the complete site team continuously at our disposal as were the programmers, electricians and lighting supplier. They followed us wherever we needed to go. When Grace and I split up to work in parallel the “support team” split up accordingly as well. We even had people carrying our bags for us! Water was brought when we were thirsty.
Site team follow up
We have a great team (the same site team that worked with us on the Yangshuo project) that know us and our way of thinking which helps a lot. They anticipate and understand quickly what you want. Instructions to change or correct lighting issues were executed immediately and on numerous occasions we found the lighting to already be rectified or installed when previously missing, at our next inspection. I cant emphasise enough how critical to the success of a project a supportive and understanding site contractor is! This team shows they are also eager to successfully complete this project and respect us as the expert consultant, never really questioning our judgement other then suggesting possible improvements! We happily understandably put in all the extra hours during our visit!
What did we do?
For those not often going to project sites ( or even for those who do) I am happy to share the typical routines we go through. On arrival we generally first tour the whole site to take stock of the progress and understand what is and what not. It provides us with the base to prioritise our work for the next days. It shows us what is completed, missing or yet to be installed, etc. Then we set out to work our way through area by area, floor by floor.
The most common issue are poorly installed cove lights. No matter how well you document the installation details we always find that we need to adjust these on site mainly because the actual mill work/ installation detail is different then the original drawings and contractors then use their own interpretation to install. We practically had to instruct each and every linear cove light to be re-installed, which the contractor did without a protest and in record time!
Lights missing, wrongly installed or in a “wrong” position are another favourite on the menu 😊. Things change on site due to constraints, unexpected obstructions, last minute change of designs or layouts, etc. Only when you are onsite and can directly discuss with the rest of the team (interior designer, architect, landscaper, electrical engineer, who were all following us!) quick action can be taken to correct of modify. A project is always a moving object…
Last but not least the lighting controls…ooohhh the lighting controls, (sigh 😊). For some reason the programmers always seem totally, inadequately equipped to deal with the requirements of programming the controls. Finding the correct circuit and then being able to dim it seems like a mountain to climb for them at time!
In this project we have the unique integration of a light show. The buildings that surround and face the central courtyard have been designed with an additional layer of coloured RGB dynamic light that will be part of an integrated light show, probably every 30 mins every evening. Our challenge is to integrate these six designated areas both as part of our architectural lighting scheme as well as the light show. DMX controlled RGB lighting mixed with our regular architectural dimmable lighting controls. I don’t need to explain the extra level of complexity (and frustration) that comes along. However, the initial results look magical (see pictures below). It will be a show stopper!
Everyone has an opinion
Having a big team following you also opens up a lot of discussions…its amazing how many people have an opinion when it comes to lighting. Most of all if their “opinion is based on unfinished work! Very little people have the ability to visualise the end result and having to explain that some lights have not yet been installed, not yet been aimed or not yet been programmed can be a frustrating affair!
Part of our work also requires us to walk our site progress through with the “boss”. It is a necessary part of our presence and serves to satisfy their peace of mind that it will all be ok! Explaining yet be done works to the boss is part and parcel of our responsibility, at the end of the day they are investing a lot of money and are anxious to see that it all comes successfully together. Having to clarify the same to every Tom Dick and Harry who hobs around with you is a bit more frustrating, but we take that in our stride, certainly as we are very confident, we have another winner on our hands!
Enjoy your time ahead!
Notice: To all my readers, I will be away for a couple of weeks and will resume my blog by the end of July.
Also, our blog has migrated to a new provider. If you are not able to connect with our blog please follow this link: lighttalk.kldesign.co. For any questions please email us at email@example.com
Singapore – Hong Kong/Zuhai – Bangkok – Singapore
Weekend 25-26 May 2019
It’s one of the busy times of the year. Traditionally we see the periods from April to June and September to November to be seasonal peaks in the amount of work and travelling needed and this year does not seem to be any different. The past two weeks I had our China Cup yacht project and our Bangkok hotel and office projects on my travel list. Both crucial site and progress coordination meetings. I have never understood how some design consultancies can only provide concepts and not be involved in the end game of a project. Your design is as good as the final implementation so if you are not involved in the installation and completion of a project, how can you learn to make your designs better! Every time we have a meeting, every time we coordinate our design and every time we are on a project site to coordinate with the contractor team we learn and can support the installation team with our expertise and guidance. You can never deliver a good concept from behind your desk! You need to understand what is going on in the project team and most of all how the local contractor goes about doing his work. Your design documentation only provides about 80% information, sometimes open to different interpretation you even don’t realise! Only we as the designers know what we wish to achieve as the end result…crucial!
Going to the ship yard, about 1 hours drive from Zhuhai can be arduous. We have done it once flying in through Shenzhen followed by a 4 hour drive south, but flying in through Hong Kong and then taking the ferry directly from the airport to Zhuhai seems to be the most efficient way with more flight options in and out of Hong Kong as well. There is now a new (apparently expensive) option which is to use the new 55 km long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. Maybe next trip…
Our China Cup yacht is making good progress…it was moved from the yard into the water and first sea trials are expected soon. We came to inspect the work progress and make sure everything was being installed as per our design specifications. Specifically, locations of down lights and integrated cove light installations had to be checked. Obstructions in the ceiling (M&E stuff) can mean that down lights are being moved from their original location, but not always in the right direction. Linear cove lights (with a shoddy contractor) have a way of looking shoddy with irregular lighting throws, simply because they are not neatly aligned or installed in-line. Luckily we seem to have a good contractor and that showed with most cove lights looking good.
One of the key issues in a moving object, whether it is a yacht, a train, a plane or a bus is that they are subject to vibrations. Hence installation and fixations are crucial. You don’t just put a driver lose in the ceiling they need to be properly tied up so they don’t start having a life on their own once the yacht start sailing…lighting design in confined spaces like yachts and planes are extra challenging, not only because the quality requirements in consideration of the marine climate conditions, but also because the very limited recess space generally available. We are grateful to have been working with one of the foremost expert marine lighting manufacturers who really delivered! It pays to work with experts! We can’t wait to see this project completed, another award winner in the making!
Dealing with a client in China
There is one thing that many European or Western companies do not understand when dealing with clients in China and that is how to negotiate within the boundaries of their culture. Loss of face is a critical aspect in any relationship and one of our specified manufacturers experienced this first hand. We saw the result on site when we visited. The linear lights for our coves had to be supplied as one complete package and lumpsum price including custom lengths, drivers, etc. It turned out that when everything was delivered some custom length were missing as well as some drivers. The client insisted the balance be delivered without any additional costs. The manufacturer refused claiming their quote had not included all these extra items. The client frustrated and upset with the supplier’s attitude, lost patience and proceeded to rip out all the linear lights and replace them with that of another reputable and more willing supplier! We found the stacks of thrown away linear lights on site. Lesson learned…it was never about the money but about the principle and not loosing face…the manufacturer in question did not understand and now will not be able to list this project as a reference as ALL their lights were taken out! They also lost our confidence…a big price to pay for just a few thousand dollars…!
Our Bangkok client is unique to us in the sense that we are combining the integration of smart infra-structures (our LDoT platform) with our lighting design. The mixed development of two towers has a hotel a corporate office and residential apartments. The guestrooms are being equipped with smart sensors to control the lighting and air-conditioning, two of the biggest contributing energy saving opportunities in a hotel room. Both the client and ourselves are on a learning curve in converting traditional installation approaches towards new wireless opportunities. We are building it up step by step and for now are holding back on the public areas though with an eye on future smart upgrades. The offices are another thing all together, we are putting in a smart infra-structure but data analytics capabilities that will allow us to learn with the client what we can “analyse” and “measure” through our sensors and how we can use the real time and historic data collection to improve the office space…it is an exciting and promising journey we are embarking on.
LDoT – Huawei
One of the key things that is changing our world is that we are moving from hardware specifications to software capabilities as the prime decision maker in any purchase. The recent Huawei ban issued by the US shows us exactly what the impact is. In a recent news article in Singapore it was highlighted that the sales of new and second hand Huawei mobile phone sets has dramatically plunged, nearly 90%! The main reason cited by all potential buyers was the availability of the apps. Huawei runs of the Android platform and without it the device is not much worth…It is not difficult to see that that data platforms that will be able to run on our lighting infrastructure will be a key decision factor in the design, specification and installation of future lighting systems…It just reinforces our belief that our LDoT approach will be the way of the future!
Enjoy your time ahead!
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Nice to see our drawings actually being used!
Sad to see that the linear lights being thrown away…
Singapore – Hanoi – Singapore
Weekend 11-12 May 2019
One thing I seem to manage better is the extent of my travelling. In the past two weeks I had nearly daily conference calls but only one trip, to Hanoi in Vietnam for a kick off meeting with a new client. Not that we are not travelling, it’s just that I personally am travelling with less intensity and more selectively. Considering that I have just reached another milestone age (65!), probably good for my health and stress levels! Managing time and health is becoming of prime importance without letting down our clients. My team has been travelling extensively the last few weeks and the fact the client is happy to deal with them is testimony to their ability to service our clients professionally!
In the age of high-speed connectivity it makes sense to communicate, meet or have progress meetings through conference calls. Over the last 2 weeks I have literally had at least one such CC a day, with even a few days with a two or three. While nothing can replace face to face meetings, conducting international or even intercontinental conference calls makes life so much easier! Most of all it frees up so much time that would otherwise be lost in travelling and even though I nowadays travel comfortably, I never really work well or efficiently in a plane. Most of my CC’s these past weeks have been with our LDoT partners and the ease with which you can share documents and have discussions while seeing each other is a real game changer compared to my early days in my practice.
One of the main take-aways for me these past weeks has been the way our traditional lighting design market is being disrupted. If not for my LDoT start-up activities I would probably never have realised this. But we are literally moving towards the “Kodak moment” for the lighting industry. As lighting designers, we are focussed on our developer-clients, our architect, our other design consultant relationships and our lighting manufacturers and suppliers. How that is changing! Yes, my regular core project activities with KLD very much relies on my existing relationships and our standing in the lighting design industry. Still about 80% of our projects come through these referrals and relationships. However, this is about to be disrupted in a big way by players that previously had nothing to do with lighting, namely the big tech companies. Without giving away our market intelligence and new built big tech relationships, I can share that our lighting design services are already being disrupted and gradually going to be eroded more by these new players!
LDoT services for you
For those of you keen to learn more about the integration of IoT in lighting or in need for support in the integration of IoT into lighting design, we have now opened up our LDoT services to fellow lighting designers. You are welcome to contact me or Ingmar directly on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Guangzhou Light Fair: 9 -11 June
My program for the Guangzhou lighting fair is also firming up. After some further discussions with Messe Frankfurt HK, I will be moderating a panel discussion with a number of experts about the integration of IoT in smart city landscapes. We are still discussing some further fine tuning of the program, but below you can find a the preliminary program of the speaker and panel discussion events.
Finally, after nearly 10 years, I was back in Hanoi for the kick off meeting with a new client. I have been many times to Vietnam over the last couple of years but somehow our projects have focussed around the HCMC area and the coastal resorts. Last time I was there was for the Intercontinental Landmark hotel project (with my previous company). It was good to be back and certainly our client seems to be a pleasure to work with. The lead designer is one my long-time friends with whom I have had the pleasure of doing projects throughout the region. I generally take personal pride in kicking of new projects with our clients, not only to make sure we lay the foundation for a long term relationship but also to make sure we create the proper environment to deliver our services to the desired quality and timelines. Getting the base foundation right at the start is critical for the long-term success of any of our projects. We explain our design process, our deliverables and by that we can manage their expectations right from the start. We establish the communication lines for smooth coordination and follow up…
Hanoi, compared to HCMC seems still to be a sleepy town, there is not the same buzz of noise and traffic jams. Our journeys to an from the airport, the site and hotel was smooth and with a client that values quality himself that was reflected in the way he took care of hosting us, his hospitality, the hotel accommodation and transportation. The exquisite Vietnamese food, and when it came to drinking wine, nothing less than St Emillion Grand Cru!
Even though Vietnam is still considered to be a developing economy, there are clear signs that appreciation of good quality is gaining a lot of traction. If your client asks if brands like FLOS or IGuzzini are ok, I can only look forward to a hopefully appreciative client when we get into specifying our lights!
Enjoy your time ahead!
Housekeeping notice: In the coming weeks (before the end of this month) we will be migrating our blog to another carrier. In principle there should be no interruption or disruption but just in case there is it should be only for a short time. Should you have any issues in accessing the blog please email me at email@example.com
Perth – Singapore
Weekend 27-28 April 2019
After nearly a month in Australia I am back in Singapore. It was an emotional time as I was in Perth for the wedding of Ingmar. I guess as a Dad it is always an emotional moment and it was no different for me. Proud and happy he found the love of his life. Business was obviously affected as we had a big contingent of my Dutch family over in Australia, most of them for the first time and having made such a long trip they all made the best of it visiting taking time out to visit what makes Perth and WA so beautiful. As I write my blog, my brother is still four-wheel driving somewhere in the Outback 😊
The Jewel – Changi
Not be missed on arrival back in Perth was its latest attraction at Changi Airport called the Jewel. Many years it the making it opened officially its doors to the public a week ago and we could not pass up the opportunity to have a quick peak. The vortex rain forest and 40m high waterfall are truly a spectacle for the eye, which I am sure many visitors will enjoy, well done!
While we are very busy with our projects trying to keep up with the tight deadlines, the economy somehow does not seem to match up with payments very slow or delayed beyond reasonable. One of our clients keeps pushing for deliverables and additional work but does not back it up with prompt payments and additional fees. They did ask us to submit our fees for additional work and when we did promptly asked us to resubmit to justify it with a breakdown of the hours. When the hourly rates total came out higher then our proposed lumpsum fees they fumed! They sought we could do it in half the time! But we argued that since they wanted the actual hours we gave it to them. Now they are stuck with our hours 😊 The last payment took nearly a year to collect from them! So now obviously we are holding back on any work or issuance to keep some leverage otherwise we may not even see a payment at the end of the day. The irony is that this client is actually very rich and in a business sector where a bad economy should not really affect them at all.
In general though the RFP’s keep coming in, several a week at the moment, some quite big. But some of the projects that we have been appointed for seem to be holding back with the kick off…not sure if that reflects the current state of the economy in the region…
In pursuit of our LDoT services we are moving more and more into providing smart solutions in our projects. In Perth we are moving to provide one of the first smart residential solutions, sensor ready, Bluetooth ready, voice control ready, wireless control ready. It’s a big step forward and a total change of attitude towards installation practices by the contractor. We are taking both architect and electrical contractor by the hand to educate and guide them about our new connected, wireless world…we are lucky to have lighting suppliers on board that are understanding of what we are trying to achieve, so important!
Our other smart projects in Thailand and Singapore are gathering steam and also offer us the opportunities to explore the collaborations with our LDoT partners and their capabilities. It is a long and tedious road but one we have to take to make sure we can offer our clients the best the smart market currently has to offer!
One of our projects in Malaysia, suddenly came back alive after having been dormant for nearly 2 years…sometimes you wonder…we had been paid up to services provided, but it is always a bit of a disappointment if the project goes in a holding pattern after you put in so much effort in the design. This project grinded to a hold after tender… assumingly for money reasons. Now we have been asked to restart the tender process, but obviously the lighting fixtures that we specified nearly 3 years ago will need to be revisited as well as the suppliers they came from (is the agent still the same? Etc.) The client acknowledges that our fees will need to be reassessed and re-proposed for the additional work…I guess that sounds re-assuring. Another project in the Maldives is in a similar situation and is expected to restart as well following some re-start meetings held recently. The main thing is that in this fast-evolving age of technology anything specified longer than 1-2 years ago probably need a total review! We don’t mind the additional work 😊
While we all dream of having a team for the long run, staff movements are inevitable. This week we saw Cindy leave our team to return to her native Korea to be with her family. We are sad to see her go but understand her wish to return. As we are a close-knit family it is a bit like one of your children grow up and leave the house…we wish her all the best and thank her for the valuable contributions she has given the team and the unwavering efforts in representing the company to our clients. At the same time, we welcome Mazlina as a new member of the team!
Jordan, who moved to Lisbon, remains a full member of our team and is currently in the process in setting up our European desk. We look forward to further developing our business in Europe. The initial feedback is very promising!
Dutch King Day
Finally the Netherlands celebrated the birthday of King Willem Alexander this week with events and official embassy receptions organised across the world. I attended the one in Singapore held at the Hollandse Club, besides some useful networking mainly to enjoy Dutch “delicacies” like “bitter ballen”, “poffertjes”, “Dutch cheese”, “haring” and our very own Heineken 😊
Enjoy the time ahead!
Singapore – Melbourne – Perth
Weekend 6-7 April 2019
Once you let go of discipline, its easy to lose track of what your goals are…Settling down to write my blog I realise that my last blog was 3 weeks ago, not my intended 2 weeks! It just shows that my mind is gradually moving away from blogging. Changes in the media environment I have been active in such as Lighting Magazine, the Via-Verlag PLD’s website and other media interests, have now given me clear direction on what I will be focussing on over the next year. So here is the deal…
Light Talk Blog
I intend to continue blogging till PLDC 2019 in Rotterdam, but as you have already noticed, the frequency maybe unreliable. The target is twice a month…I may miss a beat or two but I will endeavour to maintain that target. By the end of the year I hope others in my team will take over the blog as it is a really good tool to reflect on what was and what happened. You take a step back and take a helicopter view on what the events were and your or other peoples involvements in that. As always it is not about personal finger pointing or victory claiming, it is about the generic experience, the successes, the challenges and the failures, all from which we can learn to improve ourselves.
Light Talk Video
My next project is already well underway as reported in previous blogs. The Light Talk live chats have and are being edited for publication and if all goes well they will be online very soon (it always takes longer then you think with day to day priorities taking precedence…).
Light Talk Books
Light Talk 2, is also well under way and should see the day light in Q3 this year with the intention to have copies available at PLDC 2019 in Rotterdam. I am further working on Light Talk 3 (provisional working title) a book or subscription series that will be more educational in nature…still exploring the format that this will be made available in as with todays social media, there is strong shift towards Podcasts or YouTube materials…
My week in Singapore saw the usual busy meetings, specifically as we are getting more and more projects in Singapore. We have always been fairly content having minimal project exposure in Singapore as local projects generally put a heavy strain on our man power because of the “over the top” demand for presence in regular coordination meetings. After the success of some of our local projects (e.g. Atlas Bar etc.) our local projects have no tripled and with it demand to attend coordination meetings and workshops. One of those was with Tony Chi for the renovation of the Ritz Carlton, a very detailed and very intense two-day workshop and coordination meeting. Further meetings for Atlas 2 and another high-end restaurant kept me fairly busy. And these are just those projects I am personally involved with, the team luckily flying the flag in other projects.
LDoT partner portal
LDoT meetings also keep producing a steady flow of activities, from face to face meetings with key real estate developers, project managers and IT facilities managers in Singapore to ongoing conference calls with some of our existing partners and explorative chats with potential new partners, resulting in a few more NDA’s signed. We intend to create a portal platform for our partners on our LDoT website soon.
Strangely enough in all those years I had never had the opportunity to visit Melbourne, so the inaugural Light Space Design Lighting Design Forum I attended as invited speaker on the 27th March provided me with the opportunity to visit this iconic city. Staying in a cosy little boutique hotel on Flinders Street I was uniquely located to explore the city in the evening hours. Federation Square, Flinders Train Station and Flinders Lane all with easy walking distance (see some mood pictures below).
Basing myself on the feedback received the event itself was by all accounts highly successful. High class speakers, great subjects and a very well contained and moderated program resulted in a full house from start to finish. It is rare to see attendees (certainly for those living and with offices in the city) stay from morning 9am till the closing networking event at 7pm. It just shows the strength and attraction of the program, I was duly impressed…Specifically the format where speakers were given a TED style directive to keep the presentations short and sweet between 15to 30 mins max. excellent moderating kept the program on the dot and highly attractive for all participants. Specifically the speed talks at the end where sponsors and requesting participants were given the floor for a max 3 min presentation was highly interesting. The event concluded with a networking session with drinks and canapes allowing everyone to find down and chat with whom ever you still wanted to catch up with or still had questions to clarify…great inaugural event.
I took the opportunity the next day to catch up with some that I had met during the event before flying off to
We also received some further awards, this time from Lux Magazine, who awarded KLD Architectural Lighting Designer of the Year Award 2019 for Asia Pacific. Not sure about the value of the award and how they came to award the title as nowadays issuing awards has become a commercial activity…
Enjoy your time ahead…
Singapore – Bangkok – Udaipur – Singapore
Weekend 16-17 March 2019
A busy 2 weeks with project travel to Thailand and India. This is the busy season that generally gathers steam after Chinese New Year and this year is not different. Ongoing projects getting back into action and new projects kicking off. Besides myself other are also travelling to attend to project meetings, review mock ups or simply attend site coordination meetings. The common theme for most of our projects seem to be the dollars and cents…budget, budget and budget! Quality is still at the top of the list however we are challenged to the max to reduce costs and come up with value-engineered solutions that allows to achieve more with less!
My trip to Thailand was typically one of those…meeting with the team for our Maldives resort at the operator’s Bangkok office with the sole purpose to try and match the clients (seemingly insufficient) budget with trying to achieve the operators brand standards. The interior designers original design looked stunning and was already a clever cost-efficient concept, so coming up with an even further reduced cost solution in the two-day workshop was challenging to say the least. But when you have all the decision makers in one room it is amazing what one can achieve.
It is of course give and take and at the end we achieved an in principle compromise solution that about bridged the requirements of the operator, the design concept of the specialists consultants and the owners. We are still expecting a few tweaks after final feedback from all, but we left with the confident feeling that we had a workable outcome to move the project further to achieve our end of the year target opening. I am certainly confident that we will manage to deliver our lighting concept without compromising on quality…
In between the trips we had a big VE meeting for one of our Singapore projects, a new to open 5-star roof top restaurant/bar in Marina Bay. The interior design concept is absolutely stunning and the venue will be on the must go places once it opens later this year, just like our Atlas Bar. However stunning the design, there still needs to be financial sense in any design. Considering that bars and restaurants have a “shelf life” of only 5 to 8 years, any investment must have some realistic ROI for its owners.
So, when the main decorative (illuminated) feature of the venue initially came out to more than 1 Million dollars (and the whole project a multiple of that), it was clear that something needed to be done to make sure we would end up with a solution that made financial sense…with the clock ticking on the time line to deliver the project, frantic meetings were held throughout the last 2 weeks to find a solution, again putting the brains of the top consultants decision makers together.
As I write this blog we believe we have found a solution that will keep the original design intent intact while bringing down the costs to within a budget acceptable to the client. We are doing some a final visual mock ups early this week to confirm, but here also I am confident we will get there…
The trip to Udaipur sounds as exotic as it was in reality. After nearly two years of design work we finally went to site for a full-blown site coordination meeting and mock up site review. The trip to the site is a journey by itself. After a transit through Delhi and a 1hr+ flight to Udaipur it takes a car ride through the mountainous country side to finally arrive at one of the many reservoir lakes Udaipur is known for. The boat ride to the island where our “palace” resort is situated adds to the magic future guests will experience on arrival.
When completed the (only 150 or so suites) Raffles Hotel Udaipur will look like a palace that has been there for centuries even though it was just build…I have always had great admiration for architects and designers who can create building concepts out of nothing, just by the force of their imagination! This is one of those…
We reviewed the mock up suites, the general building and landscape progress and even though the budget seems to be matching the aspirations of both owners and designers, we are still all very much aware that the sky is not the limit and everyone is very much on his very best to make sure we think moneywise but not pound foolish…the client is very much aware that making sure the consultant team’s and operator’s key persons are together assures we can make cost efficient and design wise decisions…We are aiming for a soft opening end of this year…I can’t wait!
I guess no blog without some update about our LDoT activities… Earlier in the week we had a major meeting with one of our pilot project clients for which we had brought in Gooee, our LDoT partner in this project. Key part of this project is to create a system integration team in Singapore that can make sure we have the support and knowledge team in place to service the installation, integration and content management. We allocated a training workshop day to initiate the Singapore team to the workings and programming of the Gooee platform and ecosystem. Still much to learn, integrating data platforms and lighting!
Light Talk is also a busy platform and activity for me. Last week I met with the publisher of Lighting Today magazine to discuss my upcoming book, (working title: Light Talk 2) a compilation of my more than 15 years of writing my Light Talk columns (since 2003!). We are currently working on the artwork and the aim is to have it going for print by middle of this year… As it happens it also becomes an appropriate project as the magazine is going fully digital by next year. The book will also be a great memento looking back on the more than 15 years the magazine has been in print…
Also for my Light Talk video’s, I took the opportunity of having both Jan Kemeling and Mark Talent (Gooee’s COO and CTO) in Singapore to record an another edition of my Light Talk conversations. Once edited it will be featured on our Youtube channel and from next year onwards we will also provide access through Lighting Today’s digital edition of the magazine on their website. Look out for it!
Enjoy the week ahead!
LDoT – Light Talk