My favorite project is the Chicago Riverwalk. I worked on this project from 2011 to 2016. The transformation of the Riverwalk from a marshy stream to a first-class recreational amenity is something to be very proud of, and it’s a project locals and visitors alike get to enjoy.
The location of this project is along the main branch of the Chicago River in the vicinity of the shopping, entertainment and financial districts, and intercepts Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.” The Riverwalk is comprised of six differently themed “rooms”—the Boardwalk, Cove, Jetty, Marina Plaza, River Theater and Water Plaza—each with a unique look.
I picked this project due to its historic uniqueness and its meaningful contribution to the city. While the river was first an engineered channel to support the industrial transformation of the city, over the last decade, the Riverwalk project is an initiative to reclaim the river for the ecological, recreational and economic benefit of the city.
Another reason I picked this project is because it was technically challenging—the design team had to work within a tight, permit-mandated, 25-ft wide build-out area located in a flooding zone. [Because of this] specifying fixtures was the project’s biggest challenge. The lighting design called for fixtures to be robust, rated for submersible applications, low-maintenance, and well-integrated into the architecture, while also being easily accessible for maintenance. Additionally, the city wanted to minimize the number of different fixture types and reduce energy consumption. This prompted fixture consistency from “room” to “room” and the specification of high-efficacy luminaires to deliver appropriate illumination levels for safety and comfort. These criteria were met without sacrificing the thematic and aesthetic aspects of the design.
The biggest lesson I learned is that even with IP68-rated submersible fixtures, extreme cold and flooding zones will eventually lead to water penetration, and fixtures will need to be replaced.
The Holts Café, serving lunch and dinner within Holt Renfrew in Toronto, is the project that helped me transition into the role of a project manager. I overlooked this project from start to finish, and it was one of the most demanding projects in terms of deliverables and design requirements. The challenge was designing a dual-color LED lighting concept using large, stretched-fabric ceiling features which supported brighter day-lit conditions at lunchtime (offering the impression of a bright, diffused skylight) and transitioned to a dimmer, more intimate setting for dinner (with a candle-lit effect). We started working on it in June 2018 and it officially opened in April 2020.
However, the NHL Store [LD+A, March 2022] located in Hudson Yards in New York City will always be special to me, as that was the first project I worked on after I received my promotion at Cooley Monato Studio. There are always mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness and responsibility when you are trusted with designing and managing your first project.
[In each of these projects] we got to explore new lighting details, which allows us to apply them (with some alterations) into other projects. On a personal level, both projects taught me what goes into managing a project and the importance of coordination with other disciplines. Finally, the biggest joy [of being a lighting designer] is when you get to occupy and experience the space you helped design—it always reminds me of why we do what we do.
The lighting of the downtown area of Treviglio in Bergamo, Italy, is the first large lighting design project we created and implemented. The project stretched from 2003 to 2007. It started with the lighting master plan of the municipality area, then with the design and the implementation of a section in the downtown area.
The project included street, pedestrian, architectural, temporary and landscape lighting; the design team included an electrical engineering office along with my office as lighting consultants. Master plans [usually] belonged to the engineer’s world, but in that call for entries, architectural lighting, visual comfort and hierarchy were requested. The public administration and the mayor quickly understood that our proposal was larger than what they had planned, but was what they needed. For me, it was such a positive experience the way [the administration] fully trusted us and enjoyed working with us. Initially, the strongest doubts came from our team partners—the engineers who thought that our proposal was too daring and too idealistic. But, it wasn’t. Approaching the project at city level, in a coherent way, instead of solving temporary issues [proved to be the right] solution.
Urban lighting involves so much, and it has social and economic values, though [our strongest focus] is the social value. That our work greatly impacts the way people live is so important and [it feels like] such a success when our message is understood and implemented. I have learned that even though conditions might seem unfavorable, one always needs to try to prove that competence and professionalism can solve [everything].
The city is small, but beautiful and full of history, culture and good food. For years I took colleagues to Treviglio to enjoy the inviting ambience. Often, someone would say “hi” to me and tell me Treviglio had become even more enjoyable!
Picking your favorite project is like picking your favorite child. I’ve tried to narrow the list down to projects from the last seven years with Granville McAnear Lighting Design (GMLD) and to one that is complete and open. Thus, the Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal [LD+A, June 2020] is my current favorite.
GMLD was introduced to the project in 2016 by architect Philip Hazan of Montreal. I picked this project [because] first, I’ve always loved the culture and vibe of Montreal. Additionally, our entire business model is based on relationships. Having the chance to tackle a monumental project in Hazan’s hometown was a thrilling proposition; when you have a great working relationship, it brings a certain confidence and joy to the project. Lastly, the majority of our work is beach hotels and resorts, so working on something quite the opposite was a unique opportunity for us.
With Montreal being so cloudy and dark most of the winter, it was imperative that fenestration and light during the day play a significant role. The owner stressed that he didn’t want the hotel to feel dreary in the day, and that it had to feel sexy and romantic at night. Through the use of layers of illumination and warm-dimming light sources, we were able to achieve this balance of seemingly opposing scenarios. Aside from [considering] the expected luxury and sophistication of a Four Seasons, considering the outside environment was the other overarching theme of the design effort.
Our scope included the exterior façades, guestrooms and suites, private residences, public spaces, the spa and restaurants. When the hotel opened in 2019, it was obvious that the three years of work and travel had paid off. It’s always exhilarating to see everything come together and witness how the lighting makes a space.