Light in Design
We spoke to Richard Bolt, Partner at dpa lighting consultants, about the company at the centre of the lighting design industry
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
It is accurate to say that for many global industries the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a period of uncertainty, instability, and necessary adaptation.
The lighting industry, like several others, has experienced this past year as one of turbulence and challenges, and businesses within the sector have had to evolve and develop new methods of working to sustain their trading positions. But several companies are optimistic.
“The industry is resilient and will continue to seek and explore new and exciting opportunities to maintain the progressive momentum that has built up over many years,” says Richard Bolt, Partner at dpa lighting consultants.
“The medium of ‘light’ both natural and manufactured is so tangible and exciting to work, that it keeps us inspired and drives us forward.”
Bolt has been with the company for over 24 years and joined after gaining an Urban Design Diploma from Oxford Brookes University in 1996.
That year the firm had advertised for a Junior Lighting Designer with architectural experience, and Bolt, fresh out of higher education with a willingness to learn and excel, took the opportunity that presented itself.
“It sounded like an interesting position, so I researched the industry, not knowing anything about it, and found an instant attraction,” he tells us. “My architectural degree tutor had previously advised me to try and find a specialist design discipline within construction, and I quickly realised through the good fortune of discovering dpa, and my now business partner Nick Hoggett, that the lighting industry was it.
“I stumbled into the industry and have never looked back.”
From the outset dpa lighting consultants became an engaging and exciting career path for Bolt to follow. The company, that was originally set up by architect Derek Phillips in 1958, currently has studios in Japan, Dubai, London, Oxfordshire, and Edinburgh, and a team of over 50 individuals who focus on the design aspects of lighting – natural and artificial.
“Our client base spans developers, hotel and spa operators, cruise ship companies, and retailers, to architects, interior designers, landscape architects, environmental consultants, as well as private building and residential clients and colleges,” Bolt explains.
Within the industry, the firm primarily sets itself apart through its collective years of experience. From its beginnings, dpa now stands with an impressive 7,000 completed projects in 80 different countries, and this provides the company and its individuals with an incredible level of technical ability when serving clients’ needs.
The firm’s various teams consistently monitor and communicate all aspects of each project environment and the lighting technology used, be it LED light sources or digital controls, and shares this information to individuals in the practice.
What this achieves is an interconnected commitment to continuous research, debate, and innovation both internally and externally from the company. Combined with the professionalism of dpa’s design team, this ensures that the company’s clients receive the latest and best information and advice available.
“dpa has always been at the forefront of education regarding all aspects of the lighting environment, and this continues today,” Bolt explains. “Our desire and appetite to continually learn and share information has always been important, but perhaps with the current changes in light source technology and environmental legislation it is more important than ever.”
This technical ability and professionalism is showcased in dpa’s many projects, of which the Opus by Omniyat is one. A collaborative project between dpa and world renowned Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), the Opus was completed in 2020 and is home to the new ME Dubai hotel, in the Burj Khalifa district in Dubai (UAE).
“For dpa, the project spanned several years from concept to completion with various interesting challenges to illuminate such a unique and complicated piece of architecture,” Bolt continues.
“The design represents two towers that have converged as one, to a cube with the centre ‘eroded’ to create a stunning and contrasting void. This void is an important volume and canvas for the lighting intervention and solution to the internal ‘skin’ of the building’s void.”
The firm collaborated closely with ZHA and the other team members along with Vexica to develop a unique product to integrate seamlessly into the façade of the void. By day, the building’s façade reflects its surroundings like a monumental, mirrored sculpture; whilst at night, the void is transformed using 5,000 individually controllable 1.5-watt LED points of light providing a sophisticated and dynamic lighting installation. Using DMX lighting control enabled unique tailoring of the content with the LED ‘pixels’ as a creative tool to paint with light across the inner void façade.
In order to achieve the level of expertise that it provides its clients, dpa utilises a range of experienced professionals to broaden the potential of the company.
“The scale of our practice and close working relationship between our studios means we have been able to recruit from a wide variety of backgrounds such as architecture, urban design, interior design, product design, various engineering disciplines, the theatre and so on,” Bolt explains.
“This broad skill base that focuses solely on architectural lighting design provides dpa with an unparalleled human resource and knowledge to deal with the varying challenges each project demands, “We have a team ethos and approach within our organisation, whereby our studios are fully supportive of each other which is immensely important to us.”
This is what sets dpa lighting consultants apart from its competitors in the industry – the ability to utilise varied expertise, collaborative efforts, and communication to better enhanced the fluidity and overall process of client projects.
One factor that drives the success of dpa’s lighting projects is the relationship between the company and its industry supply chain partners. Through positive collaborations with these external businesses, together with its design and wider project teams, dpa is able to achieve the best possible results for its clients.
“It is imperative that we enhance existing relationships as well as nurture potential new ones, as our clients and the projects they ask us to design are the vertebrae of our business simultaneously alongside the dedicated team we are fortunate to have at dpa,” Bolt tells us.
“On top of this, we are reliant on lighting manufacturers to develop and design quality lighting products that act as tools of the trade to enable us to strive towards achieving lit excellence.”
As for the upcoming year, dpa is focusing on both the retention of resource level that was previously established before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, in order to emerge from this period of uncertainty intact, which will be challenging but achievable through effective practice promotion, relationship building and continuing to contribute towards and deliver quality lighting projects.
“We continue to engage with innovative and creative projects particularly within the hospitality sector, whilst recognising a greater diversification into environmental type projects within the UK,” Bolt adds.