Brick & Wonder member Jackson Ning is President and one of six Principals at Kugler Ning Lighting. Though he studied Economics, it was in his spare time working on his university’s theater productions that Ning first came to understand the power of lighting. “In theater, lighting is one of the many components used to help tell a story. The combination of a capable lighting fixture, a slide dimmer, shutters, and a handful of accessories can create a mood, transport the imagination and spark emotion,” Ning said.
Now, Ning’s lighting design is recognized on the national stage: he received the 2016 National IES Award for his work on One Hotel South Beach, Miami, FL and the IESNYC 2015 Award for the McKim, Mead & White Library Restoration in New York City. Just this year he received a National IES Award for his work on Time Inc’s headquarters, also in New York.
We’re helping to tell a story and support an overall design narrative.
We asked Ning about his typical involvement in a client project. “My goal is to ensure our clients are receiving the very best of our firm’s creativity on every project. We’re a collaborative office and at least two Principals work together on each project. Sometimes I lead from the front and sometimes I help cultivate the ideas of our diverse and talented staff,” Ning explained.
Architectural lighting has many constraints that don’t apply to theatrical fixtures which can often be moved, adjusted, filtered and change color, often in real time at the hands of a stage technician. “Our tools are more simple, but our task is still the same,” Ning said. “We’re helping to tell a story and support an overall design narrative.”
Kugler Ning Lighting takes on a wide variety of projects including workplace design, hospitality design and some residential design work. “We have a love for the expected, the unexpected, the timeless and for moments of discovery. As the space of the single user shrinks in the workplace, more space is dedicated to experiential and shared amenity space. This convergence lets us use our entire toolbox.”
Though the quality of the firm’s work speaks for itself, communicating the ways in which lighting design can support overall project objectives can prove tricky. Ning explained how he tries to convey design intent. “The language of lighting is not necessarily intuitive. We rely heavily on physical samples, mockups, pictures and inspirational images to communicate our ideas. Setting expectation is so important, so we always seek a common language with our clients.”
The language tends to shift not only between individual projects, but also with broader industry trends as new research evidences the need for new design approaches. For example LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system created by the United States Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design. “We completed the Hearst Tower in 2006,” Ning said, “the first LEED Gold, new office building in New York. By that time, LEED design was being embraced in the corporate world and since then it has pushed down into lifestyle development such as residential and hospitality.”
Now a standard industry benchmark, LEED is supported by newer approaches such as WELL, a design logic focused on human health. “The lighting component of WELL calls for artificial lighting to mimic the stimuli of daylight when daylight is insufficient. This has become possible with color changing LED lighting and controls – albeit expensive and complicated to implement. However, as more businesses adopt this lighting strategy we should see simplification of products and prices come down. Ultimately that will filter into lifestyle and consumer markets - so we can all benefit!”