What is your first memory of light?
I have two distinct early memories. One was sitting in a car with my grandfather when I was a child and him reciting the old saying “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight”. I was amazed that people could tell things from the colour of the sky. Also, I spent a large part of my childhood in the Arabian Gulf and I remember the contrast between the dim northern light of a British winter and the harsh, unrelenting sunlight of the Gulf. I think that contrast has had a deep effect on my approach to lighting.
How did you get involved with light and why did you become a lighting designer?
I was training as an architect in Edinburgh in the mid-1980s when I met my now business partner Jonathan Speirs, who was working in architectural lighting with Lighting Design Partnership. Having started out as a painter before falling into architecture because it was deemed a “proper profession,” I was fascinated by the potential to combine my passions for light, colour and the built form - and to have some fun at the same time.
What is your best personal experience of architectural lighting?
Embarrassingly, my best personal experiences of light are generally related to daylight. Which isn’t to say there is anything intrinsically wrong with artificial lighting, and clearly there have been some excellent schemes – some of which have hopefully been designed by us. I turn, in architecture, towards the divine light of great Gothic cathedrals, the quiet, private light of domestic architecture and the incredible effect of natural light in modern buildings by masters such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel – the list goes on.