November 21, 2019
In this new interview series, Shop Talk, we chat with friends and collaborators of Rich Brilliant Willing about the ideas, discoveries, and inspirations that drive their design process.
Photography by Alison Christiana
Videography by Bone & Gold
Here at Rich Brilliant Willing, it’s no secret that we believe in the power of light to create atmosphere, whether at home or in a professional setting. In workplace environments, the right combination of lighting can set the tone and mood of energy and motivation, create a powerful design statement, or soften an office setting into a more intimate and humanist space.
But lighting is just one element of a designed environment—and our products shine brightest in the company of great collaborators. We recently teamed with SERA Architects, Absolute Resource, and ELCOR Electric to integrate Enlighted senors into our Queue pendant with custom sensor technology to monitor energy use, occupancy, and daylighting for a large-scale tech campus in California.
Carissa Mylin, a senior associate at SERA Architects, shares her thinking behind this extensive project and tells us why well-designed workspaces can make or break the creation of a great idea.
As an architectural designer, how do you perceive light? What role does it play in your approach to interiors?
Our main focus for interiors is to harness natural daylight and use it to the best extent possible: to create unfiltered moments of delight and a connection to the outdoors, all with the control necessary for working environments. When we introduce lighting into an interior, we do it with a great degree of intention and ask ourselves, What is the mood or atmosphere we’re trying to create? How can we strategically introduce light to support a person in, or transport a person into that space?
Light is the lens through which people experience space, so it’s extremely important to get the design of it right. My mark of success for lighting design is that people don’t notice the lighting. It feels right, it helps them relax, focus, or support whatever emotion or experience we’re trying to achieve in a space. People solve some of the world’s biggest problems at work. It’s so important for us as designers to provide these warm and human-scale spaces—lighting plays such a huge part in that.
Tell us a bit about the scale and nature of the tech campus.
The project is comprised of two corporate office buildings connected by a unique outdoor space and café to create a mini-campus that supports the needs and choices of individuals and teams. A big component of this was the amenity spaces included on the campus. Users have their pick of places to work in, in addition to standard office spaces—across both buildings, there are several dozen lounge spaces, daylight courtyards, botanical libraries, cozy nooks to tuck into, and bustling cafes rich in detail.
What set Queue apart from the other linear lighting luminaires you had been considering for the project?
We wanted the primary, open-office spaces to be an extension of those more hospitality-driven spaces, and make it be a place people wanted to go to—instead of an afterthought with the same set of status quo, corporate details. The Queue fixture was a critical component in helping us layer in the richness, warmth, and human-scale details that make these open-office spaces a desirable place for users to go to.
This project also had more unique lighting types than any project that I’ve ever worked on; the clients are monitoring not just energy, but occupancy, and daylighting. We had the unique opportunity of working with the RBW team to take the very well-designed Queue fixture, which comes in a variety of different sizes and lengths, and further customize it with proprietary sensor technology. We were also able to work with the RBW team on finding different ways to align the fixtures and arrange them throughout the space to make them the most efficient that they could be.
How did you first get connected with us?
I first learned of the team through my local rep, Absolute Resource, a group I’ve been working with for 14 years. I don’t recall exactly when I first met Theo, Charles, or Alex, but I do remember realizing that it was the first time ever that I’d had the opportunity to meet the people who were designing and manufacturing the lighting products I was specifying. Most of my experiences with lighting manufacturers are very disconnected from the project. It’s amazing to partner with people who are equally as invested in the success of the project as you are, down to the smallest detail. They want it to be good and they want it to be right.
It’s amazing to partner with people who are equally as invested in the success of the project as you are, down to the smallest detail. They want it to be good and they want it to be right.
What was the most surprising or memorable part of working on this project?
We had an exceptional client who really cares about design. We were given a lot of creative license, and were challenged to innovate and incorporate unique elements into the design. It was challenging in the most rewarding sense and ultimately resulted in a design that was better than what we could have reached without our client’s creative disruption. And I’m using ‘disruption’ here in a positive way; figuring out how to incorporate some of the requests allowed us to really stretch outside of the design box.
This project was a true collaboration, and having that kind of connection with your client as well your design partners resulted in a project that feels amazing—and was also really fun to execute.