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Agent perspective on lighting design

An important, yet often overlooked, player in any lighting design project is the lighting sales agent. Lighting agents operate as a bridge between designer and manufacturer. Their expertise and mediation help manufacturers sell more of their product while giving designers the lighting solution they envision.

Eaton Lighting Division talked with Richard Agriss of Enterprise Lighting Sales to get his take on creative lighting design solutions and how lighting agents support the process. Agriss collaborates with designers on projects across the globe from New York to China to Dubai.

What is a typical day for you? 

  • Conversation. I deal primarily with lighting designers and lighting consultants, a subgroup among architects who deal with lighting in architecture. I show them products I represent that may suit the project(s) they are working on.
  • Resource. I serve as an educational resource for these consultants. They need answers to technical and aesthetic questions like how the product fits into the building’s construction and how to get power to the fixture.
  • Liaison. I am the bridge from designer to manufacturer. Often standard products don’t work for the project, meaning I need to consult the manufacturer to modify it for the designer’s needs. I negotiate with the designer and manufacturer until we find a solution that’s acceptable to both parties.

Tell me about a particularly memorable lighting project and what made it special.

I loved working on the Lincoln Square Synagogue project in New York. It was a challenging yet fascinating process, and when it all came together, winning accolades like the IALD Radiance Award, it was a special, fulfilling moment. It made all the time and effort behind the scenes worth it. It’s an absolutely gorgeous building with an exterior illuminated glass curtain wall and intricate interior.

There are two schools of lighting design thought. Some designers gravitate toward flashy, substantial, beautiful fixtures – sometimes the lights even change colors. This school of thought is perfect for places like high-end retail, restaurants, or hotels where you want to make a loud impact. However in jobs like this one, you want the opposite. You want to walk in and say, ‘Wow, this lighting is beautiful, but I can’t tell where the lighting is coming from.’ We wanted the lighting to subtly enhance the architecture while creating a welcoming, awe-inspiring environment for visitors.

Tell me about the creative process for the Lincoln Square Synagogue project. Was it complex?

The first step in any creative process is to listen and ideate with all parties. Tillotson Design Associates had a straightforward, thoughtful vision for the Synagogue. They knew they wanted the iO LED product, because they knew it would perform well when installed. Once I understood the designers’ vision, it was the installation process that made the project tricky. 

  1. The front of the building is a glass curtain wall supported by metal membranes running in every direction. The iO fixtures, which were 12 inches long, required 16 inches between vertical support membranes. When we devised mockups, it worked perfectly. However, when the time came to install, we had to invent special mounting brackets so the fixtures could be securely attached to the support membrane. It certainly required collaboration and innovation.
  2. The next obstacle we faced was the remote drivers. These fixtures were installed on the sides of five stories of glass and required remote power supply. These 60 drivers powered 550 fixtures. We ran wires 20 to 40 feet through each of the fixtures to create a daisy chain.
  3. When the project went on hold for 18 months, we faced a technology hurdle. LED technology is constantly evolving. Because the fixture and power ratio changed, the wiring details had to be reworked.

Because of its complexity, it wasn’t easy, but after the project was completed, we stood back in awe. Five undulating glass ribbons shone from top to bottom with linear LEDs. Each glass facet illuminated an interlayer of sheer, bronze-colored, woven and pleated fabric, as well as the white translucent dot frit pattern on the interior light. At the base, a white acrylic diffuser sheltered the LEDs while wiring for the 500-plus fixtures.

It was an honor to be part of the Lincoln Square Synagogue project with Tillotson Design Associates. The lighting process, while challenging, was a rewarding, educational journey. It was truly a privilege to work on a project of this magnitude.