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SOURCE Awards winner: Hazel Chang

Hazel Chang is a two-time SOURCE Award winner. She was honored in 2014 for her "Light the Carnivore Restaurant on Fire!" project and in 2015 for her “REI’s Angular Outlook” design while she was an undergraduate student at Appalachian State University.

Eaton’s Lighting Division caught up with Chang to learn more about her “Light the Carnivore Restaurant on Fire!” design, and how winning the award two times affected her career path.

What was it like winning a SOURCE Award?

I honestly didn't think I would win. At the time, no students from my school, Appalachian State, had ever submitted an entry for Eaton’s SOURCE Awards contest. It was an exciting experience.

Tell us about your award-winning lighting design.

“Light the Carnivore Restaurant on Fire,” the project I submitted for the SOURCE Awards in 2014, came out of a global studio that I took in the fall of my junior year. This studio pairs students with global clients. My Nairobi, Kenya-based client was working with an interior design firm hired to redesign the Carnivore Nairobi restaurant.

When I was doing research, I looked for something that tied all of the restaurant’s elements together. I came up with the concept of fire for the heart of my design. Carnivore Nairobi has a logo composed of flame imagery and is a barbecue restaurant; they grill over a fire pit in the center of the restaurant. They take pride in their main cuisine, which consists of barbecued meats served on large swords.

I wanted my lighting design to embody fire’s central role in the restaurant, and I wanted LEDs and other lighting fixtures to create an engaging environment that could turn eating into an experience to remember.

Community was also an important element of my design. I looked at the tribes and cultural influences of Kenya to help fit the design into the environment. Kenyan tribes and communities commonly gather around a fire pit, and the fire’s warmth is a focal point in the community.

I used that as an aesthetic launch pad to create something in the lighting that resembled fire. Starting at the outside of the restaurant, I used in-ground LED Boca fixtures with alternating red and orange lamps to accent the columns. For interior lighting, I used LED fixtures with DMX technology that had been programmed to make the lights flicker from orange-yellow to red. To create a warm ambient glow, I used MR16 recessed downlights for general lighting in the space.

Overall, I wanted the lighting design to create a warm, inviting environment as well as a fiery experience that enhances the food and the restaurant’s sense of community.

You were a student winner. What did you study?

I attended Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in interior design in 2015, and I am now pursuing a master’s degree.

What inspired you to pursue interior design? Do you specialize in a particular aspect of interior design? 

When I first started college, I don't think I fully understood the scope of interior design. I thought it was the same thing as interior decorating. A year or less into my college career, I gained a deep understanding and grew to love it. Interior design is a functional art form that combines technical skills with aesthetics.

The summer after my freshman year, a friend was in a car wreck that caused him to become paralyzed. I was asked to design a handicap ramp and a roll-in shower. This made me think about a new aspect of design accessibility. Design for special populations was something I had not previously considered. While I was an undergraduate student, my knowledge of design for special populations grew into realizing that lighting can play a big part in impacting those with physical and mental disabilities. My senior capstone project focused on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how design can help them have a better quality of life.

The Source Awards competition helped open my eyes to the lighting design world and made me want to pursue it as part of my career.

What role does lighting play in design? How does it transform a space?

Lighting is often treated as an afterthought, but it should be one of the first things considered when designing a building. Lighting can completely transform a space. It's sad that many people only realize lighting when it's bad. When it's good or properly executed, it's completely ignored. If the lighting wasn't there, the space would be completely different.

How has winning a SOURCE Award changed your future plans? What's next for you?

Before the contest, I did not have much experience in the world of lighting design. The SOURCE Awards helped me become more interested in lighting, and I now incorporate lighting into all of my projects. After I finished college, I worked at an architectural and residential firm in Charlotte. My boss would refer to me as the lighting expert because I won two SOURCE Awards. For me, this confirmed that I excelled at lighting design.

Today, I am back at Appalachian State University to complete my master's degree in technology with a concentration in sustainable design and construction. Pursuing my master's degree allows me to dive more deeply into what interests me. I hope to develop my thesis around lighting and how it influences special populations. I also want to incorporate design more into construction and lighting. I'm optimistic about the future.

What would you tell someone pursuing interior design and aspiring to win a SOURCE Award?

I would tell them to really look at design in a different way than most people. To think of the unspoken aspects of design and how design influences the world. How it is more than aesthetics. How it influences the user, whether mentally or physically. How important it is to understand that design does much more than create a functional space.

Contestants should have a professional review their application before submitting it. During my global studio, a lighting professional critiqued our projects. No matter where you are in your journey, get as much feedback as you can, push to do your best, and think outside of the box.

The SOURCE Awards competition, established in 1977, focuses on furthering the understanding, knowledge and function of lighting as a primary element in design. Designed to recognize and honor the bright future of the lighting design industry, the awards are part of Eaton’s commitment to building the pipeline of lighting design talent.

The SOURCE Awards are open to students who use Eaton’s lighting fixtures and controls products in a conceptual interior or exterior lighting design. University students studying architecture, design, engineering or related disciplines are invited to enter. Enter Now