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Innovative transit lighting design wins SOURCE Award

Rachel Fitzgerald, lighting designer and senior associate with RNL, now Stantec, earned an honorable mention for her work in the 40th annual SOURCE Awards. We caught up with Fitzgerald to learn more about her lighting design for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and her advice to other professionals interested in entering this competition hosted by Eaton’s Lighting Division. 

What is the role of lighting design?

Lighting design affects the intangible. It creates mood and space.

My goal as a lighting designer is to integrate lighting into the space of the architecture without detracting from the architecture itself. Lighting fixtures and luminaires can act as an accent but should not be the focal piece of a project like the one we completed for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It’s like when you go out to eat at a nice restaurant. The lighting will create a distinct mood or feeling that’s intangible yet can influence your experience. It can affect your perception of the space and even the food and how you perceive it to look and taste. 

That’s lighting design — making the intangible a subconscious impact on the users of the space.

Can you talk about your award-winning entry?

A sector of our firm focuses on public transit, and we completed the Metro Division 14 Expo Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility project for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). The authority serves as the transportation planner, coordinator, designer, builder and operator for one of the country’s largest, most populous counties.

This facility was specifically designed to optimize efficiency and functionality of rail operations. Our goal was to develop a design that would be safe for workers on-site as well as energy- efficient. By highlighting the rail cars and lines when possible, we created an optimal environment for workers.

This station didn’t just focus on rail operation staff. Commuters’ experience and safety were big concerns, and our lighting design increased visibility for them.

The facility was designed to integrate seamlessly into the neighborhood. It achieved a remarkable level of sustainability while also creating a safe environment. 

What was it like being a part of the SOURCE Awards?

It’s a fun experience. Having your work recognized is always nice. One thing I really enjoyed was attending LIGHTFAIR International and having access to resources I normally wouldn’t. I regularly attend LIGHTFAIR, and as a SOURCE Awards honoree, I was able to attend the keynote ceremony, something I normally wouldn’t have experienced.

The SOURCE Awards led to a great networking opportunity during LIGHTFAIR. I was able to step outside my normal network and engage with other participants and Eaton’s Lighting Division employees.

What motivated you to enter the SOURCE Awards?

We strive to enter award programs that align with the integrity of our work and our values. Eaton’s SOURCE Awards competition has always been a great fit for a number of our projects. This isn’t the first time we’ve entered, so we always look for projects we’re working on that may fit the bill.

We’d like to use the recognition from the SOURCE Awards to promote our projects and our firm.

With the scale of this program, it’s notable to be able to say our project was recognized.

Can you share a little about your professional background?

I majored in architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. I continued my interest in lighting design and have been with RNL, now Stantec, for almost 14 years.

What’s really fun about this industry is being involved with a lot of different designers with specific fields or interests. I can see a project coming together through every stage and am able to work on a variety of project types. 

What advice would you give to other professionals interested in entering the SOURCE Awards competition? 

My biggest piece of advice would be: Great photography is worth the money. Make sure you invest in good photography that highlights the lighting design. Take a look at these photos and see if they tell the story you intended as well as the role of the lighting products you used.


About the SOURCE Awards

The SOURCE Awards competition, established in 1977, is open to all lighting designers, architects, engineers, professional designers and consultants who use Eaton’s lighting fixtures in an interior or exterior design project. Students currently enrolled in any of these disciplines can also enter projects based on conceptual lighting designs utilizing Eaton’s lighting fixtures.

The competition requires the primary and predominant use of any or all of the Eaton’s lighting product lines. It also seeks a creative use of fixtures providing energy-efficient design solutions in addition to standard projects. Projects are judged on the blending of aesthetics, creative achievement and technical performance and the degree to which the lighting met project constraints and design concept goals.

Created to further the understanding, knowledge and function of lighting as a primary element in design, the SOURCE Awards competition has granted more than $600,000 to winners as well as industry-wide recognition for their efforts. Learn more and enter the SOURCE Awards competition.