20 Questions for 20 years


1. What led you to this industry?

Jonathan, Associate Principal : A desire to make a difference in the architectural world and touch the lives of people I have never met.

Zach, Director of Design, Principal: I fell in love with light and its impact on architecture and people while taking a space and light theory course with Lou Michel at the University of Kansas. After graduating and practicing architecture for several years, I kept being drawn to studying and experimenting with daylight and electric light to create unique spatial experiences. My favorite projects were the ones where I was able to sculpt and shape space with light while enhancing the way people experienced interior and exterior spaces. In 2003, after attending an inspiring lecture by the late Jonathan Speirs of Speirs Major Light Architecture, I made the decision to practice architectural lighting design full time and never looked back.

Brock, Senior Associate: I jumped into lighting design following my career as an Architectural Designer. I’ve always been obsessed with creating environments that are engaging and seek to have an impact on the public. For those of us gifted with the ability of sight, Architectural Lighting Design allows us to influence the way in which people interact with their surroundings and with each other on a conscious and subconscious level.

2. How have you seen the industry change?

Zach: The evolution of the lighting industry is both constant and dynamic. Fluorescent, tungsten, and metal halide shifted to LED, then LED itself evolved from being a niche accent light source to reshaping the global lighting industry as the primary light source for almost every application. These new technologies have brought amazing creative freedom and flexibility for designers, changing how light and form can integrate to create spaces and experiences that we could only imagine 20 years ago.

3. What do you look forward to in 20 years?

Zach: I have great hope that the human race will be more inclusive, tolerant and respectful of each other and our world in 20 years. No matter the technology we have, we will never find the illumination we are looking for if we cannot acknowledge and overcome the darkness that holds us back.

4. Describe your job in five words!

Brock: Navigating challenges while remaining profitable.

Zach: Dynamic, fun, intense, challenging, fulfilling.

5. What's your favorite project you've/Luma's worked on?

Zach: Hands down, our collaboration with Kengo Kuma, Hacker, Walker Macy and PAE on the Portland Japanese Gardens.

Jonathan: I’m too diplomatic to answer that one…they are all my favorites. It’s impossible to choose!

6. What's an interesting challenge from a project?

Zach: The Portland Japanese Gardens was the only project I have ever worked on where the most important lighting design driver was the visibility of the moon during the annual Moon Viewing Festival.

7. What gets you up in the morning?

Jonathan: The need to get to the gym by 6:00 am.

Zach: Aside from my dog? It is the people I am privileged to collaborate with. I love what I do. Every day is different and, yes, there are times when it feels like work. But more often than not, what I do is just fun.

8. What do you hope to see for yourself in 20 years?

Brock: A future without emails and 4pm Friday meetings!

9. Who are your favorite designers or architects?

Jonathan: Mies van der Rohe, Irving Gill, Carlo Scarpa, Robert Wilson

Zach: Le Corbusier, Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando, Steven Holl, James Turrell and Louis Kahn have always been at the top of my list but there are so many amazing architects and designers in the world today. I think of Snøhetta, Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels, and too many more to list here, several of whom we have had the honor of collaborating with.

10. In lighting use, what’s your favorite color?

Zach: I absolutely love the pairing of a deep indigo with a saturated dark amber. Color is complex and I love when it elicits emotion.

11. Where do you get inspiration from?

Brock: Human interaction is a great inspiration for me. I truly enjoy engaging with design teams and seeing people come together to overcome challenges.

12. What’s a trick you use to work through a design issue?

Jonathan: Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple, create one memorable moment and let the rest of the design recede; support the big idea.

Brock: Design must be a participatory conversation between the designer and the end user. I subscribe to one of Buckminster Fuller’s mantras in which you focus immensely on the function of a design, but in the end if it is not beautiful, then you have not succeeded. I try to envision the users inhabiting the design and I imagine a dialogue with them in which we try to answer their questions and challenges.

Zach : Three ways!
Nature: I find that few things unclog a design block like a hike through the forests of Oregon.

Past and Present: In Architecture school, I would rely on magazines and hard-cover image collections from great architects, but the internet has become an amazing tool that can flood the mind with images from anywhere in the world, anywhere in time.

My Team: I love working through design challenges with the diverse group of thinkers in our firm. It brings me great joy.

13. What do you do when you are not designing?

Brock: In my spare time I really enjoy building furniture and working with my hands. I’ve recently purchased a house and it has kept me pleasantly busy with various tasks and challenges. Once we are able to get a handle on the COVID pandemic I’d love to return to my life of live music. I miss being in a venue with likeminded people enjoying the well-crafted musical talents of individuals from all walks of life.

14. What’s your top 3 favorite lighting words or phrases (i.e. illumination, spark)?

Zach: Luminous-flux, chiaroscuro, luminesce

15. Who would you choose to eat dinner with if you could pick 3 people?

Brock: Prince, George Carlin and Gertrude Stein

16. What’s your proudest moment (professional and/or personal)?

Jonathan: I am proudest of nurturing the growth and skills of so many wonderful designers.

Zach: Professionally, it is a tie between receiving my architectural license and becoming a principal at PAE/LUMA. Personally, and this is really cliché, but it was the birth of my two boys.

17. What’s your favorite lighting element or technique?

Jonathan: Creating layers of veiled light

18. How does advancing technology affect the lighting industry?

Zach: It requires designers, contractors, architects, lighting reps and manufacturers to constantly educate themselves and adapt. For many years pre-LED the changes in the industry were small or happened over longer periods of time. Our current paradigm sees exponential advances in technology, energy efficiency requirements, sustainable goals and the impact of light on human health. As Ferris Buhler says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

19. Share one interesting fact about or a talent you have.

Jonathan: I make amazing scrambled eggs.

Zach: I can sing baritone, falsetto and bass and have the ability to mimic the voice of Elmo (or Gurgi from The Black Cauldron, depending on who you ask).

20. What advice you would give yourself as a new lighting designer.

Jonathan: Be more patient and don’t worry so much. As Michel de Montaigne said, "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened."

Zach: Work less, spend time with family and friends more, use all of your vacation every year, travel as much as you can and listen more than you talk.