Corona Interview Series #9: Andrea Carson, Luminum

Andrea Carson is an Italian Architect and Lighting Designer. In 2015 he founded his own lighting design studio, Luminum, based in Milan and Novara, dealing primarily with lighting design and IOT for the cultural heritage and smart cities sector. We spoke to Andrea after he was recently awarded the highly coveted 40under40 award for 2020

Andrea, you must have experienced some seismic changes in recent weeks?

There’s a been a lot of ups and downs for sure. In Italy, we were the first nation in Europe and the hardest hit by Covid-19 after China, and overnight we found ourselves having to reorganise just about everything.

From smart working to building site management and bureaucratic delay due to the closure of public offices, the first few weeks were very difficult. Now we’re trying to organise the work for the next months, and we’re lucky to work principally on historical buildings, which have long term restoration schedules (like the Cathedral of Novara which we started in January).

In Italy, and in particular in the area where we work (Piedmont and Lombardy) since the beginning of March, a big part of business and work activities have been suspended. Our collaborators have been in smart working since then. We had to suspend all construction sites until new provisions.

But we’re confident that we’ll overcome this crisis. We were given a huge boost thanks to being named among the 40under40 in this year’s Lighting Design Awards, a recognition that raised the spirit of the whole team and gave us motivation to restart more resolute than ever.

Which industry customs could, in your opinion, be changed in the wake of the crisis? 

In our sector, more than in many others, there is a close relationship with the construction site, the customer, which often requires more meetings and visits to fully understand the facets of a place where we will design a new project. I do not think that this component can be completely removed, because it is partly intrinsic to our profession, but it can certainly change, thanks to the use of new technologies available on the market.

In this period we are working on several historical buildings, and, unable to leave our homes for the restrictions (in Italy we’ve been in total lockdown since mid-March) is helping us to work on 3D digital models made from laser scanners and drones.

Last year, we started to use these technologies related to BIM to be able to work on complex buildings where there were no reliefs. We’ve found BIM to be a particularly useful instrument to work with the whole team and with our partners on the details that will characterise the project in smart working.

I certainly see the development of new design processes with this kind of technology, also reducing the need for continuous travel, but I am convinced that the need to travel will remain a very strong component of our work. However, i’ll be the first to admit that being able to visit wonderful places is one of my favourite parts of this profession.

For the first time, the regular pattern of trade fairs has been interrupted by the crisis. Could this represent a long term alteration to industry habits?

We will surely see a reduction of the great events and fairs in the short term future, unless we rethink the model and the ways in which they are organised (I think of the high costs of the stands and the logistic costs). We will probably go in the direction of a smaller number of fairs, but of very high quality and more interdisciplinary, able to attract a wider audience and in locations easily accessible from all Europe.

It should not be forgotten that in addition to being a place to see new products, fairs are also events with an important economic spin-off in terms of tourism, whose disappearance can create serious economic damage to the cities that have historically hosted them (For example, the Salone del Mobile in Milan).

Perhaps this is good time to hone in our commitment to a more sustainable way of producing and designing?

I think that a different approach, linked to the themes of the circular economy, will be able to develop a new system which is greener and more sustainable. Surely, for a radical change, we will need the support of public incentives, that they help the companies to evolve to a new model, I think the importance to bring back part of the productions locally where possible, so to reduce the environmental impact of the transportation, or the use of new material. This is obviously a simplification, but processes of this kind, which are still possible, can only be implemented through system projects and national incentives based on strong projects.

Also as designers we have a role, for example trying to encourage the recovery of the abandoned property, on this front we are working with the Italian Foundation “Riusiamo l’Italia” precisely on this topic, studying initiatives in which lighting becomes a starting point for initiatives of recovery and awareness on these issues W

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