Women in Lighting: Pakistani Ambassadors Ana Tanveer and Momena Saleem

2019 has been a wonderful year for lighting designers Ana Tanveer and Momena Saleem. Pakistan’s Women in Lighting ambassadors are helping to raise the profile of women – and the lighting design profession at large – through a series of educational workshops and philanthropic design projects in Pakistan.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Ana and Momena during our time studying Lighting Design and LED Technology at the Politecnico Di Milano in Italy. Since graduating with flying colours in 2018, the ladies have been extremely prolific working on various international projects both as a duo and individually with award-winning studios in Turkey and Sweden. Who better to kick off warmwhite’s series of interviews than with Pakistan’s most promising young lighting talents?

Ana and Momena, perhaps you can tell our readers how you guys met? When did you start collaborating professionally?

Momena: That’s a very interesting question. We’ve known each other for eight years now. We both studied our bachelors in interior design and started our career working together as interior designers. After graduating from our masters in lighting design, we decided to continue our collaboration as lighting designers. 

Can you explain a little about your working relationship?

Ana: We’ve definitely developed some kind of synergy through all these years of collaboration! Throughout the years, we’ve also developed strong communication skills for business development, strategic marketing and client relationship building. Besides this, we both developed a strong compatibility and flexibility to adapt new environment, values and cultures.

Momena: We both ultimately share the same passion to provide tangible value through design. In 2014, Ana’s brother Danial Tanveer passed away at the age of 16 due to cardiomyopathy. As a result, we developed a strong desire to work in a philanthropic way, which has led to us working on several projects for charity.

Perhaps you can enlighten our readers as to the current state of the lighting design profession in Pakistan?

Momena: In Pakistan, architects, interior designers, structural and electrical engineers and lighting technicians are involved in all kinds of high-end projects. However, the need for a dedicated lighting designer has yet to be seen, and as a result there is a great deal of work to be done to promote the status of the lighting design profession. Being the first ever certified lighting designers in Pakistan, we feel that we are in an ideal position to create awareness about light and lighting design as an independent profession.

Ana: A client or project designer may be unaware of the advantages an independent lighting consultant can bring to today’s design and construction processes. For instance, what is the difference between the services provided by a lighting professional versus an electrical engineer or interior designer? The electrical engineer specified lighting because it was part of the electrical system, and the interior designer selected decorative lighting equipment. So these are all issues which we – and other lighting designers in other less developed countries – are facing.

Can you tell us about how you are trying to promote the development of the industry in Pakistan through your education programme?

Momena: Our goal is to teach lighting design to the next generation of students within the country. We are in contact with top universities in Pakistan and their departments for architecture, interior design and electrical engineering. In the future, we plan to invite international professors to our educational workshops. And eventually, we’d like to take students to international lighting design universities for professional classes by professors.

Ana: Besides education, we are also in contact with the government of Pakistan regarding lighting for roads and highways. We’re also in talks to create a standard of lighting for commercial interior & exterior projects.

In 2019, you became ambassadors for the ‘Women in Lighting’ collaborative. How did this come about, and what are your plans for this?

Ana: After discovering the platform was lacking an ambassador from Pakistan, we contacted Sharon Stammers from Light Collective. Through the support of women in lighting we aim to redefine lighting design education through our programme of workshops. We hope to raise awareness of women in lighting design education in Pakistan and worldwide.

You’ve described your approach to lighting as ‘make it simple but significant’. What do you mean by this exactly?

Momena: We as lighting designers love light’s ability to transform space, mood and atmosphere. We believe that we should be cautious about the amount of light which we incorporate into any given space. Ultimately, having the right quality of light is what matters in a space, and light should, of course, be user-specific.

At Light Middle East, you unveiled a permanent lighting installation. Can you tell us about this?

Ana: We worked with a team of university students to light up an underprivileged area of Lahore in Pakistan, highlighting the architecture of the walled city. We used light as a wonderful expression of communication and interaction with the diverse cultures and religions within the neighbourhood. This is the first ever light installation completed in Pakistan to deal with the concept of placing humanity above religion, sex and race. We achieved this through light.

What other lighting projects have you been involved with?

Ana: Being philanthropists, we are also developing further practical research on lighting for autistic people; studying the effect of light, colour and contrast on their sensory abilities. We feel that there is a lot of scope here to integrate our research into designing for space, interior and lighting. With further research on the topic, we hope to transform the design index strategies to be followed by future lighting designers when designing inclusive environments within commercial interiors.

Momena: In designing with autism in mind, we believe that there could also be a number of approaches which could be of benefit to the general population at large. In January, we were invited to present this topic “Big Questions, Little Answers – Lighting for Autistic people” at PLDC conference held in Berlin, Germany.

What are your biggest influences in terms of design?

Momena: I have always been inspired by the work of great architect Tadao Ando and Louis Kahn. Louis Kahn was not only a great architect but also a master with regards to his use of natural light. He used light not merely as a surface effect but as primary means of shaping space.

Ana: My influence is my father and I believe in doing something which is for all and benefits humanity in any way. And in terms of lighting in particular, I look up to Olafur Eliasson and Daan Roosegarde. 

Ana Tanveer and Momena Saleem, warmwhite wishes you every success for the future!

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