December 2018

Christopher Marta, MIES
L'Observatoire International

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
By chance actually. I was recruited to become L'Observatoire's Director in late 2016 and have fallen in love with lighting design over my tenure in that role. I have discovered that lighting is a precarious balance between artistry and technology and that it takes a particular kind of eye to see light not only for it can do but also what it can be. Forever evolving and changing, almost fluid. As technology changes so does its application. I was educated and trained as an architect at the University of Waterloo in the late nineties and lighting was not part of the curriculum. As such my exposure and interaction with light was limited in breadth and scope. I understood light, as in sunlight, as an inevitable natural phenomenon to be accounted for and controlled, in so far as it could be. I did not perceive of light as that ethereal almost transcendental element that in the best of applications provides not only an extension of architecture and space beyond its natural daily cycle, but also serves to reveal an "otherness." Lighting can be a tool with which to manipulate and interpret spaces and materials. It can reveal details and textures and imbue that which it touches with a complexity almost molecular. Physics tells us that light reveals the world around us. The fullness of what this means is what I hope to remember in my work.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I was invited to be a judge for the Lumen awards and I accepted, not really knowing what it would entail, or reveal, for that matter. I found the judging process itself to be very intricate and detailed. L’Observatoire International has had the privilege of submitting many entries over the years but being on the other side of the desk was truly an eye-opening experience. I had not realized, at least not fully, the extent to which each submission is reviewed, discussed, and ultimately judged. The judging committee members work particularly hard to clearly delineate the scope and work of the judges. I found they promoted a great balance between thoroughness, fairness and impartiality. I am an architect by training and experience and have only recently joined the lighting design industry. What I discovered is a group of close knit and dedicated professionals that are simply unique in the way they see the world. They span the full spectrum too, from light purist to engineer, theatrical to spatial, decorative to integrated, literally. They represent what is ultimately a very small and intimate community, one that is permeated by a common sense of responsibility and service to both the work and the audience experience of it. Not so usual this innate balance, but very appealing, at least to me. And so, I sought more, and found it in the Illuminating Engineer Society.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
Complex, if I am to be succinct on the matter.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
To be the impermeable substructure that supports, connects and ultimately invigorates us all in our day to day practice. To serve as the connecting thread that offers the opportunity to learn, share and recognize one another and the work we produce. I can think of no more valuable purpose than this. In this function, and with this backdrop to our day to day, we can be unimpeded in the pursuit, and achievement of, beautiful and innovative work.