5 minutes with Ben Luder

Tell us about the importance of lighting in the built environment?

The importance of lighting is often misunderstood and underappreciated. The reality is that light can bring out the beauty of any space or form. Lighting can also make these elements look bad if not done properly. It’s fundamental to how we appreciate various finishes, geometry and materials. It’s also fundamental to what we feel when we view a building, the urban environment and the spaces we live and work in.

All too often I see spaces that are simply lit to the standards, using energy to light spaces that don’t really need direct light, and ‘designs’ that don’t respond to the architecture or people.

Give us an overview of your team, areas of expertise and the range of projects you work on?

The NDYLIGHT team comprises people who studied architecture, interior design, electrical engineering, industrial design and music. It’s a fun, creative and clever team which I feel privileged to work with.

Introduce us to the culture of the lighting industry?

It’s a very special industry due to it being relatively small and the diversity of people in it. Also, the level of passion for light among the people in our industry is always impressive. It’s not uncommon to be catching up with people from all over the world when we attend fairs like Light & Build in Frankfurt, Germany. Most of the people in the industry are fun, innovative, smart and a little wild.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for lighting design right now?

We see huge opportunities in sports with the anticipated stadium developments in Australia. These include preparing for the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, AFL relocation and possible work on the MCG. Lighting can make or break a game or event and getting lighting designers involved early is critical to their success. This is especially important when networking the sports lighting with thematic lighting to create immersive and memorable experiences.

Our multidisciplinary approach puts us in a strong position to work on these projects – we’re experienced in working closely with sustainability consultants and structural, electrical and fire engineers on complex projects, among others.

Why did you choose lighting?

It sort of chose me. I was initially aiming to be a full-time musician and ended up running lighting shows for bands to make ends meet. Through that, I found I really enjoyed playing with light to generate cool effects and shows along with being able to influence the audiences. I then went on to work with architectural light fittings and discovered that lighting design was actually a profession, so I decided that was what I wanted to do.

What’s a lighting myth you’d like to debunk?

There are a few, but probably the main one is that LED luminaires are all energy efficient. Quality and efficacies can vary wildly between luminaires that may be the same size, wattage and aesthetic.

Also, glare from a lot of LED luminaires is a real problem due to them being manufactured to be more compact but with high light outputs.

What do you do outside of work that helps fuel your creativity and commitment to lighting?

I draw a lot of parallels between light and music. Contrast, mood, rhythms and emotive effects exist in both fields. Travelling helps too.

Which designer has taught you the most?

It would be a pretty even race between David Bird and Steve Brown who were both very important for my career when I started in the industry over 20 years ago. From the business side of things, I would say my previous boss when I was in Hong Kong.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned at NDYLIGHT?

I’ve only been with NDYLIGHT for just under one year, so it’s a bit tricky to answer that. However, I’m very impressed with the level of support there is throughout the organisation.

What professional relationships do you value the most?

I highly value relationships with clients that allow us to challenge the status quo and those that really see the benefit of what we do. Within NDY and NDYLIGHT, I value all of my relationships. Everyone has something to bring to the table, people I can learn from, be inspired by or help.

If you could change one thing about the built environment, what would it be?

Reducing the brightness of illuminated building signage – particularly in cities like Hong Kong.

What does Making Spaces Work mean to you?

I see this statement as guide for us to treat every project with the same level of diligence and importance.