Meet Sharbel Dammo

Why lighting?

Lighting was never really something I considered as a career. It was during my engineering degree where I was first exposed to lighting as a career path. Prior to this my understanding of lighting was simply satisfying illuminance targets stipulated in the standards.

It was my first lecture in lighting where the lecturer – now a long-time mentor, stood in front of the class, displayed a few images of lit spaces and asked, ‘how do these spaces make you feel?’ It was then that my mind was blown. The realisation that lighting design is not about the science behind it but equally the artistry in the application. It is the harmonious marriage of art and science.

I became infatuated with light, the way it can change the look and feel of a space and most importantly, how it affects us as humans. The way it can change and affect our perception, behaviour, thoughts and sleep.

Everybody can illuminate a space with light but very few have the ability, knowledge and experience to illuminate a space in an artistic manner whereby certain perceptions, looks and feelings are targeted.

What’s the trickiest problem you’ve solved?

There have been many tricky problems that I’ve come across throughout my time as a lighting designer. Overall, they’re learning curves that I see as opportunities to grow my knowledge as a lighting designer, as every project is different there is constant learning.

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

Light does not bend around corners! It can, through the right mediums.

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

I like to go fishing, specifically early morning or evening to experience the sunrise and sunset, see the assorted colours light and bask in the moment, taking it all in. I also actively try to attend as many immersive light art installations as possible to experience and understand what’s affecting my perceptions and feeling and how it is executed.

Which designer has taught you the most?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to learn from some of the best lighting designers in the industry. They are both internal at NDYLIGHT and people in the industry who I’ve looked up to as mentors. Steve Brown and Nic Burnham have been very influential and have taught me as a designer, consultant, and project manager.

What professional relationships do you value the most?

I value all relationships – everyone is important in their own way, whether they’re influential, of value to me or vice versa. I’ve been told that I can talk the ears off a brick wall, so happy to have a chin wag with anyone who will listen.

What’s your career highlight project?

There are many projects that I can list, however the standouts would have to be the lobbies at 600 Bourke Street and 181 William Street in Melbourne. Hugely different projects and outcomes visually, but similar in that the application of light was reliant on the understanding of how light interacts with various materials or mediums.

The 600 Bourke Street lobby plays with contrast where light needs to be applied with precision to define specific details.

The same goes for the glass brick wall at 181 William Street, whereby the lighting to the wall and the integration details needed to be precise. Similar principles with vastly different outcomes.

Tell us about the lighting design on this project.

Both the 600 Bourke Street lobby and the 181 William Street lobby had design challenges. Both were tackled via mock ups at small scale and full scale. The only difference was that the lighting to the glass brick wall could not be verified through any simulation software. There were over 9,600 hand poured glass bricks used in the construction of the wall and there isn’t a software that can simulate the outcome and how light will transition through the bricks.

We worked tirelessly with BVN to detail every aspect of the cavity within the wall, applying every lighting principle available to us to ensure we get the right outcome. Even then, whilst mocking up various heights, the outcome would not be seen until the construction of the wall was completed.