A Win, Win & Win Situation

Last year saw the launch of Ready Steady Light in Light Middle East’s three-day event. The contest comes to Dubai from the annual competition put on by the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) in the UK. It’s open to lighting designers, manufacturers, and like-minded people with a passion for lighting. We were eager to join last year but due to the limited resources of a new studio, we couldn’t make it. Fast-forward to 2017 and a now growing team, we were finally able to participate on its second installment.

Instructions were simple. Teams were formed on random selection at the venue. Each team was allocated a site and participating candidates competed to design an exterior lighting scheme with only the bare minimum under a teeth-gripping 90 minutes.

All the participants gathered and drew lots to pick their group numbers, and there were seven teams in total. Each comprised of five to seven members, from different companies. To our surprise, three of us from Nulty were fortunate to be in one team of five – Jessica Munaf, Chayot Kiranantawat and myself.

Ready Steady Light Competition 2017 Installation Assembly Team Winners

We picked up our group’s selected fittings and went to our assigned site. Looking around, I thought we were lucky to have a space that was just big enough to explore our options, and, at the same time, small enough to be limited so we didn’t waste our time on too many ideas. Fittings wise, we had a few RGB projectors and some warm spotlights – naturally we thought it would be good to do something dynamic with the RGB fittings.

Our site consisted of a wide walkway with a herringbone patterned stone brick floor, and on each side were marble benches, some potted plants, cylindrical metal ashtrays with four green circular tops resembling a tree, and two massive walls. From here we had two choices: to take advantage of the wide walkway or simply focus on illuminating one side. With a curtain wall on one side and an aluminium cladding on the other, we chose to focus on one side of the solid façade because it would be useless highlighting a glass wall. And we thought it would be easier.

Of course, like any lighting design process, we first had to come up with a theme and concept. We thought it would be a good idea to play with shadows and create patterns from projections. Inspired by a shadow art installation I once saw in Al Fahidi, I had the idea of projecting the Dubai skyline as a shadow on the blank wall. But with the limited time and resources, it wasn’t possible. So we agreed to keep it simple and minimal to maximise whatever was available to us.

Ready Steady Light Competition 2017 Winning Installation Assembly

We decided to make a sculpture out of the three tree-like ashtray stands and just highlight the centerpiece with the RGB fittings. First, we had to figure out how to operate the light fixtures. We called in the technical teams on standby several times to help us, and with less than half an hour to go we still hadn’t set-up the lights! All we had was the “sculpture” in the middle of our site while the other teams seemed to have everything figured out.

Aiming the projectors to the sculpture, we were surprised to see the shadows form a fierce dragon-like shape on the wall. So instead of just highlighting the sculpture, we pushed the projectors back to play with the shadows and make a canvas out of the blank aluminium façade.

Our teammate Jessica had a brilliant idea to play with water in front of the lights. And just when we thought our work couldn’t improve, it did. The shadows came to life with light projecting through the movement of the water.

With the little time we had left, we scurried to gather boxes lying on the ground to try and conceal the wires and fittings, as we’d just learned that cleanliness apparently gave you an additional point. We took some long boxes so we could hang some water bottles on the edge, tied them with duct tape and made them loose enough so they could move with the wind, or with the lack of wind we simply kicked them. Amazed with the effect the water made, we decided to name it “Dance of the Dragons.”

Ready Steady Light Competition 2017 Winning Installation Lighting Designers Nulty

Time was up and we were gathered to go through all the teams’ work. The competition was tough as each team elaborately discussed the concept behind their impressive installations. Each had their own “gimmick” and tricks up their sleeves, but we were quite confident that we would get some favourable responses from the judges.

Winners were chosen within three categories: 1) Most Creative Effect, 2) Best Technical Solution and 3) Peer Prize. Awarding came two nights after the actual event, at the Light Middle East Awards 2017, and we were hopeful to get one out of three awards. Announcing the first winner of the Most Creative Effect, we were elated as host Brendan Keely, Secretary of the SLL, announced our team name and installation! Excited to know who else would be joining us on stage, we were surprised to hear the winner for Best Technical Solution was also “Dance of the Dragons”. And, if you thought things couldn’t get any crazier, the other contestants had also voted for our installation, giving us the Peer Prize award too. We were utterly thrilled.

Ready Steady Light Competition 2017 Projection Colour Dragons Winning Lighting Scheme

“This is something that has never happened before”, said Keely. It was a great moment for Nulty who comprised 60% of the winning team. And a glorious moment because, as a practice, we also took home the prize of “Retail Lighting Project of the Year” for Bloomingdale’s, Kuwait.

Participating in the event was really inspiring because it pushed our creativity and resourcefulness in a limited amount of time – winning was just an added bonus. All of the other teams deserve equal praise as they presented their technical and creative skills in the best way possible. Here’s a gallery of all the contest’s installations…

Images: Light Middle East / Nulty

Blog post by Anna Asuncion