The Lighting Tree: Delfina Barbato

Delfina is an Assistant lighting Designer with BDP, London. She graduated from Rome with a degree in Industrial Design and developed an increasing interest in the world of lighting and architecture.

What was the fascination with lighting that drew you to into this career?

Delfina Barbato

Something magic happens when a sun ray pierces the shutters; you can see it, almost touch it and play with it. It’s something at the same time suspended between the dimensions of the real and the intangible. Discovering how the light shapes nature, and architecture, how the external environment changes in different lighting conditions, always fashioned me.

This has been what first drew me to lighting design and, of course, also growing-up in a family composed exclusively of architects, painters and photographers – that has been a big incentive. What I always said to myself since I was a kid was “I will never be an architect like my parents..” and it’s like this that I become architectural lighting designer, slightly different, isn’t it?

There are lots of aspects to creating good lighting design; is there any one aspect of the process that means more to you than anything else?

The first reason why I love to work with light is to give to everyone that steps into a place designed by me a sense of wellness, of happiness – to offer the users somewhere where they can feel happy and relaxed.

This sense of unexpected happiness comes from something they can’t see, they can’t recognise. It is something they somehow feel but they are not aware of. So, when I start my early design concept, I concentrate on the effect of light, how it influences the perception, leaving often – at the end of the design – the light source concealed and invisible.

I guess we should also ask, for balance, is there anything in the process that you’d prefer to avoid and pass onto someone else in the studio?

Probably, as most of the creatives, the part I hate most of the process is the crude, “violent” value engineering. That red pen that crosses luminaires and creativity leaving the design dry and without a soul.

Few are the clients that ask you to sit together around the same table during this stage, trying to understand what you had in mind when you first imagined the space and work with you on how to save the lighting feeling, and some money as well.

What or who are your influences when it comes to light creation?

I come from Rome, in my opinion the most poetic and rich of inspiration city in the world – of course this is just my own opinion.

A city where the colour of the light shifts from pink to orange to gold in different times of the day and the year and the shades of the buildings change with it. A city where art, history, nature and wonderful sunsets renew everyday a poetry that has lived for thousands of years, astonishing everyone that sees it for the first time or have always lived it. A city where the rays of the sum make its golden domes shine and sharp shadows leave corners inexpertly in semi-darkness.

Yes, this is probably my first and strongest inspiration: my city, where the light is invisible and everywhere.

Tell us something about the you that exists outside of lighting

I am curious, I love to explore and discover. To live the spaces and move through them. That’s why my favourite hobby is travelling: I would love to have the time to see the world, to places so different from what I’m used to that I cannot even imagine.

And of course sports: kick boxing, skiing and kite surfing give me an energy and sense of freedom that rarely I can find somewhere else.


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John Bullock is the editor of The Light Review

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