The Lighting Tree: Lora Kaleva

Lora is a Senior Lighting Designer with BDP. She represents a new class of lighting designer that we’re now seeing in the industry, who is fully educated through her Bachelor’s Degree and Masters qualifications in Lighting Design. She presented her MSc paper on Saturated Coloured Light at the Professional Lighting Design Convention 2011, in Madrid where she won the Vox Juventa Award for best presented paper.


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

Lora Kaleva

I have always loved what an intangible medium light is. When I was a student, someone at an event said something along the lines of “the best lighting is the invisible lighting”. This sentiment stuck with me, though it took me years to grasp its true meaning. Good lighting helps to create good human environments where wellbeing and comfort are at the heart of the experience. The focus should be on the overall sense of harmony between a person and their surroundings and not on an individual feature or space. “There is no spoon.”

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?

Truth to tell, I love being a lighting designer and I am able to find the joy in almost every stage of a project. Naturally, I find that concept stage is the most fun part of the process, when you get to open your mind and explore uncharted territory and before the words budget and buildability come in force.  But then there is something beautiful in a well put together design report, there is satisfaction in a full set of drawings, detailing your lighting ideas “just so” and I really enjoy going to site and following the creation of a building. It is a very unique experience, the first time you go to site and the building has sprouted out of the ground, and everything you have seen in 2D for such a long time has now coherently formed in 3D. It takes my breath away.

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?

Revit! I have started to develop a real dislike for the way some architects are using Revit as a tool to inhibit creativity. It feels like once they input something in the programme it is there set in stone. Can’t be changed, can’t be evolved, can’t be refined…  At concept stage, when we are still looking at options, ideas, and spontaneity, they want to know the precise radius of an internally curved cove. Gee, I don’t know… what if we have a raft instead?!

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

Mostly nature. There is endless variation and beauty in nature. Clouds rolling in the sky, shadow patterns from a tree, glorious sunsets. It all inspires and awes me in equal measures. However I am a city dweller and always have been. Whilst long walks in the park are my favourite weekend activity, I loathe camping with a passion. Go figure! I think it boils down to nature’s natural lack of hot showers and comfy beds. J

Tell us something about the you that exists outside of lighting.

My next biggest passion and hobby after lighting is music. Music is a wonderful expression of emotion and brings people together on a whole different level of soul connectivity.

I love going to concerts and indoor festivals (see previous point) to bask in the collective spirit and the sheer energy of a live gig.

I also sing in a choir. I am a long-term member of the London Bulgarian Choir. We are a group of 40-odd people from all nationalities and all walks of life and we sing traditional Bulgarian folk music a cappella. It’s a part of my heritage that I am very proud of, as there is nothing quite like the crunchy, clashing complexities of a traditional two- or three-part harmony song from the Balkans. If you have never experienced it, I strongly recommend checking it out, as it’s very different from the more harmonious British folk music.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve never had the opportunity to listen to Bulgarian traditional music then you have an absolute treat in store.

The London Bulgarian Choir will be appearing (fingers crossed) in a year’s time at Kings Place, London.

. . . and here’s a sample from 2009.

Spine-tingling stuff.

Thanks to Lora for opening the door for us into a wonderful vocal tradition.

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