A talk with Susanna Antico.

We had the pleasure and honour of asking the internationally renowned Italian lighting designer a few questions about her lighting project at the Antwerp Cathedral and her philosophy of light. Enjoy the reading.

A few years after the installation, the lighting design ideated by you and your team at the Antwerp Cathedral is still in the spotlight. What does a project of this level entail in terms of lighting design?

It was a complex job due to the size of the building (120 m high), and to the impossibility of freely choosing the placement of the luminaires. We also had to get permission from the owners of the nearby buildings to install the projectors. We had to struggle to get the cables where needed and to allow an easy future maintenance of the fixtures. Moreover, the client wanted to keep the existing product positioning. Another issue was due to the fact the church is located within the historic center of the city, surrounded by narrow streets from which only portions of the building can be perceived and with a quite distorted view. As far as the lighting design is concerned, we worked by superimposing general lighting levels, obtained with light projections from a distance, to a specific accent lighting created by fixtures installed directly on the building. All this required a very detailed 3D simulation work, careful on-site mock-ups, and the development of very accurate reports regarding the positioning of the power and control cables as well as the installation of the devices without piercing the stones or ruining the walls of the cathedral.

We are very proud to have taken part in this project with one of our flagship products, Jasper. What are the product specifications and design requirements that led you to this choice?
As I said above, the lighting projectors are located in fixed points, not always symmetrical and at a great distance from the building (50/60 meters). The Jasper luminaire was chosen thanks to its very narrow beam and powerful flow. With Jasper, we wanted to highlight the tower clock, located at about 80 meters from the ground, without excessively wall washing the rest of the tower.
Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
Picture by Benno van den BogaertPicture by Benno van den Bogaert
This is a dynamic white light project. In your opinion, does color changing light have an unexpressed potential?  What value can color take on in the enhancement of a modern or historical installation? Are there contexts in which the use of colored light is preferable?
Unfortunately, this is not a dynamic white light project. It was initially planned as such, but then, due to budgetary requirements, it was decided to work either with 3000K and 4000K white light according to the different construction materials of the cathedral. I think that the dynamic white configuration is very interesting, and it could have been the optimal choice for this project. The cathedral itself appears much clearer if seen from the Groenplaats than it looks from the Handschoenmarkt, even though the stone of the walls it’s the same, as the surrounding environment is different in color, height, and vegetation. Dynamic white fixtures would have given the possibility to modify the perception of the building not only on the basis of these environmental factors but also according to its different functions. The possibility of fine tuning the shades of white, choosing a cooler or warmer tone according to different areas would have also passed a message on a sensorial level, adding value to the identity of the place.
Personally, I don't like color in the permanent lighting of historic buildings, I think it is interesting as a temporary or occasional intervention. In any case, the choice depends on the planning and targets of the public administration which define the city's night image.

How important is lighting design in a lighting project, regardless of its size, location and features?
To design a building you need a project done by an architect, an engineer or a group of professionals. For a lighting project you need a lighting designer or consultant, preferably an independent one. Of course, in the case of a construction, the obligation to draw up a project is linked to well defined laws and not to an occasional requirements (as for lighting projects and unfortunately not for all types). I hope that, sooner or later, social and technological changes will bring new tools and new opportunities for lighting designers. For me it is quite incomprehensible that public administrations take care of the daytime aspect of the city and leave out the night one. The nocturnal scenography is confined by rules and laws linked mainly to budgetary aspects or energy saving plans that do not take into consideration the positive effects of a nighttime illumination on human perception as well as the improvement of the quality of life. Each public lighting intervention should be based on a lighting plan coordinated on a regional basis so that the result is coherent and has strategic a value.
A talk with Susanna Antico.
What significance and value do you personally attribute to specific projects for the public sphere?
Public projects involve an important social responsibility. A project in the public sphere is complex, certainly a challenge, because bureaucracy, all over the world, requires a lot of patience and of commitment, but it is a great opportunity. Working for a client who represents millions of citizens who will then enjoy the spaces based on the atmosphere created by a new lighting system is a wonderful experience.

You work a lot abroad. In your opinion, does the culture of light currently have the same importance in Italy?
To tell the truth, I work almost exclusively abroad and this brings me a lot of satisfaction. On the one hand, I have to travel a lot since I live in Milan, on the other I regret the fact that I am not called to offer the skills of my studio to the country where I live and to my fellow citizens. I think that the culture of the "Project” in general is totally lacking at the moment in Italy. Professional advice is often seen as unnecessary and therefore is considered a superfluous expense. The designer's fee, if it is not mandatory or if the client is not "illuminated”, is considered only an additional cost. Many people do not know that the presence of a competent designer leads to an infinite series of benefits, including the economic one, which go well beyond the cost of the lighting designer’s fee. Another aspect is the budget of the public administration: in Italy the municipalities do not have the same economic means that the municipalities of other countries have. The projects that my studio does are often for small cities where aspects such as the need for an attractive, inviting, comfortable environment, the strengthening of culture and the identity of the places, are part of the strategy of each municipality, even of the smallest one. The designed light is the best response to the strategic needs of municipalities in search of citizens' well-being and quality of life. But the fact is that those municipalities, even if small, can afford not so much to pay the professional, but to have economically demanding projects carried out.

Susanna Antico Lighting Design Studio is a professional practice, involved in architectural, artistic, urban and environmental lighting projects. The practice focuses on the creation of sustainable night-time identities for the built environment and in parallel on research and education. The golden thread of the practice is that lighting design philosophy resides in the human scale of matters. The practice has developed many urban lighting projects on different scales that have been published in several professional periodicals in Italy and abroad. 
Find out more at  SUSANNA ANTICO.

427 Hyatt Street
Gaffney, SC 29341
Phone: (864) 487-3535
Email info@griven-usa.com