The AIA follows the practice of appointing a local architect every year as Creative Director for each awards event. The AIA’s use of the term Director has prompted me to consider the roles of the architect, the lighting designer, and the project team more generally – and to draw some interesting parallels and contrasts between the world of architecture and that of movie production.
The parallels are quite striking – to a large extent there are similar roles only with different names. In the world of architecture, the relationship between architect and engineer is too often an adversarial one – perhaps there are lessons we can learn from the more creative, collaborative world of movie production?
The instigator of a movie is often the Studio (the client); who appoints a Director (the architect) for creative leadership. Keeping things running smoothly is the Producer (project manager) and doing the legwork is the Crew (contractors). We also have the DOP - Director of Photography (lighting designer), along with various other designers and technical specialists (the engineers). Perhaps the Script is the brief?
The point of this analogy is that it is recognised by all that the Director/Architect defines the vision for the project.
The DOP/Lighting Designer is tasked with using light to bring that vision to the screen. Of all the associated disciplines, it may be argued that it is the DOP/Lighting Designer who works with the Director/Architect most closely to interpret the vision, to light the characters, to enhance the set design and perhaps to cleverly conceal a limited effects budget.
All of the other disciplines similarly collaborate to realise their part of the vision. Of course, amongst the artistry, there are budgets and a program to meet; leading to compromises made along the way. And script changes. So. Many. Changes.
But throughout, the Director/Architect drives the vision.
While this structure is entrenched in the movie-making world; in the world of buildings the idea of engineering disciplines being subservient to the architect’s vision does not sit well with many engineers.
Collaborative design is great, and a less hierarchical team structure is good, but ultimately someone must own the grand vision. Occasionally this is the client; but usually it is the architect.
Personally, as a Lighting Designer and Electrical Engineer, this is how I have come to view these roles.
At the project’s end, it is usually be the Director/Architect who yields the glory… or the blame.
Perhaps at times the ‘vision’ may be flawed – but hopefully it will be beautifully-lit and well-executed nonetheless. More often than not, if we accept the role of Director/Architect as visionary – and if we work together as a team to realise that vision – the trust we place in the Director/Architect will be well-deserved, and our movie/building will be a hit!