Lighting Design Charrette: What You Can Accomplish in a Weekend!

As part of the one-year MPS in Interior Lighting Design program, the students take a required Lighting Studio II course. To kick-start the class, we have a series of three charrettes. These are intense brainstorming and design sessions that take place over the weekend. One focused on retail, one on hospitality, and one on commercial spaces. 

For the retail charrette, which took place in late January, the assignment was to create a lighting design for the redesigned Ferragamo flagship store on Fifth Ave. The store is large—20,000 square feet—and has a sleek and elegant style to match the luxury Italian brand. This Esquire blog post will give you a glimpse of the interior.

Before getting started on the design, we did some useful critiquing of existing spaces. We looked at the lighting concepts, fixtures used, design challenges and solutions for other retail store such as Vera Wang and Alessi flagships stores in Soho. We were also fortunate enough to have a guest speaker, Renee Joosten, Lighting Design Director at ICRAVE Design Studio, who showed us some of the retail projects she’s been working on and gave us some invaluable tips and techniques.


Armed with all of this information, I felt ready to tackle the project planned for the rest of the weekend!  The list of deliverables to complete by 2pm on Sunday was long; we were asked to present a complete schematic design, which includes the client profile, design concept, an analysis of tasks and illumination needs, a rough illustrated plan, diagrammatic sketches, rendered perspective sketch and custom fixture opportunities.

I must say, seeing the to-do list left me a bit overwhelmed, but nothing could prepare me for the surge of energy I felt once I started working on this project and how much I was able to accomplish in a mere few hours!  I love the schematic design phase of a project, especially researching the client and coming up with a lighting concept for the space.  By the end of this intense weekend even I became a charrette believer. I had a solid direction and a concept for the Ferragamo store. Not bad for a weekend’s work!

Here’s an image (left) of the initial analysis of the light levels I wanted for the space. Using three colors, I developed the hierarchy for the space:  each color represents a different level of light intensity: pink is the lowest, for ambient lighting; orange is the medium, for accenting most of the displays; and yellow is the highest level and is used for the more focal displays.


And here is my perspective study sketch (right) of lighting ideas and techniques. Using the same colors I assigned in my light level analysis, I applied different lighting techniques to see how it affects the space.  In this sketch, I’m exploring the use of high-intensity spots to establish the importance of the mannequin display in this area, while secondary displays are backlit.

In the end, I chose the Ferragamo store for my capstone project (similar to a thesis project), and I’ve been working hard to refine and complete my design ever since. You can see the fruits of my labor at the upcoming thesis show, “MFA & MPS Spring 2012 Thesis and Capstone Projects,” which will be on view from May 17 – July 25th at NYSID’s Graduate Center. Please come to the opening reception on Thursday, May 17, and have a chance to see not just my work but all the great projects from this year’s graduating class.


Phyllis Greer