Your Interview Aviva Gunzburg


Aviva Gunzburg

Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).

Name: Aviva Gunzburg
Position: Associate | Senior Lighting Designer
Country: Australia

I come from an industrial design background and brought my drafting skills into a building services company as a young graduate. After 3 years in the general drafting department, I transferred to the architectural lighting department and began my apprenticeship. It took me 10 years from when I was thinking about light whilst studying industrial design at university, to finding a way to have a career which includes it.
I was blessed to have had access to a two-year lighting design run by the IESANZ which taught me all the technical details about lighting and served under two pre-eminent designers in Melbourne who helped me understand how to apply light in a space.

Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?

I consider myself to be very lucky. I have spent my entire career working in independent lighting consultancies within larger building services companies. This has given me the ability to work on a vast array of different projects. I have very much enjoyed the ability to bring light quality to projects generally considered to be the realm of engineers. The placement of lights in a railway station, roadway or pathway scheme can make as big a difference to how a person experiences the space, as providing lighting quality within a hospital or a commercial building. Then there are the clever problem-solving ideas with significant economic restraints in small retail and entertainment spaces and finding ways to create more with less. But perhaps the most satisfying projects are the ones undertaken in environmentally sensitive locations, where I can make a real difference to protect flora and fauna whilst meeting client requirements.

I love working within the landscape and creating environments which completely transform when the sun sets. Apart from creating intimate, human focused spaces, it emphasises the power and value of daylight which is unique unto itself. My fundamental need for daylight leads me to have a personal concern for those whose workplaces exclude daylight. In Australia, this tends to be restricted to shift workers and the built environment; structures which exclude daylight for various reasons, be they older style medical facilities, shopping centres, laboratories, commercial building etc. The emergence of the COVID pandemic and how it has affected healthcare workers has sharpened my focus for these spaces. Can we help optimise the human immune system not only through the reduction of eyestrain and light quality, but also by supporting circadian system needs.

What project are you most proud of and why?

Pride for me is a curious thing. I am not as much proud of an end product as I am of the entire process. If I have been able to bring a client on a journey, retain design intent and quality of luminaires and illumination, then I have a deep, quiet sense of pride. In addition, the ability to work on projects which align with my values also bring a strong sense of gratitude and pride. These include:

  • Bendigo Hospital is an award-winning hospital which brings the services of traditionally big city hospitals to regional Victoria. It serves a large part of the state and makes access to health services significantly easier to access for a valuable group of Victorians.
  • The Royal Children’s hospital in Melbourne was built at a pioneering time when lighting for health and circadian rhythms was in it’s infancy and lighting technology wasn’t really up to the task. Yet we were able to significantly contribute to the hospital experience through the lighting design within the space.
  • The Victorian Emergency Services Memorial in the Treasury Gardens, Melbourne, came into being in part because the CFA (Country Fire Authority) needed a new home to locate the names of those who had fallen in service. A project, not without its challenges, was delivered and provided a softly lit, contemplative space. Unfortunately, the planned large ceremony needed to be cancelled, first due to the bushfires which tore through the state at the end of 2019 and then COVID. Yet I could take comfort in the fact that this contemplative space I helped create was there to accept the names of those who fell battling the 2019-2020 fire season and beyond.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?

The biggest challenge I have had to overcome is being undiagnosed as an Autistic-ADHD neurotype. It has significantly impacted my career. Now that I am diagnosed the second biggest challenge, I am working to overcome is in the hurdles of being a neurodiverse consultant in an environment moulded around neurotypical expectations. The machinations are in process and I am as ever optimistic that progress will be made.

I have been told that being female in a male dominated industry back in the 1990’s was a pretty big challenge to overcome. It probably helped that I never saw roles as being gendered and was a bit irritated when anyone suggested that they were. I never saw myself as not suitable for any role I put my hand up for. I certainly noticed the change in atmosphere when I walked into a room, and when people treated me as less, or stated that they had to stop swearing. I increased my swearing to put people at ease and dressed in a business shirt and pants to be one of the men. But honestly the awkward behaviour shown to me for being a rare female within the construction industry was no different than for being Autistic – ADHD and didn’t faze me. I wasn’t part of the club, but I could give you the results you were looking for.

How does light inspire you?

Light is both a love and a nemesis. In all it’s forms it has an emotional effect. It is music and art and science and completely impossible to truly comprehend. It is a wave and a particle. It cannot be seen without a canvas to reflect it. It can heal but also harm. And yet we can shape it and direct it. We can use it to play games of deception with optical illusions and saturating our optical senses. For me light is truly a magical substance and the ability to paint a space with it or learn more about it, will always get me out of bed in the morning.

What is your message for other Women In Lighting?

I am so glad that you have chosen and been drawn to the light. I hope that you get as much enjoyment from it as I. I have really appreciated seeing an increase in female design colleagues, whether they be engineers or designers, or project or building managers. I hope the trend continues in all countries across the world and that our voices become appreciated and respected for the value that they can provide. If there is any blessing I could ask for you, it would be courage and strength to be your own advocate, and to share best practice lighting amongst clients, friends and family.

Aviva was invited to share her voice as an Autistic-ADHD designer in the form of an article for the ILP’s (WIL Partner) Lighting Journal.

Lives in:
Melbourne, Australia
Born in:
Melbourne, Australia
Bachelor of Technology (Industrial Design)
Started working with light in:
Professional membership:
Learning people’s stories; a good discussion which can broaden perspective; a quiet peaceful place in the bush; and last but not least supporting my kids and watching them grow and develop.

“As humans we are wired to look for threat and danger. Knowing that allows us to assess instinctive aversions and build supportive connections and communications globally. We can carry the story of light knowing that there will be bias against us yet work to reduce it knowing that light quality improves emotional, physical and mental health.”

Selected portfolio:

Williams Landing Railway Station. Photo by David McArthur Parallax photography	 Latrobe University Institute of Molecular Science. Photo by Dianne SnapeBendigo Hospital. Photo courtesy of Bendigo HealthJukes Karaoke Bar. Photo courtesy of Fun Lab Pty LtdUnispace Fitout Melbourne. Photo by Shannon McGrath

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