Your Interview Eleonora Brembilla
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
Hi there, my name is Eleonora Brembilla and I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Architecture at TU Delft, The Netherlands. I am the (day)lighting expert of the Building Physics and Service group, when it comes to research as well as education activities.
I got my MSc in Building Engineering + Architecture from Politecnico di Milano, in Italy. I didn’t actually study in Milan but at the Lecco campus of PoliMi, the most scenic environment, right on the Como Lake. I probably didn’t appreciate it enough while there, buried under books and studio design projects as I was. And light was not really the main focus of my studies either. Not yet. Right after I graduated, I started applying for all sorts of jobs, as long as they would allow me to move outside Italy and travel around Europe. That included a few (say two, no more) research positions that attracted my attention and that could convince me to stay in academia just a little bit longer. That is how I ended up – four years later – getting a PhD in lighting simulation from Loughborough University, UK, namely on climate-based daylight modelling. Working with my PhD supervisors, John Mardaljevic and Christina Hopfe, was so much fun that I found myself staying in academia for much longer than I had ever planned. I then worked on a post-doc research project on weather data for daylight modelling, still at Loughborough University and supported by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), and eventually moved to The Netherlands to take up my current position.
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 specialize in climate-based daylight modelling, although I am interested in everything that has to do with daylight. I work more and more with long-term monitoring of daylight in real spaces and on characterization of optically complex materials, always trying to combine my expertise in simulation with new knowledge and insights from various fields.
The research projects I like the most are those in which I get to collaborate with companies and policy makers. My ‘engineering side’ loves to solve real problems and to see clear applications for innovative solutions. I had the good fortune to collaborate with lighting designers at Arup and at Hoare Lea, as well as other lighting professionals involved with the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL), who taught me invaluable lessons on how the industry works and on the relationship with clients.
What project are you most proud of and why?
It is hard to pick out a single project, but there is one that I remember fondly, as it allowed me to combine so many things I love: daylight simulation, light characterization in the lab, long-term daylight monitoring and – last but surely not least –artwork conservation in museums. I worked on this project – a research collaboration between John Mardaljevic, Stephen Cannon-Brookes and the National Trust – relatively briefly, but the results we got were really satisfying. I look forward for another opportunity to work on a similar topic!
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
My work demands that I frequently speak in public, regularly in classrooms, increasingly online, and sometimes in front of very large audiences. I got used to this, although I wouldn’t say completely, through a lot of self-persuasion and stubbornness. This is a very big achievement for me, as I was a fairly shy child and I could have never imagine myself speaking at international conferences.
How does light inspire you?
How can it not? Working with light is a magic combination between science, art, physics, architecture, technology, climatology and maybe other ologies that I haven’t even come across yet. It’s the continuous discovery of new concepts and the re-discovery of old forgotten ones. It became the focus of my job almost by chance, but no doubt it is the reason I enjoy doing it year after year!
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
You don’t always need to have everything planned ahead of you, sometimes wonderful things happen almost by chance and it is just a matter of taking that chance! Many people in this industry have a fantastic combination of technical and creative skills, which is not obvious and which can lead to very original results. So, embrace these skills, and take your decisions with this unique mix of reason and passion!
“Many people in this industry have a fantastic combination of technical and creative skills, which is not obvious and which can lead to very original results. So embrace these skills, and take your decisions with this unique mix of reason and passion!”