Your Interview Fanny Soulard
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
Hello lovely reader! I’m Fanny, a French native lighting designer with a Master in Applied Art as an educational background.
I’ve been exploring and learning about lighting design with a transversal itinerary through the industry – working successively for an Italian manufacturer, Mexican architects’ studios, a French electrical material supplier, French, Vietnamese and Australian lighting studios, and currently an Australian engineering company. These opportunities brought me the past fifteen years to different locations, including Argentina, Mexico, Spain, France, Australia and my ultimate setup - Vietnam.
With a quite obvious attraction for unpredictable adventures, I’ve built my expertise collaborating with a large panel of talented and inspiring people, all connected by the same aspiration to create meaningful and successful projects.
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?
My company is more and more involved in sustainable programs with a focus on public transportation and rail development. Finding subtle compromises between technical standard compliance and the creation of a unique experience for the user is part of what I enjoy more.
Daylight perception, wayfinding, movement safety, versatility between daytime and nighttime hours, are part of the topics we explore to tailor the best luminous experience. I have previous experience with similar projects in France and love to interchange the approach and methodology we can adopt with these study cases.
I’m also dedicated to other public related buildings such as offices, museums and external parks.
I try to focus my design in providing safe and efficient luminous spaces (which is the most expected from a person working within an engineering company) but also adding a special touch which will provide to the site a special identity. Working in public areas are good opportunities to bring out messages and spread good practices. Combining functionality with poesy gives me a strong satisfaction, especially in a daily life environment where light benefits can be enjoyed by a large panel of people.
What project are you most proud of and why?
At the early stage of my career, I had the opportunity to work on the luminous ambiances design for a hospital project. Healthcare environments are usually prioritizing safety and functionally, with a strong focus on doctor’s request to develop appropriate work conditions. Thus, some spaces can be perceived as sanitized and impersonal.
We quickly figured out that light should have a key role in this context as brightness, luminaires integration, color temperature, color rendering rate or other lighting criterias can impact not only the spatial perception but also people's wellbeing and mood. This notion gave us an extra responsibility on our design choices: we were not aiming only to design a pleasant and functional place, we were also trying to get light being part of the hospital role : helping people to be cured, patients to recover and reducing stress in general.
By coordinating every suggestion closely with the medical team, we have displayed tunable white products for most of the corridor and waiting area, reconnecting people with their circadian rhythm. Every bedroom gets an individual control system linked to sensors allowing the patient to easily customize his environment and to keep the satisfaction of controlling it - while the full process of hospitalization mostly depends on a third-party decision.
Color changing scenarios have been imaging for the scan rooms, transforming a neutral space into an interactive sensory environment. Indeed, as scan exams request patients to lay down and stand still for a while, we give to light a time indicator role combining color sequences, reducing medication to control anxiety (specially for children under 3 years old who cannot receive large doses) and encouraging mind escape.
This project was a great opportunity to work light as a powerful medium of connection between different disciplines; we were building together the perfect scenarios, including each party's input. We proceeded with a lot of workshops to achieve solutions we wouldn't imagine at a first instance.
Once the hospital has been operating, we received a lot of positive feedback from the patients and nurses. It has been an honor for us to push our specialty beyond what everyone was expecting by promoting and showcasing the large panel of light benefits.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
Even if I was already familiar with working in multicultural and cross generational teams, I believe that my biggest personal challenge has definitively consisted into training junior designers with a completely different background and culture than mine while responding to the crazy demand of the construction flow in Vietnam.
I quickly understood that the situation was requesting a tailored methodology, testing my communication skills of course, by also questioning what would be the best way to transmit my knowledge using a third language that neither me nor my juniors were completely mastering. We quickly decided to create a common experience that we can all understand and refer to. I also try to truly listen and understand my team feedback to constantly adjust and rectify the task flow to maintain them in a successful and livable position.
The first months brought me in a kind of schizophrenia, by analyzing a lot of different information, prioritizing tasks and finding consistent communication tools. Thanks to everyone's patience and motivation, we finally made it after a couple of months and I get very proud once we all successfully find our “cruising speed”, more efficient than ever to build out fabulous projects all together.
How does light inspire you?
Creating wonderful human connections! I believe that actually everybody has a small lighting designer sleeping in his inner side … We can effectively learn and discuss lighting with scientists, biologists, poets, philosophers, architects, electricians, doctors, farmers … We all have some knowledge of light and its numerous powers to entertain, delight, educate, cure or even kill. It is a very strong medium which deserves to be smartly displayed to preserve all its senses and beauty.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Alone we go fast but together we go further! Inspirations and experience are a never ending sharing process between all of us as an inclusive and international language. We create and build lighting projects for others, so others should be the center of our interest.
“Alone we go fast but together we go further!”