Your Interview Valeria Coghi
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
Hi, my name is Valeria Coghi, I am from Costa Rica, and I am a Lighting designer and the creative director of my own design studio.
In 2015 when I was studying Architecture, my university was part of a workshop that allowed students to work for West Side Story, the first musical 100% produced in Costa Rica. I decided I couldn’t miss being part of this crazy idea. At the beginning we were 20 students and we were working on the set design but I felt something was missing, so I talked to the technical director and asked if I could be part of the light design. I wanted a chance to create something with light. At the time, they didn’t have a light designer yet, so they gave me the position.
I didn't have an idea on how amazing it would be, and how my life would change from that moment.
Since that show, I fell in love and I started working more and more as a light designer, however I was self-taught and had to study by myself a lot. Years went by and I felt a little lonely professionally, so in 2019 I applied to a Masters Program focused on Lighting Design in Madrid, got accepted, won a scholarship and finally accomplished my dream of being with more people as passionate about light as myself. I’ll never forget how much I felt in the right place when our teacher asked us the first day why we decided to study light. My adventure had begun!
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?
As a stage lighting designer, I’ve been part of different projects, such as musical theater, operas, ballets, dance festivals, and drama plays. My background as an architect and an interior designer has helped me to understand space easily in a tridimensional way and also the fourth dimension with light. To me, it is very comfortable to visualize spaces with light that doesn't exist. Especially while being inside the theater, when the only moment that I have the chance to actually see what I’ve been creating in my mind is when I sit down in the light console and create our first cue of light. I always say: “I’ve been dreaming about light… I’ve also had some nightmares.”
While getting my Masters Degree, I fell in love with architectural lighting and that’s something I’d like to develop even more here in Costa Rica, especially when most spaces seem to prioritize the amount of light but not their quality.
To fight that, I began the first community of lighting designers in my country, because I have the feeling that the only way to see the importance of light is by talking about it and co-creating with other professionals; and this is also another way to ensure the future of our career. I’ve also started giving classes in a local university and I’m sure this path has just begun.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I have two projects that I am really proud of. The first one is “Nido de Aguilas”, this production was created and designed 100% in Costa Rica and it narrates the story of a group of convicts in the 70’s in a Penitentiary Center. For the light design we came up with the concept of layers and being restrained from our freedom, thus resulting in a series of atmospheres full of sentimentalism, symbolic ideas and shadows as fundamental characters.
The other project is from my time studying at the IED Madrid, where we created a proposal called “Silencio de la Sombra ''. This installation brought the user on a journey through darkness showing how low luminescence or lack of light could give another experience to space.
I am very proud of both projects because they show the importance of shadow and the layers of darkness. Thinking about the absence of light is a very important stage when I’m making the concept for my projects.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge I’ve found is time and the lack of value people normally give to light. Time because we are always running out of time, this taught me to take decisions in a short period of time and that brings a lot of pressure. The other thing that I've been fighting for is to give Light Design the place it deserves. In Costa Rica, the culture of appreciating light is still taking baby steps and even though a lot of people are working hard to inspire through their light, I still find lots of productions where our work is questioned or taken for less, simply because they cannot understand what we do. In the architectural field the same happens, and our figure sometimes doesn’t even exist.
How does light inspire you?
I always say that light is just like the first time you are kissed or the last time you say goodbye. Natural light is poetry for me; it’s always different, unpredictable, and maybe for that reason you never get tired of appreciating it. I also find myself inspired by light in art, literature, and natural surroundings.
Light inspires me in every detail. I love creating strong images you can always remember. Just like when you really fall in love. You never forget.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
My message for other Women in Lighting is that every expression of light counts, especially if it comes from our minds and hands. No matter how small or big, how simple or complicated, it simply counts. I also believe that if we all share our light, at the end of our path it will be powerful and enlightening. And if there’s someone new that would like to follow our steps, I would like to say, keep going. Because you will not be disappointed.
Designer, Architect, Educator
“Light inspires me in every detail. I love creating strong images you can always remember. Just like when you really fall in love. You never forget.”