This post is the first of our ongoing Lights Up series. Lights Up is a...Read Article
Lights Up: LD Dorothy Underwood
What is your name?
Where do you work?
KGM Architectural Lighting, NYC office
Where are you from?
Otego, NY (super rural upstate)
How did you get here?
I went to RPI to get my B.Arch, and while there I got a summer internship from an engineering group that was trying to improve the lighting efficiency in one of the main buildings on campus by simply switching to LED retrofit bulbs. They needed an architecture student on their team because none of them knew how to read floor plans. While working on the project, I realized how awful the existing lighting was, and made it a personal goal to also improve the aesthetics of the building as much as possible within our limited scope.
Through this experience I realized how important lighting is to architecture, and how everything I was working on for my architecture degree needed good lighting in order to be as beautiful and effective as I wanted it to be. As luck would have it, the Lighting Research Center (LRC) is affiliated with RPI, so I began taking classes there, and eventually got my Masters in Lighting. When I began looking for a full time job for after graduation, Martin’s partner happened to see my resume on the AIA website, and the rest is history!
How long have you been designing lighting?
3 years, including internships
What is your first memory of lighting?
I went through a photography phase when I was younger, and I was fascinated by light and shadows. Some of my favorite photographs were just of shadow, or of light filtering through leaves.
Do you have a favorite lighting project?
My current favorite project is the LA Stadium and Entertainment District. The interior designers and architects at HKS are really fun to work with, and let us flex our creative muscles. It’s exciting to be able to push the boundaries as you are designing. Unfortunately I cannot share any images yet, but you will see what I’m talking about when the stadium opens!
What is your favorite installation / lighting experience?
I really enjoyed renovating the Garden Terrace Room at the New York Botanical Gardens. We did a few mockups with them, where we went up in lifts and showed a few track options. We worked closely with not only the people who run the gardens, but also with the event planners for the weddings that happen in the space. Once everything was installed, we spent a day aiming and scene setting to get the finished product, and then actually had a meeting with the event staff to show them how to use the system to its full potential for flexibility. It was a unique experience for me, because not many places want you to pinspot table centerpieces, and there were some limitations due to the historic nature of the building. In the end, I was really happy with how it turned out!