Wang Xiaodong

Design Conversation: Wang Xiaodong’s Impact on Urban Lighting Planning

Meet Xiaodong Wang, a lighting designer with a career spanning over two decades, dedicated to crafting enchanting atmospheres using the art of light. Her journey in this remarkable field is nothing short of captivating. As a principal at the Lighting Design & Research Institute of UAD and a respected jury member for the LIT Lighting Design Awards, she holds a prominent place in the world of lighting design.

Xiaodong’s work is a testament to her profound understanding of urban lighting planning, architectural illumination, and landscape lighting. She’s not just a designer; she’s a visionary, continually seeking ways to infuse her projects with the exquisite interplay of light and shadow, turning ordinary spaces into extraordinary canvases of illumination.

In a recent interview, Xiaodong Wang sat down with us to share her experiences, insights, and the driving force behind her unwavering commitment to the world of lighting design. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of an artist who paints with light, and learn more about her extraordinary journey and the magic she creates through the play of illumination and shadow.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how your passion for lighting emerged?

My first Master’s degree is in Comparative Literature as I didn’t major in lighting design at the outset. My liberal arts background is a great asset to perceive beauty, art, and design from a more sensitive and spiritual perspective, and to gain deeper insights into lighting design beyond light, shadows, and technology.

For me, working with light and shadow seemed to be predetermined. I wrote about light worship and fire worship in my Master’s thesis. After graduation, I worked in a world-famous German glass enterprise and was lucky to participate in an art project collaboratively launched with Swarovski in the Milan International Fair. The project invited artists and architects, including Kengo Kuma, Jasper Morrison, among others, to make art installations from crystal.

Later on, I entered the lighting industry in 2001 by chance and have been working on it ever since. During this period, I also gained a Master’s degree in Lighting Design. As time went on, I became increasingly obsessed with light and shadows, and gradually gained my own understanding of lighting design.

Project name: Xu Wei Art Museum, Location: Shaoxing, China
Project name: Xu Wei Art Museum
Location: Shaoxing, China

What are your guiding design principles and can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities at the Lighting Design & Research Institute of UAD?

“Darken elegantly, and lighten poetically”. This is my basic guiding design principle.

I’m currently the principal of the Lighting Design & Research Institute (LDI) under the Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang University (UAD). Belonging to UAD, LDI is a design & research institute and an industry-academia-research platform wholly owned by Zhejiang University.

With a young, diligent, and professional team, LDI mainly works on lighting design practices and research. Our design practices cover urban lighting planning, landscape and architectural lighting design, and more. Our research is mainly on lighting education, issues and applications, and on the compilation of industry specifications and standards.

Are there any specific processes or elements you make sure to include when working on large-scale Lighting projects?

Apart from preliminary site investigation, schematic design, design development, and drawing design, we also pay great attention to final realization, which normally includes on-site testing, solution debating, and final commissioning.

There are plenty of factors that influence the lighting effects of a project. In addition to design scheme optimization, parameter calculations, and luminaire layouts, it is also vital to study various materials, find proper expressions, and accurately control lighting. We attach great importance to each project’s lighting quality, so we put an emphasis on debating, testing and commissioning to ensure a desirable effect.

Project name: Shooting, Archery & Modern Pentathlon Venue for Asian Games 2022, Location: Hangzhou, China
Project name: Shooting, Archery & Modern Pentathlon Venue for Asian Games 2022
Location: Hangzhou, China

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the Lighting Industry in China now?

The biggest challenge faced by China’s lighting industry is rapid urbanization and its impact on human settlements, the environment, resources, etc. But challenges are also opportunities. Currently, the lighting sector in China is developing in the direction of being more intelligent and energy-saving, and more concerned about the relationship between humans and the environment, humans and cities, humans and ecology.

What are you focused on right now? Is there a new project or collaboration you can share with us?

In the past few years, we have purposely undertaken lots of lighting design projects for urban renewal. As urban regeneration is a long-term, growing sociological topic, it constantly brings new challenges from different aspects including planning, design, operation, management and so on. I think this kind of project is quite meaningful and also valuable.

Besides, our team has also taken on several projects for the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022, including improving some stadiums and the local urban environment. Those projects are now being carried out and are expected to be completed from the end of this year to next year.

Project name: Lighting for Core Section of Zhoushan New Area, Location: Zhoushan, China
Project name: Lighting for Core Section of Zhoushan New Area
Location: Zhoushan, China

Last, what is the main message you would like to send to young, emerging Lighting designers?

Firstly, never stop learning. Try to visit more, see more, learn more, and be humble as well. A wide range of knowledge is essential to excellence.

Secondly, pay attention to the execution. Every project is unique, which requires us to treat construction drawings and on-site services as prudently as devising design schemes. In addition, attach importance to details and quality. Let the project speak for yourself.
Thirdly, focus on introspection. Review is for improvement, and introspection is for better practice. Accumulate richly and break forth effectively.

Project name: Floodlighting Design for Damiao Temple, Fengqiao, Location: Zhuji City, China
Project name: Floodlighting Design for Damiao Temple, Fengqiao
Location: Zhuji City, China