Photographer: Martijn van Broekhuizen
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Lighting designer Erik de Wildt
'I have been designing film scenes for more than twenty years. Now I use the same knowledge in architecture.’
By: Maayke Grootscholten
With certain light scenes you can call on a person’s feelings. Anger or nostalgia; you can take it far
His fascination with light sprouted when he saw sunlight bounce off the parquet floor in the living room, when he was just a child. Nowadays, Erik de Wildt is a well-known lighting designer for films, commercials and architecture. He is still impressed by that same reflective sunlight: “Much later, I became aware that everything we see is the light’s reflection.”
Initially, Erik wanted to become a camera man, but early on, he found out that making beautiful scenes is largely influenced by proper light management. So, he became a gaffer: the chief lighting technician on a filmset. His company Wildt Imaging (WLDT) worked on Dutch television series such as Judas and the film Goud (Gold), which was even awarded for Best Camera work at the Dutch Film Festival. Only years later he discovered architecture. He says that he is still new to the architecture game. “There are elements of film, that I take to architecture. I have been designing film scenes for more than twenty years. Now I use the same knowledge in architecture,” he tells.
“Certain colors evoke specific feelings. For example, the use of contrast to draw your eyes to a particular element. With certain light scenes you can call on a person’s feelings. Anger or nostalgia; you can take it far. It is so powerful. You can excite people, make them work more efficient, or make them feel at ease.”
Photographer: Greetje Mulder / Filmset: Zee van Tijd (Sea of Time, 2021)
My daughter is already playing with a lamp and the shadow it creates.
Image: Myrthe Mosterman / Filmset: Zee van Tijd (Sea of Time, 2021).
Whenever De Wildt is given a project, he will directly start searching for inspiration. He’ll plunder the local library or allows himself to be amazed by the reflection of an object he encounters on the street. At the moment, he’s inspired by trees, leaves and how light falls through the canopy of a forest for a big lighting design he is working on. “Before you know it, you spend the evenings reading books about trees and studying botanical drawings. I get very excited by that. The shape trees or plants form is fascinating! That’s how a design originates in my mind. After that, I have to translate it to something technical.” At the moment, De Wildt has started on the lighting design for a science museum in Saudi Arabia with his other company Bastard Orange Lighting Design (BOLD) together with partner Pelle Herfst. One of the nine rooms and gardens in the museum is specifically designed for children. “There will be rooms where you can make a triple shadow with colors and lights that you can bend in every direction through a prism. It’s incredible to work on this project. I’ve got the feeling that I can take it in all kinds of directions: with color, light, or shadow play. It’s going to be a spectacle, for kids too. My daughter is already playing with a lamp and the shadow it creates at home.”
When you get out of a room you’ve been in for a day, you have to feel refreshed
It can be more efficient
Despite the beautiful projects he’s working on, De Wildt thinks it would be useful to involve architectural lighting designers earlier on in projects. They are often included at the end of the design process. “Everything we propose is just a little too late. For most contractors we’re a real pain in the ass, because we want to add light,” he tells laughingly. “I understand how this can be annoying, but it’s something you can tackle earlier on. If you get me involved in the preparation, I can make something even more beautiful for the entire project. And people don’t have to be up in arms about it, nor will the costs skyrocket.” De Wildt would mostly like to think along how light enters in the building. Experts could play a very important role in that respect. “Healthy lighting in a building has a good mix of daylight, complemented with artificial lighting. You have to be able to experience the progress of daytime. You have to be able to know when it’s light or dark outside and whether the sun is shining or not. That’s important for a healthy circadian rhythm. When you get out of a room you’ve been in for a day, you have to feel refreshed.”
Photographer: Martin Maquire / Filmset: The Hallow (2015)
Lighting design for Appelsientje
Inefficient and polluting
In the future, the lighting designer hopes that the quality of light sources will progress in quality. He is referring to LED. When he looks out of his window in Amsterdam, the lights he sees hanging in other people’s homes make him want to cry. “The quality is poor. There is a lot of green in it and dimmers don’t work properly. The light flickers, but people have gotten used to it. There’s a lot of theories about this, but you have to know that bad lighting can make you feel tired, or miserable and less happy. If you invest in good lighting in your home, you will notice a positive effect on your mental health. I dare to say that quite strongly.” Sustainability and maybe even adding to a circular economy are part of De Wildt’s vision of the future. Facades that generate enough electricity to light an entire building, for example. “I live in a newly built home that I designed myself. In hindsight I can feel frustrated that I didn’t design it more efficient and environment friendly. There’s a lot to gain there. It would be splendid, if in the future there are more ways to add to less energy consumption and even prettier lighting.” Blog: 10 tips for lighting your home office