Among the 40under40 lighting designers honored at the Lighting Design Awards 2018, six young professionals emerged as rising talents and leaders in their California lighting communities: Brandon Thrasher and Amaia Puras-Ustarroz of HLB Lighting Design; Nick Albert and Neha Sivaprasad of Illuminate Lighting Design; Galen Burrell of Arup; and Kera Lagios of Integral Group.

These individuals will shape the future of the lighting design profession, and the built environment. WCLI asked them to write about their accomplishments so far; to share with us a single project that inspired and excited them.

Brandon Thrasher

Brandon Thrasher is an associate principal at HLB, where he works on a wide variety of projects. He earned an MFA in theatrical lighting design at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and got his start in architectural lighting design at Available Light and Light This!, both in Boston. Thrasher joined HLB in 2010 then left for Impact Illumination (the lighting studio of Henderson Engineers) in 2014. He “boomeranged” back to HLB in 2016 to lead the San Francisco office.

The Langham Hotel Boston started life in 1922 as a Federal Reserve Bank building and immediately became an architectural landmark for the city. The building was converted to a hotel in 1981, becoming part of the Langham brand. To reinforce Langham’s luxurious five-star identity, the hotel sought to transform the entry experience. This project was a thoroughly collaborative design with CBT Architects, in which light played an important role.

The design team was tasked with preserving the history of the building by blending modern and classic elements to create a visually stunning grand entrance for guests. The architectural team wanted to maintain the ceiling height as much as possible, in order to preserve the lobby’s open feeling. Our team – which included Carrie Hawley and Barrett Newell – worked closely with CBT to develop details to conceal lighting, which was often intertwined with existing M/E/P equipment hidden above the ceilings. Lighting was carefully integrated within clever architectural materials and finishes to create a dramatic, plush experience. Two custom lighting fixtures required a significant amount of time to develop and create.

Now, contemporary sparkle glows from above, infusing grace and glamour into this once tired location, setting the tone for a world-class hospitality experience. The project was awarded an IESNA Edwin F. Guth Illumination Award of Excellence. The keys to the success of this project were collaboration and a strong focus on the seamless construction of all details. As they say, “the devil’s in the details.”

Neha Sivaprasad

After working in lighting design in San Francisco and then heading her own firm in Mumbai for several years, Neha Sivaprasad joined Illuminate Lighting Design in 2014. As a senior designer in San Francisco she works on high-end hospitality and other commercial projects. Sivaprasad earned a bachelor’s in Architecture (with honors) from the Sir JJ College of Architecture at the University of Mumbai, and the Master of Building Science from the University of Southern California. She holds a LEED AP credential and is Lighting Certified.

Vintage House is a part of The Estate, a 22 acre luxury resort located at Yountville in California’s Wine Country. The project was a combination of new construction, renovation and remodel – led by HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates and SB Architects – to revitalize the previously existing Vintage Inn. The refreshing style is the confluence of rustic elegance and modern sophistication. Lighting plays a significant part in letting this style shine through.

The building exterior architecture is reminiscent of a contemporary wine country residence. Light creates an inviting vibe by providing just the amount of warmth to call attention but not loud enough be a feature in itself. The lighting design process was exciting and challenging: the light had to be molded to elicit a subtle emotional connection between the architecture and the surrounding landscape by Girvin Associates, and between the guest and the physical elements of the interiors.

Light sources hidden behind the canopy posts provide an indirect glow, while soft path lighting creates an inviting rhythm. Statement decorative glass and crystal chandeliers selected by the interior designers at HBA lend sparkle to the crisp white interiors. Architectural luminaires hidden in the ceiling provide practical lighting and bring drama through contrast and highlight.

Our design was very conceptual and then very hands-on. As with many restorations, numerous technical lighting and electrical decisions were made on-site as construction progressed. This collaborative design and implementation effort among all team members proved very successful and fulfilling; overcoming physical challenges while staying true to the original design intent. The great design partnership between Illuminate and the rest of the team continues on other buildings at the resort.

Galen Berrell

Galen Burrell is a senior lighting designer with the team at Arup in San Francisco. He specializes in daylighting and advanced lighting simulation. Burrell earned the Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he passes on his expertise as an adjunct instructor.

Lighting and daylighting were influential design drivers for the Northeastern University Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. Working with Payette, the lighting design both shaped and reinforced key architectural features that were pivotal to the success of the project.

For example, in the five-story central atrium, which connects the laboratory and office bars of the building, daylight is introduced through amorphously shaped skylights. The skylights were rigorously studied and refined to optimize the amount of daylight into the atrium and adjoining lab spaces, while also providing for comfort and views to the sky. The result is a dynamic and inviting, voluminous space that provides opportunities for collaboration and respite from the more focused work areas.

Collaboration was also a critical element of the design process, working with Arup Senior Lighting Designer Jake Wayne as well as several MEP engineers out of the Boston office. I’m particularly proud of this project because it was a unique opportunity to develop and refine our integrated lighting and daylighting design process for a complex project type – that had magnificent results. The project was awarded an IES Award of Merit in 2018 and was lauded as “magical, an airy oasis in the crowded city” by the The Boston Globe.

Amaia Puras-Ustarroz

Amaia Puras-Ustarroz, who recently relocated from Miami to Los Angeles, is an associate and daylighting specialist at HLB, where she promotes daylighting for health and wellness. Puras-Ustarroz holds a master’s in architecture from the the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and a Master in Design Studies in Energy & Environment from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. After graduating she worked in the High Performance Design Studio at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) in Chicago, before joining HLB.

PDX Terminal Balancing & Concourse E Extension was my third big infrastructure project at HLB (expected completion in 2020). These projects provide plenty of opportunities for electric lighting and daylighting integration, and generate exciting challenges. We were working with Fentress Architects (with whom we had enjoyed working before) and Hennebery Eddy Architects. This team of architects was very open to suggestions and exploring options.

Hayden McKay, who leads our Daylighting and Sustainable Design Studio out of New York, directed the daylighting efforts. And Michael Lindsey, associate principal at HLB’s Denver office (also a 40under40 2018 awardee), led the electric lighting. At the same time, our increasing daylighting portfolio required more daylighting staff. So, while working on the project and coordinating the different studies, I was providing technical training to different HLBers to consolidate a larger daylighting team and to contribute to this project as well. (Lighting designers Zhenyu Ye, Venna Resurreccion, Sam Hewett, and Bahareh Hosseini also deserve design credits here.)

We had the chance to conduct new types of studies for facial recognition, glare mitigation, shading, etc. Experimenting with materials both physically and digitally, we proposed design modifications to ensure daylight balance at gate podiums and other critical areas. One of the great accomplishments of this joint effort between HLB teams (electric and daylighting) was the collaborative design of controls.

Kera Lagios

Kera Lagios is an associate principal at Integral Group where she leads the Oakland lighting design team. Lagios is co-founder of the company Solemma and one of the original developers of the DIVA-for-Rhino daylighting and energy plug-in for Rhino modeling software. Lagios earned the MArch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and got her start in award-winning lighting design at Lam Partners.

One of my favorite projects has been the practice building at the Boston Conservatory that I worked on while at Lam Partners. The Studio Building façade faces the busy I-90 freeway in Boston (near Fenway Park), so the building’s presence helps publicize the school. Designed by Handel Architects and Utile, a single, unifying element is prominent from the exterior: a dramatic three-story stair. Inside, a student lounge at each stair landing promotes collaboration and camaraderie among students and faculty.

While working with the design team, we struggled to come up with a solution for lighting the monumental stair behind the fully glazed façade. After tossing around several ideas, I proposed the idea of a custom fixture that would follow the stair in a continuous, high-energy line of light, and the architects were enthusiastic. Working with Bartco Lighting, we engineered the custom lengths, angular connections and suspension points. As installed, the project is among the most publicly striking in my portfolio. In progress, it was one of the most rewarding: taking a concept and making it reality.

Nick Albert

As design director for US operations at Illuminate Lighting Design, Nick Albert lights an array of projects from the Los Angeles office. Albert holds a degree in architecture, from Ohio State University, and he studied interior design at the The Art Institute of California–Los Angeles. His experience in project management and construction, and 9 years at Francis Krahe & Associates, inform his design practice. With a focus on the next generation, he teaches at UCLA Extension’s Graduate Interior Architecture program.

A group of recent projects that I’m especially proud of are three creative offices that our team designed in Hollywood with Gensler Los Angeles for Global Brands Group. The client is the parent company of Joe’s Jeans, Juicy Couture and Bebe (among others) and tasked the design team with creating an office space for each brand in the same building. Each space has its own look and feel but all share some common elements. Led by Illuminate Senior Designer Kelly O’Connell, our team collaborated very closely with the talented folks at Gensler to develop a unique design for each space.

The HQ for LA’s own Joe’s Jeans is particularly successful in achieving the perfect blend of welcoming, residential comfort and visual accuracy that Joe’s team of apparel designers need. The project provided an opportunity for our team to show off both our core strength as hospitality designers and our technical precision and attention to detail in a collaborative workspace. The result is a beautiful, inviting studio where creativity flourishes.

Lois I. Hutchinson

About Lois I. Hutchinson

Lois I. Hutchinson is a freelance writer specializing in lighting and energy issues. She is also the content marketing mastermind behind Inverse Square LLC, a Los Angeles–based consultancy. Contact her via with your comments and any article ideas that concern the lighting community here in the Southwest.

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