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David Ghatan

Advancing the Architectural Lighting Profession

David Ghatan intended to study architecture in college, but a last-minute decision landed him at George Washington University in Washington, DC, a liberal arts school that didn't offer an architecture major. But it was at GWU that Ghatan was able to combine his interests into a unique major that combined theatrical design with fine art and architecture. "My studies looked at lighting design as an art form. I wanted to approach lighting as a designer who speaks a lot of languages and tells a bigger story."

The summer before his senior year, Ghatan was searching for an internship related to lighting. He had heard of architectural lighting, but knew little about the profession. An architect friend gave Ghatan a list of lighting firms, and he called the one business that was in the DC area, which happened to be CM Kling (CMK). Ghatan and Kling began an email exchange that culminated in Ghatan becoming an intern at the firm. And he never left. "I had a great mentor in founder Candy Kling. I worked with her for 14 years until she passed away. And then I became president of the firm. She left a great legacy to carry on." 

David Ghatan, CLD, IALD, LC, MIES, is president of CM Kling + Associates. Ghatan's architectural lighting design portfolio includes national and international projects in hospitality, corporate, residential, government, religious, convention centers, and mixed-use.

Candy Kling instilled in David the importance of service to the community of architectural lighting professionals. He is active in a number of organizations, including board member of IALD, serving as its president, president elect, treasurer, and director-at-large over 10 years. He is active with the Education Trust, a sister organization of IALD that works with students studying lighting, and he is now on the board of Business of Light, an organization that provides training and education to lighting business owners. David serves on the Hospitality Committee of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and, in 2017, became the 29th professional to receive CLD certification by the Certification of Lighting Designers.

Involvement in both established and new organizations gives David a rounded perspective on the current state of the profession. "There is a new wave of younger professionals creating meaningful experiences for them that weren't part of established lighting associations like IES. I see new organizations, new mentoring groups, and new awards on the rise, and I see more collaboration among established and new organizations. Women in Lighting and the Business of Lighting groups, for example, are collaborating with IALD and IES."

The Recreation Pier at The Wharf DC provides an engaging experience for residents and visitors and offers options for active or passive engagement while taking in views of nature. The site includes a terraced amphitheater, boardwalk, gathering canopy, boat boarding ramps, and a fire "torch" sculpture.
Redefining the preconception of a convention center, Nashville Music City Center's lighting creates a warm, inviting atmosphere and plays on the principles of musical rhythms. Environmental goals were met without sacrificing experience, and the building attained LEED Gold certification.

David believes the connection among organizations in the industry is one reason the profession is growing. "We are a profession now," says David, something that wasn't the case when he began his career. "RFPs now request or require a lighting designer on the project. Again, that wasn't the case at the beginning of my career. Our knowledge and skills are expanding, too. Lighting products used to be simple. LEDs have been here for a while, and we've learned a lot about them but we've also had to learn about technology and electronics to achieve the intended outcome for a project. We have greater knowledge of the technical details and nuances of components and controls and why one technology may not work for one project but may on another. We've had to be open to the rapid pace of technology changes."

In collaboration with landscape architecture firm Rhodeside and Harwell, CM Kling designed site lighting for the US Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico. The design included efficiency measures and climate conditions considerations and received LEED Gold certification. Photo credit: Rhodeside and Harwell

And it's not only the products that have changed, but how lighting professionals design and document. "Ten years ago, we didn't talk about Revit, but now it's how we build criteria, imagery, and see real-time renderings. When I was IALD president and we were celebrating our 50-year anniversary, I talked about technology being scary, but at the end of the day, we're still doing the lighting design that we did 50 years ago. We're still balancing the artistry and the function of lighting."

"I see greater respect and a growing understanding of the lighting profession. As we move forward, lighting will have a greater voice at the table, and I find that exciting."

– David Ghatan