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The Science and Art of Light

A conversation with lighting designer Scott Hatton

Scott Hatton's route to lighting design was through architectural engineering with an emphasis in lighting at the University of Colorado. The combination of technical studies along with design coursework set Hatton on the path that he has pursued his entire professional career. Co-founding Oculus 10 years ago, Scott finds the balance of design and engineering knowledge valuable as Oculus continues building a diverse project portfolio.

Hatton says that while lighting may be a small portion of a project, "it provides the most significant impact by shaping architecture." Many of Oculus' projects incorporate science and art through architecturally integrating accent lighting. Here, Hatton highlights a few of these projects.

Scott Hatton, LEED AP, is co-founder and principal of Oculus Light Studio, with offices in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Lighting designers collaborate with architects and interior designers to express their goals through lighting. Conversations with the architect and developer of 5300 McConnell in Playa Vista, CA, clarified project goals and the impression they wanted the building to make. A hierarchy of elements was defined, led by the dramatic glossy red entrance and followed by more subtle horizontal wood slats screening the building. Hatton's lighting design expressed that hierarchy with integrated uplighting that creates a glowing red entrance. Off to the sides of the portal the flood lighting is subdued. Embedded lighting in the wood slats softly illuminates this secondary element. "Our job was to express the different elements in he architecture by designing lighting appropriate to each of those elements," says Hatton.

The result of the lighting design at 5300 McConnell is an inviting and comfortable nighttime environment that concentrates and amplifies the architectural features. Image credit: Oculus Light Studio
With an all LED lighting scheme, this pied-à-terre on demand has the style and hospitality of an intimate hotel and comfort of a fully appointed condominium. Image credit: Eric Staudenmaier Photography

The AKA Beverly Hills, an extended stay luxury hotel, has a warmly lit entrance and an intricate concrete trellis above the entrance. The lightweight concrete shields view of the parking garage from the hotel entrance and street, and integrated backlighting creates a glowing screen at night. Sconces on the front of the building wash the exterior. During the day, the light fixtures disappear on the trellis.

"Light is not just about brightening things up. It is doing other things," says Hatton. "Here it is communicating the sense of arrival and the AKA brand. The finishes on the walls and the stone work are high end. The lighting compliments those things and brings out the texture of the materials. It creates a warm and inviting ambiance, but also a modern vibe that is inviting, not stark. Integrated architectural light sources are concealed and shielded, so there is no glare, only a warm, welcoming vibe."

Located within the Great Park Neighborhoods, the lighting design for Parasol Park supports its playful and fun characteristics while ensuring safety and security. 

Image credit: Oculus Light Studio

Parasol Park in Irvine, CA, is reminiscent of a northern European park with natural wood elements and mature trees. One of park's defining features is the "tree of light," a massive pine tree encircled with a deck and embedded uplighting that washes the tree. Gobo projectors in the tree itself create "moonlight" through the tree and a dappled effect on the deck.

Several schemes were developed for an outdoor amphitheater that allows nighttime shows at the YouTube offices. 

Image credit: Oculus Light Studio

The outdoor amphitheater at You Tube's Playa Vista facility gave Hatton another opportunity to play with multiple ways to light the landscape. Integrated light beneath sculpted benches achieves two goals: It reveals the architecture of the curving seats and navigates people safely to their seats. Light projectors attached to the building illuminate the concrete walkways with dappled lighting. Like AKA Beverly Hills, Hatton's design took the adjacent residences into account with subtle and shielded lighting.

The projects shared here illustrate Hatton's approach of designing a lighting system. In large urban parks, for example, multiple functions happen simultaneously. "One area may need more lighting for safety and another a spotlight or uplighting to highlight landscaping or other site elements," says Hatton. "Poles may need speakers or other technology attached. And there is often a relationship between interior and exterior lighting. Light is about safety, but even more it is a way we communicate the identity and experience of a place."

Scott Hatton, LEED AP, is co-founder and principal of Oculus Light Studio, with offices in Los Angeles and Seattle.