Bob Bohannon

Lux Populi, the Mexico City based design practice that has been quietly building a name for itself across the world, is now expanding its reach with a new UK team headed by Bob Bohannon. First established by Thomas Paterson over a decade ago, the award-winning practice has now grown to a team of nineteen.

Can you tell us your background in the lighting industry?

I started my lighting career nearly 30 years ago, and was priviledged to undertake the MSc course at UCL alongside industry greats-to-be like Dominic Meyrick, Gary Campbell, Des O’Donovan and Jonathan Howard – there must have been something in the coffee that year. I was equally fortunate to spend two years with BDP, Barrie Wilde’s mentoring will always be valued and appreciated.

In 1997 I moved across to the manufacturing side of the industry at Sill. In the naughties we were dominant in the knowledge and application of optics and were leading the industry on the use of computer modeling. We provided a huge amount of support to the teams behind projects such as Heathrow T5 and Kings Cross Station.

The end of Sill was a hugely sad and painful experience, but I came away with lessons learnt on leadership and a great working knowledge of the type of major infrastructure projects such as rail or air terminals that extends Lux Populi’s skill set.

What’s your favourite experience in the industry so far?

That is easy – St Pancras Station. My involvement lasted 7 years, so much so that my then young son called it ‘Daddy’s railway station’. The key people who delivered it, Alistair Lansley and Peter Lawrence were a joy to work with. Ten years later it is still one of London’s most loved buildings.

What is the history of Lux Populi?

Thomas Paterson founded the practice in Mexico City ten years ago. That office has grown to seventeen, from backgrounds in architecture, engineering, interior design and indeed lighting. It’s a first principles practice focused on serving client needs with excellence, informed by architecture, joy, identity, behaviour, context and function.

What are Lux Populi’s major projects?

We’ve been working around the world in everything from high end residences to infrastructure. We’re passionate about every project, it’s hard to name one or two. We voted in the office – our favorites are Juvia (restaurant in Miami), Marc Chagall’s America Windows and The Lakeside Retreat, a home in upstate New York. Most recently we’ve won awards for Sushi Garage and Nos restaurants in Miami and Lima.

Thomas would tell you that his longest and most challenging project was a 48,000 square foot home for a client of Tadao Ando’s, but that his greatest joy was the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’m hugely impressed with a new project, still under wraps, that defines the entrance to a global city with fun but timeless, technically smart interventions. It’s a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project. It’s discipline of understanding everything from brand and aesthetics through to delivery, engineering and lifecycle operations is something that drew me in to Lux Populi.

Why was it decided to set up Lux Populi in the UK?

Our existing team already works on projects in the Americas, Europe the Middle East, Africa, India and Australasia. Working at great distances is part of our DNA – demanding great communication a rigor in documentation, but with the UK office we’re happy to reduce travel distances and time zone differences. There are a lot of highly skilled designers in the UK, but few practices really make the right platform for them to learn, develop, teach and create.

It also gives us a real base to be trans-atlantic, working into the States and Latin America has been tough for European design practices, few have a strong flow across the Atlantic. Having teams on both sides who live the design and construction cultures of each side, we’re going to be brilliantly positioned to support European architects working in the Americas, and visa versa.

What do you feel you can bring to the UK venture?

I bring new areas of experience (large infra/public domain), especially on major rail and air termini that add to the practice’s huge strengths in residential, retail, leisure and identity.

Part of my brief is to be a technical guru to the team and to ensure best practice on environmental and social responsibility. I already ‘give back’ to the industry by way of being on the Vice Presidential team at the Society of Light and Lighting, but I will also focus on ensuring our schemes use the least embodied, life cycle and in-use energy possible.

Who else is part of the UK team?

The team will be led by myself, with Thomas Paterson making regular trips over. The other key person will be Oriana Romero who has been a senior member of the Mexico City team for several years. As well as her lighting design skills she will be ensuring that the unique and incredibly positive Lux Populi Mexico City psyche will be brought to the UK. She has led projects from the Costanera Center in Santiago de Chile through to historic refurbishments in Mexico City and private homes around the world. We are actively recruiting and we are excited that so many talented people are reaching out to us.

How do you see lighting design developing in the future?

I think the industry is heading down some blind alleys or prematurely jumping into new trends without enough solid research. For us, the fundamentals of lit environments remain key, the craft of light, of user functions, of identity, of social activation, and of social responsibility. We could talk IoT or Human Centric Lighting, both of which are part of the future, but neither changes the ‘why’ our clients hire us, nor the focus on going back to first principles on EVERY project. How can we benefit our clients? How can we actively create something positive for all the stakeholders?