In August of this year, Lichtvision Design expanded its footprint in the Far East with the opening of a new studio in Shanghai. arc caught up with Clemens Seipelt, Regional Director Asia at Lichtvision, to talk about the new office and the benefits that it will bring to the practice.
How did you get into lighting?
I was fascinated by lighting while jobbing at a stage and event production company when I was a teenager. I was then introduced to the field of architectural lighting design by friends and their studies at the University of Applied Science in Hildesheim, Germany.
Can you give us an overview of your career to date?
I studied the field of design with a Bachelors at HAWK in Hildesheim, Germany and one year at PUCP in Lima Peru. I then gained a Master’s of architectural lighting design at KTH Stockholm Sweden. Since graduating, I’ve worked as Lighting Designer in Lima, Peru, Berlin, Germany, Santiago, Chile, and to date have worked for seven years now in Hong Kong with Lichtvision.
Can you give us a bit of background on Lichtvision as a studio? How has it grown and changed over the years to get to this position?
Since around 2008 Lichtvision has worked on projects in Asia. Firstly, working remotely out of Berlin until we finally opened an office in Hong Kong in 2012. The office and team have been slowly but steadily growing from one to nine people in the Hong Kong office now. Hong Kong has always been a fantastic hub connecting east and west and a great city from where to enter the Chinese market. A large amount of our projects are actually located in China. The idea and dream of an office there was always there, as Hong Kong’s reach isn’t as far. We can concentrate on the greater bay area but northern and eastern China is still very far away. Clients want you to be close. It was ok, but never ideal. The pandemic however hindered us from travelling there altogether. So we adapted to the situation and opened an office to be flexible in the region. We’ve immediately felt the positive response.
What led to the opening of Lichtvision’s Shanghai office?
China is such an incredibly big market with so much potential and opportunities. Being part of this big wave of innovation and architectural development possibilities is exciting and fun. Every city is developing in their own way and is developing fantastic new buildings, landscapes and environments and it feels great to be a part of it. The bulk of our projects are located in China. Simply being local reduces travel costs and allows us to be more agile and cost efficient – flexibility and speed is a must in China. Working remotely is difficult, especially in pandemic times where travel is extremely restricted.
What benefits do you hope the new Shanghai office will bring to the wider Lichtvision team?
Expanding all of our mindsets, cultural exchange, and opening up our office even further to the east. ‘Getting out there’ and becoming an even more global and culturally inclusive team. Especially the team’s direct exposure to a wider market of Chinese designers bringing along cultural differences and design approaches.
How will the new office impact the firm’s work in the Far East?
Having an office within China now, we will be able to travel freely within the biggest market for us. In the short run, we can finally catch up on some overdue construction site visits or attend mock-ups in person for ongoing projects. We are now being present again and able to meet face to face, which is a big advantage. In the long run we will be more cost efficient and flexible, saving costs on air tickets when attending meetings in China, let alone the time spent travelling.
As Regional Director for Asia, what will your role be within the new Shanghai office?
As we keep most of the Shanghai office administration here in Hong Kong, I’m mainly responsible for the office management, administrative and operational capabilities, maintaining good contact and relationships with our existing partners and clients. A big part of my work will be to extend our client and partner base.
Lichtvision already has a base in the Far East with its Hong Kong office. How will the opening of the new Shanghai office affect this?
With our office in Hong Kong we are already very present in the greater bay area (Hong Kong, Macau, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou) but still far away from northern and western China. Now with this new set-up and a presence in Shanghai we are able to cover the region pretty well. The ongoing pandemic challenges us a lot as travel between Hong Kong and China is extremely restricted and until now only possible with very good reasons and lengthy quarantine procedures in both locations. Having a presence in China allows us to travel freely and a total game changer.
What have you got lined up for the new studio?
We have a few really exciting retail projects for a big German sports brand in the making. Furthermore, we currently support GMP Architects, which won a big competition for an outstanding revitalisation scheme of an old 860-metre-long old stainless steel factory. It will be turned into a wonderful complex featuring the new main location of the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, a museum, library, retail and F&B.
What do you think the future holds for the lighting industry?
Covid brought quite a bit of pressure onto the lighting market. We can definitely feel a more competitive environment. It is a challenge, but we need to roll up our sleeves, adapt and deal with it. China is investing a lot and there are lots of opportunities. Hence why we are looking forward to the future.