This article was first published in Architectural Lighting.

Eli Meir Kaplan

At the youthful age of 38, David Ghatan, president of CM Kling + Associates, is a seasoned designer who has been practicing for 18 years. An interest in theater, developed in high school, paid his way through college—a multidisciplinary degree in design from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.—by building sets for local productions during summer breaks. Wanting to make a change, Ghatan then started to look into architectural lighting and called firms in the area, including CM Kling + Associates. The rest, as they say, is history. He started as an intern at Candace (Candy) Kling’s office in the spring of 1999. When his mentor Kling suddenly passed away in 2013, Ghatan assumed leadership of the firm. It’s a lot of responsibility, but not something he shies away from. Case in point, later this year he will become president of the International Association of Lighting Designers—one of the youngest the organization has ever had.

What fascinates you about light?
How this single discipline can be so poetic and at the same time be so scientifically grounded with facts.

Is there a text that has influenced your thinking about light?
Jean Rosenthal’s The Magic of Light. She was a Broadway producer and Candy’s mentor. The book is about stage lighting, but its not a how-to; it’s more of a how to train your thinking.

How do you balance the responsibilities of running a business and being a designer?
Design is what drives me. I’m still designing and I want to be doing that, the trick is that I can’t get to do it all anymore. It’s about hiring people you trust and working with them so that you can still have oversight.

How has the practice of lighting design changed since you first started working?
At the design level, I think it’s very much the same: We’re still working with the architecture, trying to coalesce around concepts and introduce lighting applications. Where it has changed is that we have started to take responsibility for our work; to own what we are doing.

How do you explain a lighting designer’s work?
Storytelling. •

“Once you have a certain amount of experience, you have enough context with lighting to know how it will or will not react to something; that’s the fun of it.” -- David Ghatan, president of CM Kling + Associates

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