For Nathalie Rozot, intellectual curiosity is a constant. With degrees in science and design, she has forged a multidisciplinary career. The director of New York–based L’Observatoire International from 2000 to 2005, she opened her own lighting design and research practice in 2006. She has taught landscape lighting workshops in France at the École National Supérieure de Paysage de Versailles and is the primary thesis faculty in the MFA lighting program in the School of Constructed Environments at New York’s Parsons the New School for Design where she has taught for the past 15 years and has served as thesis adviser since 2007. In 2011, she founded PhoScope, a “think tank on light” to establish “a new platform to facilitate change in the practice, education, and critical study of lighting.”
Do you see architecture and lighting as distinct or parts of the same whole of design?
Architecture and lighting decisions are related because space, materials, and light are connected. However, constructed environments need distinct areas of expertise that are complementary. Design needs to be served with cross-disciplinary knowledge and processes.
Does there need to be more critical dialogue and discussion in architectural lighting?
Yes. Our generation is too focused on practice and our intellectual legacy will be dire. We need a body of theoretical work and study to advance practice. I’m a strong advocate for a larger critical and research culture about lighting.
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing lighting education today?
We’re in a 21st century context where higher education, design education, and pedagogy have evolved. Lighting design education should evolve as well. We’re still teaching lighting design in an architecture-centric framework but we need to move beyond self-justification for our field. We should promote a wider literacy about light across all disciplines so that we can focus on the lighting design practices that are relevant today.
Why did you establish PhoScope?
The idea was to create a shift and to position critical research culture from a photo-centric viewpoint, as opposed to situating it within architecture and theory.
How would you describe what a lighting designer does?
I say that I am phototect and that I phosform public space in the photopolis.
“Design is like a network. It connects arts, technique, science, and theory. Creativity lies within all these dimensions.” -- Nathalie Rozot, founder of PhoScope