Ketra has helped us think about lighting not as a static condition, but as something that gives us the ability to architecturally address the passing of time — such as one color transitioning to another, or the light levels going up and down according to different conditions throughout the day. That’s incredibly exciting.
3. What are you working on right now?
We’ve got a lot of projects nearing completion right now, but we’re excited about a coworking space we’ve been developing in Echo Park. It’s a neighborhood-oriented project — there’s really nothing like it available in the area. That’s how we got introduced to Ketra. We were frustrated trying to sort through all the LED driver options and successfully matching them to the available dimming systems.
When we first encountered Ketra, they were only producing an A20-shape replacement bulb. Our coworking project grew alongside Ketra’s expanding offerings — we added an Italian restaurant, as well as a wine bar/shop — and those three projects will finish in the next couple of months. We also have a National Historic Places project in the Coachella Valley: the Miles C. Bates house. It’s an experimental dwelling that was built in 1955, with a dramatic, roller-coaster shaped wooden roof that earned it the nickname the “Wave House”. We are restoring it within the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, so it’s both meticulous and very historically rigorous. The house will be part of a small hotel and events space with additional structures by Stayner Architects.
4. How do you approach light in your firm’s projects?
We are not lighting designers and don’t pretend to be, but we are architects interested in light as one piece of the palette of materials and techniques that we have to produce architectural space and experience for occupants. Every architect cares about light, but right now there seems to be an industry-wide obsession with natural light at the expense of artificial light. As a result, the lighting package gets left for a sales rep to select the highest-margin items from their linesheet, or default lighting specifications get adopted from one project to the next. At Stayner Architects, we spend more time thinking through this than most developers are willing, or able, to do.
For example, we’ve been looking at historic lighting for our project in the Coachella Valley. Although it's exempt from CA Title 24 due to its historic status, we’ve tried to understand what light quality would have been in 1955 when it was built — the color temperatures, light spread, etc. We have had lots of intense discussions about restoration of the physical aspects (i.e., using the right paint removal system for the original wood, whether a toilet is consistent with what would have been used, and so on). But to us, part of those discussions is questions like, “How do you replicate what the light levels and light quality would have been back then?” You see people uplighting historic buildings as if that’s important or how they originally looked. But when they were built, there was no artificial light — or it was used in a different, more restrained way. So we use technology like color-tunable LED lighting to help us simulate those tungsten or fluorescent lights. To be honest, LEDs were a bummer 8-10 years ago — the dinginess of the color rendition of the early lights was really unfortunate. Now, though, there are so many exciting possibilities with how much control you can have, from dimming to color and saturation.
5. How has Ketra changed how you work with light?
We created a truly unique restaurant space recently, Tamarindo, in which we used all Ketra lighting, and we did a lot of the programming ourselves. Ketra provided a great installation, implementing the initial setup of California Title 24-related sensors and the overall architecture of the lighting controls. Then we went in and did the adjusting and control over the time-based aspects ourselves. Part of what we loved is that Ketra has made the gap between architectural lighting and theatrical lighting much less significant. That meant thinking about light quality not as a static condition, which is how many architects tend to think about light. One of the big opportunities we discovered in working with Ketra was how much potential we had to architecturally address the passing of time — such as one color transitioning to another, or the light levels going up and down according to different conditions throughout the day. That’s incredibly exciting. And the programming is understandable enough that it offers a great opportunity for architects to have direct involvement in lighting design — rather than the complex technologies and specifications that have traditionally produced a layer of separation.
6. Where should we go to experience more of your work / your favorite projects?
That’s a great question! Over the last half-century our office has completed hundreds of projects, mostly in Southern California. Our most recent work would be the Echo Park Workspace in LA, and Tamarindo in San Clemente. The Wave House in Palm Desert is also getting tons of press. It will be unveiled this winter during Modernism Week, as an example of how to bring life back to an existing structure.
Want to learn more about Stayner Architects’ unique approach to their work and the results it brings? Take a look at this case study for San Clemente restaurant, Tamarindo — and see just how well their firm’s focus on keeping it in the family plays out beautifully in scale.