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Sensed But Not Seen

TransAmerica Headquarters, Los Angeles, CALighting as Drama in Southern California

Lighting Design by John Case
Photography by David Kramer

A helicopter lands in the middle of night on the grounds of a sizable private estate in Southern California. The owner, a well-to-do businessman, is rather tired from his round of East Coast business meetings. Minutes before the chopper touches down, he reaches for a remote control device and--presto!--his manse is instantly illuminated at the press of a button. Thanks to San Diego-based lighting consultant and designer, John Case, the businessman no longer has to fumble for a myriad of light switches in each room of the house.

"Why should anyone have to spend 15 minutes searching for and turning on light switches?" asks Case. "With one button, a variety of tasks can be performed." For nearly 20 years, he has sought practical solutions to lighting problems for residential and commercial installations across the nation. And he is not content to consider merely the aesthetic side of lighting, either. From the beginning of his career, Case has designed switching systems and light fixtures as well.

"So many times," he notes, "lighting designers are called in after projects are well underway. Usually by then, many problems need to be solved. That is why I stress to interior designers and architects that lighting designers be consulted from the onset so that proper switching elements and light distribution can be achieved and future needs anticipated." It has always been Case's philosophy that lighting should be sensed and not seen. To achieve this, Case conceals certain lighting fixtures as much as possible so that the objects illuminated are not surrounded with dangling or mounted fixtures and wires. Quartz halogen is the light source Case prefers most, and the optical projector is the style of fixture most chosen for illuminating objects. With optical projectors a template is made of the shape of the object to be lit and placed over the lamp, thus eliminating excess light spillage. Elsewhere in Case's projects, appropriate table lamps, wall sconces, torchiers and other fixtures are used with discretion.

Says Case, "One common error is that too often a lot of lighting if used in a few places, when just a little amount of lighting in a lot of places would be more suitable. In other words, people have a tendency to use a 150-watt spotlight where only 20 watts is actually needed. This goes hand in hand with wrong fixture selection and, again, improper planning. The goal is to bring out the work done by the interior designer or architect. A beautiful project by day can be a disaster by night if the lighting is not correct.

Switching systems, he continues, "do not have to be ugly or awkwardly placed, either. For example, we engrave buttons with their functions, and make the switch housing part of the decor. Also, audio systems can be tied in with the lighting for the sake of convenience."

Case's view on residential lighting is that a home should be softly lit upon entering--inviting without the necessity of bright lights. For the Charles Mitchell residence, shown on these pages, Case created a hallway that becomes a passage of visual delights by evening. Two enormous artworks by Sheila Elias and Steve Grossman seem to float in an undefined space--the lighting source as much a mystery as the room itself. Without prodding, the eye is drawn outward to a Guy Dill sculpture beyond the pool where trees literally glow in the night.

When it comes to corporate, hospitality or public space interiors, Case provides an aura of lighting--not to mention a touch of drama--that equals the prestige and authority of his high profile clientele.

As technology advances and projects become more demanding, Case admits it becomes more apparent that managing light--indoors and out, day or night--is an art in itself.

-Gregory Firlotte

Above: Corporate drama is created by lighting designer John Case, shown here in the executive floor lobby of the Transamerica Headquarters, Los Angeles. In a reflective mood, Case gazes at Mitchell's Falls, a cement polymer construction by Laddie John Dill. Brother Guy Dill' untitled steel and glass sculpture stands solemnly against the Los Angeles skyline. Interior design by United Business Interiors.


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