If you’re new to a business sector, getting your foot on the ladder is no easy task – but lightemotion’s first job was on Atlantic City’s famous Revel casino, not a bad thing to open your CV with. The firm’s second job was on the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Canada, creating interesting, subtle lighting for customers while keeping firmly in mind the functions of the casino. Principal design director Francois Roupinian talked to CI about the company’s early projects.
Casino International: What is lightemotion?
Francois Roupinian: We are a lighting design studio based in Canada, in Quebec, and with a studio in Toronto. We work on many international projects, from Eruope, Asia, the Middle East to the US – we do very few projects in Canada, we are a well-kept secret in our home country.
CI: A casino is a difficult space to light, how did you go about your striking work at Lac Leamy Casino?
FR: This is actually the second major casino we have designed for, and a casino is a very difficult space. The first we worked on was the Revel in Atlantic City, an amazing project with a great architect. We worked on that with the Scenoplus team, they work on all the big theatres and set designs like Celine Dion and Cirque de Soleil. They were called in to work on the two theatres in the Revel complex, and it took a couple of months of brainstorming with the clients for them to also give us the casino floor. By the end of the project we had done most of the public spaces because the approach we brought for Revel was a very outside-the-box concept; usually a casino is very very dark, the lighting is not great, it goes from very dim to glittery… there is no middle ground. There is often no thought for comfort. We approached it thinking of comfort, what does lighting mean? How do you feel in it not just as a visual show with beautiful lighting, but how do you feel going from a gaming machine to a gaming table, to walking in an alley, to a rest area? We worked for seven years on Revel, it was a good school for us.
When we started the Lac Leamy Casino, we had the same sort of thought process. It was not just a photometric calculation. We tried to understand who the customer is, who do they want that customer to be? A casino is open 24 hours a day, and it does not have the same patrons in the morning, at lunch, at night, weekends and weekdays. So we tried to design a system that could evolve and that could articulate to cater to all those people. To give the casino a tool
to really modulate the space. The architects had also included very strong, striking installations. Our approach for the general lighting was something very delicate, meaning that instead of having 30 or 40 downlights or whatever shooting down to the ground, we used specific projectors to give the idea of broken lights. Instead of just projecting a directional beam, we took a light and a gobo and textured that light; this meant we had uneven lighting, it was very soft. There was enough to circulate, but the level was balanced with the light coming from the slot machines. Slots have LEDs which are harsh and bright, so when you light such a space you have to think of the contribution of other lighting. Because it’s so harsh it’s not good for skin tone, it’s not very interesting – how do you balance it with your own lighting design to accommodate the patrons?
CI: Security is a major factor in lighting too; Lac Leamy has some high ceilings too. Surely that made life even more complex for your team?
FR: It depends; right now there are ways of using light in a system where it’s very controllable and you can play with the levels. For that project, we had no issues with security cameras because we were constantly in meetings with the casino and their security and AV people. When we placed the lighting, we worked with them so that everything was at the same level, the same trim, so you wouldn’t have a camera be lower than the light and create glare, for example. The way cameras were positioned, they were in dark zones so we did not want to highlight them with general lighting either. We dealt with this in Revel too. Revel, regardless of what happened to it later, must have been quite a project to work on for your casino debut.
Revel was a beautiful project. They really tried to bring something completely different to the public, it wasn’t about playing all day and night. There was natural light, a spa, it was about comfort. We did mock-ups in Philadelphia warehouses, in hangars, doing full-scale mock-ups; we spent days with Kevin DiSantis checking the lighting level when you sit at the table, what’s it like on the dealer, everything. That knowledge, studying lighting direction, the sensitivity of light which is so important – we have a museum background and light a lot of major museums, and in museums lighting is incredibly important. It is all intertwined, and we brought that knowledge to Revel.
CI: Is the casino sector an area you are targeting for growth?
FR: We are very eager to work in casinos more. It’s a space where you can explore and design, it’s an ecosystem, a little world. The challenges of designing for a space that never closes, not only artistically but technically, you have to be rigorous, the design must be timeless and maintenance-free. It’s a major area of interest for us, for sure.