“Light and music have the same characteristics,” Croatian lighting designer Dean Skira says. “They are invisible, but they both influence our emotions.”
For the Interior Design alumnus, emotion is both the starting point and the goal of any lighting project, regardless of whether it is for a public park or memorial, an arena, an office building, or a luxury hotel. His work may be technical and precise, but it is very much art: Before he completes a project, he must be moved by the play of light and shadow—and the “consequence,” the feeling that arises when the eye perceives a space.
“We don’t do lighting for architecture, We do lighting for people.” —Dean Skira
This human-centered approach has brought international acclaim and plenty of business for his 12-person eponymous firm. The company has won 50 major awards, including 15 for innovative light fixtures, 30 for lighting design, and five for the company’s own office building, the House of Light. That last project is a surreal white box in seaside Pula, Croatia, with indentations that collect geometrical shadows that shift as the sun crosses the sky.
Skira fell into lighting design by coincidence. He was working as a computer programmer in Croatia, employed by a Yugoslavian electric company. He devoted two years of his spare time to building software to automate the maintenance of the region’s high-voltage infrastructure—and the company did not even consider his plan. Disappointed and disillusioned, he left the country in 1986 to study architecture in New York.
A friend of a friend connected Skira with a job at a lighting showroom on the Bowery, working for the lighting designer Eduardo Rosso. Skira fell in love with the romance of lighting and, forgoing architecture school, took Interior Design courses at FIT, the only college in New York that had a lighting lab. In 1994, he moved back to Croatia and founded his company.