GVA Lighting sat down with internationally acclaimed architectural lighting designer, Dean Skira, to discuss his notable career with reference to one of Skira’s most recent and much-admired lighting design projects, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, located in the Croatian Capital City of Zagreb.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where it all began…

I am a passionate lighting designer, working on all aspects of architectural lighting for the last 30 years. Originally from Croatia, I moved to America to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, and in 1990, I established my own lighting design practice in NYC. However, I soon realised how much I was missing life in Croatia, and in 1995 I returned to my home town of Pula where I have lived and worked ever since connecting with architects, designers and investors to create meaningful lighting experiences.

How did the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum project come about?

As with many publicly owned projects, Skira was asked to submit a bid to present an initial concept and ideas for the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum. This is often the case for public projects and Skira has extensive experience in this area. Subsequently, we were appointed to develop a lighting scheme for the museum’s façade and landscape lighting, continuing with the realisation of this technology museum which began life in 1954 as a celebration of science, combining education with visitor engagement.

The museum houses and showcases scientific and technical appliances that have played a role in the country’s history, including aircraft, cars and machinery. The experience pre-dates some of the world’s most notable cultural projects, such as the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

What was your ambition for the lighting design of this project?

My philosophy has always been to try to enhance architectural features of structure making sure the light fitting is the least important element in the job; it is what comes out of the light fitting that is the most important component. Light is an invisible product which makes our job difficult and many don’t understand what we are trying to convey.

To create a successful lighting design, we are projecting the image in our head of what the object will look like in the light, painting structures using an invisible brush. As such, composition and visual appearance are fundamental and the influence of street lighting etc. should always be considered. Because this building has l-shaped linear form, it was natural to follow the form of the building with light – this is what we have done previously with all other public spaces, bridges etc. By using a different colour temperature on the façade itself, we have sought to create the same reference of colour during the day and at night.

Tesla is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, we were therefore keen to enhance the exhibition with a lighting design concept to reflect his achievements. A dynamic blue light was created to represent the famous Colorado coil effect; the effect is programmed to appear every hour, and lasts for around 15 seconds each time. To avoid light pollution the light slowly dims as the night progresses to ensure minimal impact.

In addition, we created a completely concealed and integrated linear lighting system within the architecture of the building using GVA Lighting’s STR9® Series. This ensures both ambience and practicality. Two independent rows of linear lights were introduced with two different colour temperatures – 3000K and 4000K – to meet the needs of the surfaces it illuminates.

Why did you choose GVA Solutions to fulfil vision?

The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum is an important cultural landmark, categorised as a cultural heritage protected by the Croatian Ministry of Culture. It was essential for Skira to source lighting solutions that would preserve the original appearance and not appear obtrusive.

As a product designer myself, I can appreciate the technological difference in light instruments that we can find on the markets. The technological advancements that GVA offers is unparalleled. The possibility of running 300m with one power supply is an extremely useful component, assisting with future maintenance and installation. For any public space installation, it is important to consider the longevity of the product without maintenance. The purity and density of colour from one product, along with the sturdiness of the fitting itself has resulted in a very high-quality product.

Offering excellent versatility with robust IP66 or IP67 rated housing, GVA Lighting’s STR9® Series delivered the perfect solution for the museum. This family of solutions is an all-encompassing range of high-power wall washing and wall grazing linear LED luminaires.

How would you summarise this project?

Simply put – the form of light follows the object we want to illuminate.

This project, along with several other Skira projects, have received numerous accolades – how does that make you feel?

We are humbled by every single award received by fellow professionals. We strive to provide projects that push the boundaries of the profession and really embrace challenging projects that at times no one wants to get involved in, these are often the ones I like the most.

At Skira we have a fantastic team here, the service we provide and enthusiasm we embed into our work and technical knowledge is unique – there are very few companies that can provide a full 360-degree service such as ours, and I am of course very proud of the business and our portfolio.


Photo / Video credits: Jana Jocif