Beyond the norm: inspired fitout design
A chandelier comprising 497 hand-blown glass pendants was designed by Dean Phillips Architectural Lighting for Tiffany & Co’s new flagship store in Melbourne. Owner, DEAN PHILLIPS, takes us through the design process.
Earlier in 2011, jeweller, Tiffany & Co approached Dean Phillips Architectural Lighting to discuss the lighting design for its new flagship Melbourne store. Tiffany & Co has its own independent team solely dedicated to the design and project management of its retail stores worldwide. Based in New York, Tiffany & Co’s construction team works around the globe opening new stores. It oversees the design and manufacture of every detail of the store fitouts.
Tiffany and Co commissioned both local and international designers, builders, architects and craftspeople to work on the design of the new store, which is in Collins Street in Melbourne. Tiffany & Co initially intended to use a lighting manufacturer from the Czech Republic for this store’s chandelier design. The colossal chandelier design would span from the mezzanine level right down to the ground floor of the store. The initial design proposal from the competing company consisted of over 1500 pieces of glass and weighed over 1.6 tonnes.
Having no idea what to expect and with no local assistance for this chandelier installation in Australia, Tiffany & Co assigned local construction company, Probuild, the task of building its flagship Collins Street store. Probuild proposed that Tiffany& Co approach Dean Phillips to commission a chandelier design, as Probuild had worked with Dean Philips on previous projects, such as the 150 Clarendon Street and Eureka Tower penthouses, and had formed a good working relationship with the company.
Tiffany & Co wanted to use a chandelier in one of its Asian stores, which was much smaller and featured dagger-shaped glass shards, as the inspiration for the larger-scale Melbourne feature chandelier. Initially, I wondered why they had approached us, if all they wanted was a basket of glass with globes hanging inside. There is no design behind that. ‘Get a builder and a glass blower to do it!’ I thought. When you take that kind of old, traditional approach, all you get is a concentrated band of light behind whatever glass is hanging in front of it. To me that’s nothing special.
I like a challenge, however, and I decided to do something different and amazing. The new Tiffany & Co on Collins Street was going to be the biggest store in town and I was very keen to find a way to light up the space with something that was unique, but also met the client brief.
EXTRAORDINARY PITCH PRESENTED
I decided to take the traditional glass chandelier into the next generation and light each piece of glass individually. This approach helped me to narrow down a return brief for myself while giving the client some sort of excitement and satisfaction, as it showed them that they were going to get something never seen before.
Part of my pitch was to present the idea of an unusual shape to the glass and not just a standard teardrop. I convinced the Tiffany & Co team to transform the shape from a round teardrop at the bottom into a square twist at the top. This would achieve an unusual lighting effect. If you compare a cut crystal to a round teardrop, you will notice that the facets refract and break up the light.
There was some fierce competition from offshore competitors, but Dean Phillips was appointed to complete the project. To start with, we collected some inspirational images and put together a presentation to send to New York. I always like to begin with sketches and ensure that the project direction is clear from the outset by using a hand-drawn approach. The initial drawings give a feel for my original intent..
FLUID DESIGN PROCESS EMPLOYED
Thereafter many conference calls took place between Dean Phillips and Tiffany & Co’s head office. As a trained artist, I like to sketch during these sorts of discussion with a client to capture the freshness of ideas as the conversation unfolds. That way, I am able to quickly convey my ideas. There were many conference calls where ideas would be thrown around and I would be feverishly drawing. We would take photographs of the drawings with my iPhone and send them to New York or scan the drawings in and quickly email them to Tiffany & Co for comment.
The Tiffany & Co team would then make mark-ups over the top of my initial conceptual drawings. These would include shapes they liked and further ideas they had. From this, the form of an idea for the chandelier evolved. Members of the Tiffany & Co New York team visited Dean Phillips on a monthly basis and monitored our progress. I took them on tours around Melbourne to show them other lighting feature pieces Dean Phillips had designed. Tiffany & Co was taking a real gamble on us by entrusting us with the feature piece in its flagship Melbourne store. I think it was reassuring and exciting for its team to see other works we had produced. For me, it was an unforgettable experience to see their positive response to our portfolio of work and to see trust being built.
After Tiffany & Co sent us a piece of its Tiffany Blue colouring for matching, we created numerous samples and tested them against the LED light source to develop the idea for colour rendering. We were able to vary the amount of the blue-coloured glass in the individual pendants to achieve an organic effect. I came up with the idea of leaving a central section of pendants unlit to give more colour variance.
ORIGINAL AND ORGANIC VISUAL EFFECT CREATED
I have a good knowledge of working with glass and glassblowing techniques. The unique square twist shape of the glass with the clear glass highlighting Tiffany & Co’s blue interior and the air bubble inside the tip were very difficult to produce. This was where I wanted to make a real statement with the glass. The square edges refract light, creating sparkles and inspiring interest. The hand-blown glass pendants provide a liquid and organic visual effect.
One of the last components to be installed, in order to keep it clear of dust, the completed chandelier is at the centre of the finished Tiffany and Co store. The design comprises 497 hand-blown glass pendants. Each piece is individually lit with its own custom-engineered LED light source. The chandelier spans from the mezzanine level right down to the ground floor and we used a mirrored ceiling plate, so that when you look up it seems as if the chandelier continues into infinity.
In the end, high-level drawing skills and technical knowledge mixed with real hands-on creation produced a result both we and Tiffany and Co were extremely pleased with.
Melbourne-based lighting designer, Dean Phillips graduated from Swinburne University School of Design in 2000. He then went on to further develop his expertise by working as an apprentice to renowned lighting designer, Geoffrey Manse. In 2004, he branched out and founded his own boutique lighting design and fabrication studio, which specialises in undertaking a broad range of custom lighting projects. He has since gone on to illuminate some of Australia’s finest interiors, from apartments and offices to restaurants and bars.