Up Close With Geoff Bouckley of LightSPACE

January 31, 2024

By Shirley Coyle, LC

An exclusive interview with Geoff Bouckley of LightSPACE

It was a good gig in his early twenties – based in Toronto, and armed with a Fine Arts degree from York University, Geoff Bouckley was doing the theatrical lighting design for modern dance productions, first locally, then Quebec, then on to Europe (Spain, Portugal and Germany).

“Europe has an appetite for arts that supports budgets, where even a small town of 10,000 people will have a fully functional, professional theater that seats 1000 people – and they brought over North American shows.”

Geoff Bouckley,
Studio Lead,
Light Space at SMP Engineering

It was heady, rewarding work in lighting, but eventually, he felt a need for financial stability. During a late-night wander in downtown Toronto many years ago, Geoff looked up at the lighted office towers and thought, “Someone has a job that does that lighting, and probably makes a steady income versus me!”

Casting a net to find out where one gets an architectural lighting design education, Geoff found amazing US-based programs – Parsons and Rensselaer in New York, Penn State, Boulder, Colorado, and even Bismark, Germany. But what about programs in Canada? He eventually found the one Canadian post-secondary lighting design program – in Toronto, at Metropolitan University (then called Ryerson). He enrolled, going to school in the evening to learn architectural lighting, while working during the day at Harbourfront Centre. The limited options for learning architectural lighting design remains a significant challenge that Geoff sees in Canada: “We need more educational opportunities for lighting design.”

Bouckley is now based in Calgary, Alberta, with the Rocky Mountains in view and easily accessible. He leads the architectural lighting design studio, lightSPACE, within SMP Engineering, a vibrant electrical consulting engineering firm. He attributes his success to “staying open to opportunities, and not overly defining what I’m capable of…the focus was on lighting design and calculations, but gradually I became as interested in the business of lighting – how projects are attained, the process, the phases of development.”

Taking inspiration from several Eastern Canadian engineering firms, especially in Toronto, that had established a branded lighting design group within their engineering firm, Geoff thought, “Why not? I can make this happen. We were already SMP’s lighting group – we launched lightSPACE, which was not a radical change from the inside at the time. But we’ve been able to make a name in lighting, and we’re fortunate to have the best of both worlds – shared resources, SMP’s great internal marketing team, and we support SMP for all their projects. We’re in the infancy as a lighting design studio, just two years, but it’s exciting to hear people use the lightSPACE name!”

Reflecting on current issues facing the lighting community, Geoff points to the challenge of communicating the value of a professional lighting design, including the selection of products.

“Once we’re on a job, the value of our work is evident. But for a client who has not engaged a lighting designer, I focus on relationship building, showing the client how we bring value by including portfolio examples, showing the differences with more professional, educated thought on lighting design – how it increases the quality level at the end of things. For example, reminding the client they are spending $X amount on granite countertops, so why wouldn’t you spend a little money on the lighting to make them look like the money you spent!”

Geoff Bouckley,
Studio Lead,
Light Space at SMP Engineering

More recently, Geoff has been working to understand the potential of AI – without a catastrophic mindset. “What does AI mean for lighting design? How do we harness it – trying to not get fear-mongered that all lighting designers will be replaced by architects using bots!”

Reconciliation Bridge, Calgary AB (LightSPACE)
Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton, Calgary AB (LightSPACE)

Asked for his advice to new people entering the lighting industry, Geoff offers, “Get involved, that’s my number one piece of advice. Maintaining your education, getting contacts – all that happens through involvement, and IES has the network. If I were to move from Calgary to, say, Austin, Texas, I would join the local Austin IES Section! Also, IALD membership – the recent IALD conference [in November, in Banff, Alberta] was eye-opening – what I expected, wanted and more! It was a great chance to see people, connect, talk with manufacturers – serious, deep value conversation – not just looking at the latest gizmo. And the learning sessions were great! Also, there was the Canadian event – has there ever been such a great gathering of the Canadian lighting community?”

Geoff Bouckley,
Studio Lead,
Light Space at SMP Engineering

When Geoff Bouckley is not working on lighting design and developing business for lightSPACE, you will find him taking maximum advantage of the great outdoors. “I really enjoy being out in nature. In my opinion, Calgary might be Canada’s best naturally-connected city… you can get out of the city in about 10 minutes and be in the prairies, or be in the mountains. In the winter, we are skiing or snowboarding; in the summer, we are hiking, canoeing. And if I’m not out in nature, especially as winter sets in, with my wife’s encouragement, I’m starting to dabble in creative writing.”

Published with the permission of Design Lighting

More information available here

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