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042


DETAILS


Photographs: James Newton


Above left Fordham’s design for the V&A’s Grand Entrance interiors use warm white light to accentuate the details in the stonework. Top and above right For the V&A Museum of Childhood, three floating rectangular profiles were installed with direct/indirect linear luminaires built in, along with spots for track lighting.


Peter Fordham and I have something in common: our fathers were both jewellers, and they were also seduced by the lure of showbiz before settling on jewellery. While mine was a guitar-playing, free-living hippie with aspirations of becoming the next Jimi Hendrix, Fordham’s went from being a film extra to operating a lighting Strand console for a theatre production of The King and I in the 1950s.


By sheer coincidence, the same kind of Strand lighting console decorates the Lon- don office of DHA Design, where Fordham is Director. “When I once brought my father to our office, he couldn’t believe that they still existed,” he recounts. “Ours doesn’t work, but it’s quite a fabulous piece of history.”


There was an echo of history when, in 2008, Fordham provided a dramatic lighting scheme for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhaustive jewellery collection, featuring some 3,500 jewels both rare and priceless.


“There were issues of conservation,” he re- calls. “We’re not just talking about precious stones and rare metals. There were quite a few objects that had some very delicate organic materials that the jewels were em- bedded in. Fibre-optic lighting allowed us to meet the conservators’ requirements. It’s almost a miniaturisation of modelling light the way you do in the theatre. Using more than one narrow-beam source; placing light exactly where you want it to go.” Growing up in a suburb of Essex, about 20 miles east of London, Fordham’s childhood fixation on Lego would prophesy, to some extent, his adult life’s links to architecture. His family’s life largely revolved around his father’s jewellery shop, where Fordham especially enjoyed meeting the designers behind some of the jewels in the display cases.


He was able to delve fully into design during his college years, three of which were spent at the University of Leeds, together with an


exchange year spent at Pennsylvania State in the U.S. Though he studied architectural engineering, he had a change of heart in America, a country that had fully embraced lighting design by the late 1980s, while the field was still slowly emerging in many other countries.


“Back at Leeds, we were all being groomed to become structural engineers,” he says. “It was heavily based in civil and structural engineering. But during the exchange year to Penn State, I took my lighting design 101 class, and never looked back.” While in America, Fordham found inspiration in many places, from his professor, Craig A. Bernecker, at the lighting department at Penn State, to the Chicago O’Hare airport, where he saw artist Michael Hayden’s influ- ential “Sky’s the Limit” installation. “It’s a long tunnel with a cold cathode sculpture,” he says. “It’s quite dynamic; it changes as you walk along the tunnel. I’d never seen anything like that at the time.”


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