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Founder Paul Nulty on lighting with purpose

01 Nov. 2021

The INDEX team asked Paul Nulty, founder of UAE-based lighting design practice, Nulty+ to share stories of projects that tested limits and allowed them to explore light with creativity. Here is what he had to say.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul has been involved in the design world ever since university. Starting out as a set designer, he was soon won over by light and its ability to create atmospheric spaces with no need for any other materials or equipment. It was only then that he learned about the concept of “architectural lighting design”: lighting the real world rather than a stage set, and affecting the emotions of all who walk through it. He’s worked in architectural lighting design for over 20 years now, setting up Nulty in 2011 after seeing how he could create an altogether better kind of lighting design company – one with a different approach to lighting, and a different set of values.


Light is an inherently creative tool that empowers us to approach each design brief in an entirely different way. It allows us to think imaginatively to change the character of a space or bring an experience to life. It also requires us to master complex disciplines such as psychology, physics and engineering, to really get under the skin of the people we design for and the spaces they inhabit. The scope for innovation is always there, but for us, the briefs that drive innovation and lighting projects that break boundaries are those that challenge us to design with real purpose. Our single most important principle is always why we are lighting a space because this will always bring authenticity to the design. If our design intentions are authentic, there is continually room to innovate with integrity.

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DIFC, Gate Village – Lighting with a Creative Purpose

Our architectural lighting scheme for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) at Gate Village is a great example of where lighting has been used creatively but with very clear intent. We worked closely with 10Design to use light to drive footfall to the newly regenerated Gate Village district. Our solution consisted of two illuminated bridges that create a dynamic colour-changing experience as you walk through. Light has been used with precision to create a 360-degree illuminated portal that cements the area as a vibrant destination and encourages people to linger and enjoy the space.

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Global Workplace, London – Lighting with a Humanistic Purpose

Increasingly, workspace projects encourage us to create environments attuned to the people using the space. We put this approach into practice when designing a community-focused lighting scheme for a global company based in London’s Clerkenwell district. Our resulting scheme was highly adaptable and characterised by layers of illumination that change according to how the space is used. Above all, light has been used in a wholly humanistic way that prioritises the individual over the physical elements of the space. Private working spaces are illuminated by oversized acoustic theatre lights that form secluded work zones where employees can customise the light in their workspace. Within the building’s dedicated relaxation area, cloud-effect acoustic pendants provide gentle illumination and reduce sound, and individual wall-mounted lights within sleep pods emit a soft, warm glow for reading or rest.

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Chelsea Barracks, London – Lighting with an Architectural Purpose

Often our approach to a design brief is shaped by a desire to read the visual environment and determine how light can be used to enhance that particular piece of architecture. It becomes a question of understanding how and when light should be used. The result is that everything about that building feels right and the boundaries between architecture and lighting fall away. This was our challenge at London’s iconic Chelsea Barracks development, where we worked in partnership with a team of architects and landscape architects to design a public realm scheme that reinforces the overall architectural masterplan. Defined by softly illuminated public walkways and beautifully lit garden squares, our response was deliberately restrained. We integrated contemporary lighting features whilst carefully preserving the development’s traditional London streetscape façade. The final scheme stands out for its precise, clearly defined use of light, which serves to bring a sense of rhythm and permeability to the area.

To find out more about Nulty+, visit www.nultylighting.co.uk.

Interested in connecting with lighting designers like Nulty+? Get in touch with INDEX on partnering for the Lightbox seminars in 2022.

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