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Tributes pour in for Jonathan Speirs

Colleagues and friends in the world of lighting have been paying their tributes to lighting designer Jonathan Speirs, who died today.

Jonathan Speirs, 1958-2012

‘It is almost impossible to find the right words to capture Jonathan’s incredible personality and to properly summarise his remarkable career,’ said Speirs’ long-time partner Mark Major today in a moving tribute.

‘Whether you were a client, a fellow architect or designer, a hard-working employee or simply met him at a party, you would always come away from any encounter with Jonathan much the richer. And yet beneath the creative and extrovert exterior that marked his professional career there was another Jonathan who was quiet, considered and extremely modest about his achievements,’ Major said.

Iain Macrae, president of the Society of Light and Lighting, said: ‘The sad loss of Jonathan Speirs will leave a gap in lighting design that few of us can really appreciate. His ability to listen quietly to a conversation with that sparkle in his eye, to add a story or two, to create from a few words a gem of an idea, to fill those huddled in conversation with a little of his passion. On the few occasions I had the pleasure to meet him, his enthusiasm always grabbed my attention, his understanding of both light and architecture turned ideas to concepts and soon to solutions. He truly brought architects and lighting designers closer together and brought great lighting design to us all in installations most of us know and love. He was always firm in what he wanted as a designer and the results speak for themselves. Truly a man who could teach even the most experienced a thing or two, Jonathan’s passion will be sorely missed by loved ones, friends and by the design community at large.’

Marsha Turner of the International Association of Lighting Designers said: ‘A leading light in the architectural lighting design profession has gone out. An innovator in the field for many years, Jonathan Speirs was and will remain an inspiration to lighting designers everywhere. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends, and all of those he left behind.’

Mark Sutton Vane said: ‘I remember first meeting Jonathan about 1990. I was so impressed by him, I joined LDP and worked with him. He worked at an incredible speed. Once, when he had not got much time in the office, he arranged a circle of designers who all needed to ask him several questions and got them to ask him questions in sequence around the circle. He was able to jump from project to project and was easily able to answer this non-stop torrent of questions. Thank you, Jonathan, for the inspiration you gave everyone.’

Tim Downey of StudioFractal said: ‘Jonathan was the inspirational figure in my time at LDP all those years ago – and he remained a distant frontrunner from the day he set up Speirs + Major with Mark. I remember many small kindnesses he extended to me over the years, and he was always the first to shake my hand if we won an award or even a project he was also bidding for – not that that happened much! His achievements will stand for many years as a testament to his passion and skill. My thoughts are with those closest to him who have to deal with their loss.’

Downey suggested introducing a ‘Jonathan Speirs Innovation Award’, for those lighting installations that are ‘completely brilliant’.

Adam Grater of DHA said: ‘We are very sad to hear that Jonathan has passed away and would like to extend our deepest sympathy to his colleagues, friends and family.’

Mike Hill said: ‘Jonathan was always full of enthusiasm, passionate about design and always a pleasure to work with and mix with on a social level. I remember trying to go to one of his talks at Light + Building a few years ago. The room was full to the rafters, everyone interested in what Jonathan had to say. It was so full that I could not get in. I saw him afterwards and congratulated him – as always he was very modest and self-effacing about the whole thing. That was Jonathan and he will be sadly missed.’

Anil Valia said: ‘It is sad news that Jonathan is no more. The lighting design world – a small group – has lost a giant.’

Shaun Lawry of Philips Lighting said: ‘It’s absolutely amazing what Jonathan has contributed to our industry. Very sad to hear the news today and my thoughts go out to Jonathan’s family.’

Lux publisher Ray Molony said: ‘It seems cruel and somehow unjust that Jonathan – with his youthful enthusiasm for technology and infectious love of life – should be taken from us so young. Yet despite that relative youth he was arguably the most respected lighting designer in the profession and one of its great pioneers… Along with Mark, he built Speirs + Major into a practice like no other, one with a cogent, intellectual philosophy that created groundbreaking projects.’

Jon Estell of Insta UK said: ‘Despite his eminence in architectural lighting, he exuded warmth and a total lack of pomp.’

Stewart Langdown of Ceravision said Speirs was ‘an extraordinary man taken so young who had an incredible knack for looking at projects in a total different way. A true lighting architect who changed the way we light buildings and objects forever, and who leaves a legacy of training some of the greatest designers in the industry today.’

Noel Brassey of Danlers said: ‘I first heard of Jonathan Speirs in 1986 when he was running LDP and using Electrosonic Sceneset for the Sheraton Oslo. I remember being wowed by the lighting and wondering if UK clients would have the nerve to let him loose on their blessed chandeliers and recessed fluorey tubes. Although I only met him a few times he always acknowledged me and was extremely polite to an ex-fluorey sales engineer who just about knew what a dimmer was. A lovely man and a great loss to the industry.’

Kuldeep Vali of Havells-Sylvania said the industry had lost ‘the most inspirational thought leader and pioneer of the lighting design profession’. ‘We all will miss Jonathan. My sincere sympathy to his family, Mark, Keith and all the friends in lighting industry.’

Howard Lawrence of Commercial Lighting Systems said the industry had ‘lost one of life’s true gentlemen’. Andrew Glossop of Helvar called Speirs ‘an inspiration to us all’.

Twitter was full of tributes today from people whom Speirs knew or influenced. Designer Maurice Brill said he was ‘very sad’ to hear of Speirs’ death. ‘Our thoughts go out to his family and friends,’ he said. The Society of Light and Lighting said the industry had lost ‘a great man’ while Elizabeth Donoff, editor of Architectural Lighting, said the lighting world had ‘lost one of its best’.

Share your tributes to Jonathan Speirs with us here.

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