Raffaele De Vita: one-way ticket from Italy to Australia

A brilliant conversation with the Italian designer and founder of the international studio Light it Design, based in Sydney.

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Highlights

«Light as a brush to paint on the canvas of the architecture», states Raffaele De Vita, architect and lighting designer. Despite the poetic note of this introduction on his website, De Vita takes a pragmatic approach to design: good practices, tailored solutions, and customer focus are the cornerstones of all his projects at Light it Design, an international studio based in Sydney, active throughout Australia and Asia. His professional journey began in Italy, reached a new continent, and now spans the globe, always searching for new projects and, most importantly, new inspirations.

1. Fraser Properties

What has been your journey, and how did you become interested in lighting?

«I graduated in architecture from the University of Florence in 2008 with a thesis on urban lighting in Venice. Then I completed a master’s degree in industrial design. In 2010, thanks to a scholarship, I completed a master’s in lighting design at La Sapienza University in Rome. One of my professors, Marco Frascarolo from Fabertechnica, offered me an internship at his studio, where I collaborated for almost three years. I had the opportunity to work on major projects, even the lighting for the Sistine Chapel. This experience made me realize that light would be a fundamental part of my professional life.»

2. Raffaele De Vita

How did Light it Design come into existence?

«I first came to Australia for love in 2009 and then in 2012 because I wanted to take a sabbatical year. I eventually decided to stay permanently in Sydney; it was a leap of faith because I didn’t speak English well at the time. Before joining a lighting design studio, I did various jobs. By the end of 2016, I decided to branch out on my own: I had a clear vision of my lighting design concept and always believed it was essential to offer additional services to clients, pay attention to all details, and meet various needs by being physically present at sites. I founded Light it Design, and after some initial groundwork, large projects started coming in. The first was for Google’s headquarters in Sydney, followed by Chanel and the Heinemann Duty-Free project at Sydney Airport. Fortunately, the pandemic didn’t slow down my work; the only challenge was getting custom solutions produced for the spaces.

3. Chanel Headquarter

Then international calls started coming in, like the lighting for the Euro American Financial District – two twin towers in China. Last year, I explored the market in London, and I’m currently expanding the studio’s reach in major Australian cities like Brisbane and Melbourne. At Light it Design, I like to keep an eye on everything, from design to marketing; I collaborate with lighting designers both locally and abroad, including a long-time associate in Thailand. I’m currently looking for new professionals and travelling a lot to build new connections.»

4. Duty Free Aeroporto di Sydney

Light it Design has created lighting for the Sydney offices of major international brands. How is light connected to brand identity? How do you design lighting for a workspace?

«Light is closely connected to brand identity. For Chanel’s HQ, the approach was minimalist; the light sources are almost invisible, and the ceiling is free, directly tied to the fashion and essential elegance of the Maison.

5. Chanel Headquarter

For Google, we lit a five-story office with diverse functional areas – entrance, gym, food court, focus rooms, and open offices – allowing for more eclecticism. Each area’s language is different, and we could incorporate playful elements, like using binary code in the positioning of ceiling light panels, a sort of hidden architectural Easter egg for the observant. Beyond Australian standards and minimum lighting values, the approach to workspaces has drastically changed in recent years. The extensive use of remote working and the current desire of companies to bring employees back to the office reflect in designing lighting solutions closer to domestic ones, making people feel comfortable. It’s not just technical fixtures. There are also more decorative floor or table lamps.

6. Chanel Headquarter

In the recent project for Fraser Properties, we didn’t even use ceiling fixtures! Often, especially in common areas, different lighting scenarios are programmed for special occasions, events, or conferences; in gathering areas, I find it interesting to use low-level lighting, like LED strips embedded in the floor or under seats, and there’s significant attention to biophilia and green lighting.»

7. Fraser Properties

Bridges, airports, infrastructures: how important is lighting?

«From an aesthetic point of view, light plays a key role in large projects, as it can drastically change their appearance. RGBW systems, for instance, allow redesigning architectures through light colour or temperature. Even indoors, in the Sydney Airport Duty-Free, there’s a zone with a large skylight and another without exterior openings: we had to design a balanced lighting and control system to compensate for the lack of natural light on cloudy days. Another challenge was correctly illuminating the diverse merchandise, from cosmetics to textiles to food, while maintaining the safety values for people.»

8. Duty Free Aeroporto di Sydney

Among Light it Design’s recent projects is the Ovolo Hotel in Sydney: what are the distinctive features of lighting and best practices for hospitality lighting?

«The story of this hotel is fascinating. It’s in a massive building considered a cultural heritage of Australia, where immigrants arrived by ship in the 1950s, later converted into a hotel and residences twenty years ago. The new owner, Ovolo, wanted to bring the building to a more human scale, so pods and pavilions were added to the open space, mainly connected by light. Architectural and functional lighting is hidden but decorative lighting is on display, especially vintage industrial chandeliers equipped with filament LED lamps to evoke “old” technology. In hospitality, systems must be dimmable to adapt to different times of the day; programming is also important to turn lights on or off in predefined ways. Lighting must always harmonize with interior design. The atmosphere is crucial in a hotel; if the environment is warm, with fabrics, woods, and colours in the red and orange spectrum, the light colour temperature should also be warm 3000K. Conversely, if the fit-out includes raw concrete and metal, cooler better highlights these surfaces’ materiality.»

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