Presented by the Designers Lighting Forum of New York

March 19–20, 2024
New York Hilton Midtown, New York City

2020 The World of Illusion vs. Allusion

The World of Illusion vs. Allusion

Tuesday, August 18
9:30am – 10:30am


Credits: 1 AIA LU

While exploring and analyzing design solutions, there is often an important distinction that needs to be made pre-facto. Shall we pursue options that allude to the architecture, or willfully create illusions that are superimposed on a willing architecture? Through this analysis arise two distinct visual worlds— a world of illusion or a world of allusion. The appropriate choice of direction for the project is then a mirror to the cultural and historical context, through the prism of illusion or allusion. We will present two projects, Soularium (as illusion) and Ismail Building (as allusion), highlighting and relating to real-life designing.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn how memory colors affect the expectation of the viewer.
  2. Understand the issues connected with the outer two dimensions of color (hue and value) in relation to memory and subjective preference.
  3. Learn about the relationship between the spectral power distributions of light sources, various building materials, and human judgments of preference.
  4. Learn how the color preference and saturation in the lighting of colored building materials are impacted by electric light.


Abhay Wadhwa
Design Principal & CEO, AWA Lighting Designers

Abhay Wadhwa, founder and design principal of AWA Lighting Designers, sees lighting beyond its conventional purpose. Here, he crafts a story using lighting design and technology to create moments of experience, which factor into the psyche and emotions of those who work, live, or visit the spaces designed by AWA. While doing so, he is seeking innovative solutions that challenge convention while augmenting the integrity of the architects’ vision. In doing so, pragmatic lighting design nestles comfortably with artistry.

Abhay founded AWA Lighting Designers in 2002. Abhay has been quietly focused on questioning the lighting zeitgeist ever since. Based in Hudson Yards, NY, he works extensively with the world’s leading architecture and design firms in the fields of commercial and mixed-use developments, urban planning, transportation, infrastructure, hospitality, and healthcare. He is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, educator, and author of numerous advanced light engineering and cultural lighting articles. He has worked with the United Nations Foundation on projects that address issues that marginalize many of the world’s population. Recently, he was invited to work with the Rural Haiti Project and Ethiopia’s Mary Joy Aid Through Development to improve the infrastructure, and in turn, the lives of its residents. He has also been referred to as the “Poet of Light” by a Canadian journalist and in lighter moments takes this title very seriously.

Abhay is inspired by the cultural and emotional effect of lighting and aspires to make a difference in our visual environment with his passion for his craft. A love of technology means he continues to find innovative solutions to stretch light into the shadows, allowing both light and dark to harmoniously coexist. The results are breathtaking projects that evoke meaningful responses from those who interact or encounter the spaces designed by Abhay and AWA. Abhay’s high-design content and technical prowess are at the cutting edge of what is being designed in the 21st century. Abhay is pushing the technical paradigms with the development of groundbreaking lighting fixtures that draw from other fields, such as theater, optical engineering, and lamp technology, and offers a multi-layered approach to directing light as a medium. His projects aim to respect local cultural contexts, retain a global sense of purpose with integrity, and push the design envelope. Together, Abhay’s inventiveness and his design acumen have won competitions, bringing in numerous high-profile projects for AWA. Such projects include: the Singapore Consulate in New York, a 14-million square foot mall in Central Asia, a completely integrated township for 100,000 residents in Saudi Arabia, hotels in Africa, the Dubai Sixth Crossing Bridge, which is the tallest and longest single arch span bridge in the world, the renowned Peak Tower in Hong Kong, the lobby at 575 Lexington Avenue in NYC for Silverstein Properties, the Bushwick Inlet Park, which is a LEED Gold-certified center for the NY State Parks Department in Brooklyn, NY, and the Brigade Gateway/WTC project in Bangalore, India. Abhay also won the Flos/Elle Décor international fixture design competition with his design for “Light Chords,” a fixture suggestive of the form of a traditional African plucked string instrument, the mbira.

Abhay has built up AWA as a research-based design studio. Over the past 15 years, some of the design research initiatives that he has developed at AWA are:
1. Healthy Lighting: The Lesser Known Variables
2. Light for Healthcare & Special Needs
3. Beyond Frequencies and Wavelengths
4. In Praise of Darkness & Shadows
5. The Impact of Culture & Climate on Lighting
6. Light is My Religion
7. Future Trends: What Will 2030 Bring?

Abhay has also brought these leadership skills into the classroom for the past 5 years, believing that passing on the accumulated knowledge that comes from designing and communicating with g

Justin Moench
Senior Associate, AWA Lighting Designers

Justin is trained as an architect. His visual and design style is based on the creativity of form and space. Through his work in architecture, he has learned ways of using both form and space to create the sense of new life and function, and now with AWA, he is using that experience with his knowledge of lighting to create amazing designs.

Justin has worked at AWA with dedication for over 12 years, exercising creative problem-solving strategies and implementing innovative solutions. Some of the most notable projects that he has worked on are Singapore Chancery, New York; Bushwick Inlet, Brooklyn, New York; KAFD Parcel 4.11 & Parcel 5.05, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Mayar Wellness, Gurgaon, India; Godrej Headquarters, Mumbai, India; and Bihar Museum, Patna, India. He was also an integral member of AWA’s winning team for the Dubai Sixth Creek Crossing Bridge Competition. His eye for detail has lead to the successful execution of several completed projects.

As an associate director, Justin occupies a strong leadership position within the company and continues to guide the team in project development and professional growth. He continues to be responsible for the production of visual representation of the design intent. He oversees the generation of Photoshop renderings for everything from skyscrapers and bridges to lobby interiors. He also works with the technical team ensuring the lighting layouts, specifications and details for fixtures meet the projects design goals.

Justin earned both a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree as well as a Bachelor’s of Building Science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While at Rensselaer, he also received a minor in Lighting at Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center.