ISU student brightens up New York City, wins international lighting award

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University student Jorge Encarnacion was awarded the Beyond Illumination Scholarship at the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) annual trade show and conference, LIGHTFAIR 2007, held in New York City this month.

Encarnacion was one of two lighting students honored nationwide by the IALD Educational Trust Fund, and he is proud of his accomplishment.

"It's almost overwhelming," he said. "But I'm still a student. Still learning. I'm not an expert at anything, yet."

If getting a master's degree in architectural lighting sounds like an unconventional degree, it should. Lighting design courses at Iowa State are rare, and the school does not have a lighting department or even a curriculum for the discipline.

Students who have won this award in the past have attended schools that offer lighting as a degree path. Encarnacion was the only student who was not from an East Coast school.

None of that deterred Encarnacion, who decided to focus on lighting as a design component during his first trip to Rome in 2004 as part of his Iowa State studies.

"I really saw how the application of lighting could transform a particular place or space almost instantly -- naturally, artificially or a combination of both," he said. "As in the theater, lighting manipulates the scene, highlights and communicates cues of what is and what is not important."

It was during his second trip to Rome earlier this year that Encarnacion heard about the Beyond Illumination scholarship and applied. He returned to America just in time to accept his award in New York City. He has also studied in Beijing, Montreal, and Cuba while attending Iowa State.

When he came to Iowa State as an undergraduate from his native Puerto Rico, he knew his calling was architecture. And he knew Iowa State has a "great program"- but until that Rome trip, he didn't know that lighting was his calling.

After receiving the award in New York, Encarnacion found that he immediately became more popular among design firms and architectural lighting companies that also attended the conference. He hopes to work at a team that will allow him to use his talents and continue his education from the ground up.

"My interest in architectural lighting is to make it part of the design process," he said. "So lighting belongs in the design and not an afterthought."

For now, he continues studying and hopes to complete his master's in December.

From there, the future looks bright.