Glass Gives You Freedom

3. 9. 2019

An interview with Preciosa Designer Radek Fiala

For the past 12 years, Radek Fiala has been a designer with Preciosa Lighting, working in offices in the Czech Republic, Singapore and Hong Kong. He has cooperated on a number of fascinating hospitality and office projects, one of the most recent being a considerable assignment for a new corporate headquarters for the Adani Group in Ahmedabad.

Preciosa created a variety of remarkable lighting installations throughout the building, working in conjunction with Designphase dba, Singapore. One of the most captivating is a lit outdoor sculpture. Mr. Fiala collaborated with Designphase dba studio owner and senior designer Derek MacKenzie on the fountain.

“The Indian flower and sari inspired the colour and shape,” Mr. Fiala said. “We wanted a rainbow of colours as a connection to the water flowing through.”

The piece is crafted from fused glass with chips in clear, red, amber, green, and purple glass. The sculpture’s glass parts were made in the largest possible size and the assembly was very demanding as it was a combination of several dozen different shapes.

“To be honest, the first shape looked more like an animal, so we changed it, added more colours,” he said. “We also started thinking about the technical possibilities and limitations. For example, the size of the petals, for production purposes they can only be so large. Also, how are we going to fix the petals? They are heavy and fragile so must have a sturdy base, but you don’t want to see the construction. It took about six versions to get it right.”

The largest cupped petal is 1.5 metres. The petals are anchored with a 20 centimetre metal tube and each petal is supported by another metal frame underneath. Reflectors were also added for more light as the light in the petals wasn’t sufficient. Since the sculpture is a fountain and outdoors the materials had to be specially treated. Production alone took five months due to the large pieces and thick glass.

“In the end, I’m most happy that the metal fixing isn’t very visible, glass is the dominant feature,” Mr. Fiala said.

Notable Installations

In the lift, ground floor and executive lobbies, Preciosa has designed lighting that not only brightens the spaces but also creates a connection to the company. In the ground floor lobby the installation is made using LED strips, inspired by the flow of energy.

The lift lobby installation is made from raw crystals, a Preciosa speciality.

“The colours were inspired by what Adani does,” Mr. Fiala explained. “They have a variety of businesses but one of them is coal so we wanted to show the transformation of coal into energy and chose a gradient from black to brown to orange to red. Considering the overall shape, the middle is denser, the edges have fewer components. This is done to better experience the colour gradient.”

In the executive lobby, the installation creates a gorgeous glowing flow through the space. Because of its curved shape, use of hand-blown glass and the fact that the shape of the components change as the installation curves, the design has a more organic and fluid feel.

“Because it’s hand-blown there’s more character and it is possible to make different shapes, compared to technical glass,” Mr. Fiala said. “I always prefer more organic shapes in chandeliers.”

Patented Design

One of Mr. Fiala’s designs in the Adani Corporate House has been patented. This installation was originally designed vertical for a different project, but Mr. Fiala made it horizontal for this wide open space. The seemingly simple design belies the intricate and flexible nature of the installation as a whole. Clear glass with bubbles was crafted into rings and assembled in a unique way that brings not only light and style but centres a seating area in the large space.

Mr. Fiala has designed an entire family based on this design which means table, floor and wall sconces can also be included to create a holistic look throughout a space.

Accidental Lighting Designer

Mr. Fiala didn’t dream of a career as a lighting designer, but he seems to have been destined to do it.

“I grew up in the Crystal Valley region and my grandfather and other family members worked in the glass industry,” he said. “As a child I always enjoyed glass, but I also liked to draw and paint. I knew I wanted to study in a creative field and the glass school was located nearby so...”

Mr. Fiala first studied glass, went on to painting and ended up as a certified specialist in Artistic Glass Creation. He also has a degree in Fine Art Experimental Media.

“I initially worked as a graphic designer but knew it wasn’t for me,” he said. “When I moved to Preciosa, I wasn’t really interested in designing chandeliers but I wanted to work with glass.”

Of course, as with any material there are positives and challenges to working with glass.

“The best is that it’s a beautiful material, it gives you freedom, variety, colours and textures and then the reflections create another space or dimension,” he said. “The biggest challenge is glass’ technical limitations; it is fragile, needs construction, metal fixing and then it might not look like you intended. If you compare it with plastic, for example, you can do bigger, more interesting shapes with plastic, but there’s no quality, no sparkle.”

In the past 12 years, he has seen a lot of lighting come to life. He shares details about one of his favourite lights, designed for the JW Marriott Hotel, Ankara. His brief was concise: a functionalist shaped chandelier that included flowers.

Three chandeliers dominate the hotel lobby, each one seven metres tall. Their distinctive shape is formed from various types of fused glass differing in texture and shape. The fixture’s outer glass shell has fissures throughout as a design element, allowing the cut crystal beads to sparkle through these narrow cracks. Striking hand-blown glass flowers glitter impressively in the lower part of the fixture.

A Contemporary Turn

“I’ve certainly seen client tastes, especially in hotels, change,” he says. “Now the demand is for more contemporary designs and installations that bring emotions, compared to classical chandeliers. In the beginning when I worked in the Czech Republic, 80% of the work was classical; now in Hong Kong, about 90% of the work is contemporary.”

“The most interesting for me is when a client gives us some idea of what they want and let us design it,” he said. “For example, a customer in China wanted an installation for his hotel lobby. The inspiration he gave us came from Chinese paintings and to have the design connect to the hotel’s location.”

“I like it when I have to research new designs based on a customer’s inspiration, helping them bring their lighting vision to life. I appreciate having the freedom to prepare something that brings emotions to visitors, and has a relationship to the building.”