Design Principal | CEO
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 global industry leaders is critical to inspiring developing designers to generate new lighting paradigms. He has been serving as an adjunct professor for the Graduate Lighting Design Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) esteemed Lighting Research Center (LRC) since 2003.
Abhay holds a Master’s of Science degree in Lighting from the LRC at RPI in Troy, New York and pursued graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC). He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Sir JJ College of Architecture in Mumbai, India and worked as an architect in Mumbai. Abhay was nominated to the “40 under 40 Hall of Fame” by BD+C in the United States in 2009. Abhay won the GE Edison Award of Excellence, the IIDA Award, the Lumen Award, and the Paul Waterbury Award of Excellence for lighting the George Washington Bridge Towers in New York and New Jersey. He is the recipient of many prestigious industry awards, including the International Illumination Design Award (IIDA) for his work on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In continuing to be a leading practitioner and thinker for work on lighting for health and wellness, Abhay is a dedicated member of and on the Board of Directors of the International Light Association (ILA). Abhay engages with the multidisciplinary-focus of the ILA through communication and collaboration with other members— lighting professionals, experts, and enthusiasts with a variety of backgrounds. In addition, Abhay has served as chairman of the IESNA International Relationships Committee for 3 years, placing him at the center of a growing global lighting design dialog. Through his professional and academic endeavors, he has made a commitment to expand understanding of the value of well-lit environments worldwide