If you ever ask Kate St. Laurent to show you her resume or credentials as a lighting designer, don’t be surprised if she asks you to go for a late-night drive in and around Boston.
The “proof” that Kate excels as a stand-out architectural lighting designer surrounds the region and echoes in signature pieces of its built environment – the Novartis Institute’s BioMedical Research Campus, multiple Brigham and Women’s Hospital medical office buildings, Wellesley College’s Alumnae Hall*, UMASS Dartmouth Carney Library*, Wegmans in Natick, and Nantucket Cottage Hospital, to name just a few. The lights that illuminate these spaces and dot the night sky originated in Kate’s and her Lighting Studio team’s daily work.
“I’m not sure I’d actually take someone for a drive,” Kate chuckles at the idea. “But, there is something really rewarding about the tangible nature of our work. Architects, engineers, lighting designers – we contribute to pieces of the built environment that can stand for decades and centuries. We can walk by them. We can show them to our kids. We can talk to the people who live and work within them. There’s no doubt that motivates me.”
It’s a motivation Kate discovered after receiving her graduate degree from Suffolk University’s New England School of Art and Design in 2008 and taking her first job as a lighting designer. That job, and her initial work, served as an “a-ha” moment.
“The beauty of lighting design for me is that it perfectly blends creativity, math and science in a way that engages me on all fronts,” she adds. “From the moment I stepped into lighting design as a profession, I’ve loved it, and I can’t imagine ever stepping out.”
While Kate has no interest in walking away from the profession, it does allow her to leave footsteps around the world. Beyond the Boston region, Kate’s work also illuminates award-winning spaces across the country and globe including CJ Blossom Park in South Korea, Zurich North America’s HQ in Chicago, Carnegie Mellon’s Cohon Student Center outside Pittsburgh and soon, Pratt Institute’s Emerson Hall in New York City. For Kate, the global approach comes naturally.
“Travel is part of my family’s DNA. I was fortunate to take three trips to Europe while in high school totaling nine different countries,” she explains. “I’ve visited China. My husband and I were able to visit New Zealand and have been to Europe multiple times. We took my son to California when he was one year old. My husband rock climbs recreationally, and that takes him and us all over the country. We prioritize travel and love all that it exposes us to.”
While the trips allow Kate to see the world, it also exposes her to different styles and approaches to lighting design.
“We were in Italy a couple years back, and they are doing things with lighting in retail design there that really push new boundaries. I remember a long narrow store in Milan that couldn’t have had more than 20 feet of street frontage. It had this really interesting line of light from the exterior canopy which caught my eye. It continued into the store, down a soffit, under the lower ceiling in the back of the store that was interesting and mesmerizing,” she smiles as she remembers. “It made you stop and drew you in. It’s important to see all the ways people use light around the world, so we can bring new ideas back and always push the envelope.”
Around the world, but always back to Boston. Kate grew up in the area, studied at both Boston College and Suffolk University, and now lives in Sommerville Proper with her husband and two children. While her work pulls her to different states and time zones, Kate admits her heart is embedded in Beantown.
“I left Boston for a brief moment after high school, but quickly transferred back to Boston College. My husband and I, we want to be in the city. We want to walk to our coffee shop, community park and grocery store, we want to raise our kids here.”
Excitingly for Kate, much of her current work will enrich the Boston area and even her alma mater. She’s working on the lighting solution for Boston College’s new Connell Recreation Center set to open later this year. The 244,000 sf building will be an inspiring addition to the BC campus that integrates health and wellness offerings in bold new ways. Campus Rec magazine said the building stands to be a beacon for the university once it opens.
And, in her personal time, Kate and her husband are working to transform a “funky barn” on their property into a new play space for their children. They plan to equip it with solar panels, other sustainability design features, and of course, great lighting.
Once these projects are completed, they’ll be new markers for Kate to see on her evening drives or just when she looks toward the backyard. They’ll be testaments to her creative passion, and spaces that shed new light on both her own and Boston’s bright future.
*Asterisk notes projects Kate work on with former design firms