2021 Russell Cole Memorial Lighting Design Competition

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Gyre: Opposites existing together – 2019 1st Place Advanced Winner

Benjamin Wilson, CalArts


The Russell Cole Lighting Design Competition was established to encourage and recognize students in southern California who have shown an understanding of light and its effect on Architecture. These awards have been established by the Illuminating Engineering Society, Los Angeles Section (IESLA). The IES is an international organization whose purpose is to promote lighting education and to develop recommended lighting practices.

Cole Lighting (C. W. Cole & Company) has been in business since 1918 and has been building lighting fixtures since 1923. Cole Lighting has been a continuous supporter of all the programs and events that the Los Angeles Section has held. Because of that continued support, Mr. Cole’s dedication to the lighting industry and his longevity as a member of IES, the Los Angeles Section Student Lighting Design Competition Award is named in his honor.

Over the last 10 years the Russell Cole Memorial Lighting Design Competition has awarded more than $120,000 to more than 30 students.


  1. Entries will be divided into two categories: Conceptual and Advanced. Both categories are assigned the same challenge. But, each category has it own set of entry requirements for the design presentation.
  2. Eligible students must select one category for their entry. Students will be evaluated based on that category’s presentation criteria and judging score sheet.
  3. Each Student may submit only one entry per year.
  4. Each entrant shall submit a single .pdf presentation of a lighting design solution for the supplied design challenge per the stated presentation criteria.
  5. All entries shall be uploaded to the IESLA website and all students must complete registration by 11:59pm on Wednesday April 29th, 2020 – a link is available here ».
  6. Eligibility will be confirmed after projects are submitted. Professors will be contacted by the design competition committee regarding a student’s current enrollment in an eligible class.
  7. All judges will be Southern California design and engineering professionals.
  8. A panel of online judges performs preliminary judging. Online judging is performed ‘blind.’ Meaning, online judges will only have access to the .pdf entries. Online judges will not have access to any of the applicants’ personal information (i.e. names, schools, professors, etc.).
  9. The students receiving the highest scores from the panel of online judges will be selected as finalists.
  10. Finalists will be notified by email or text message by Sunday, May 10th. If a finalist does not confirm that he/she will be available to present his/her solution at the meeting on Tuesday, May 12th within 6 hours of notification, the next highest scoring project will take their place.
  11. Finalists will present their projects on Tuesday, May 12th; presentations will begin at 6:00 pm. Awards will be determined based upon these presentations.
  12. In order to win, finalists must appear in-person to do a verbal delivery of their entry to a panel of judges on Tuesday May 12th, 2020.
  13. Finalist verbal presentations consist of a 7-minture power-point presentation followed by a 3-minute question and answer session with the judges. All students and educators are invited to attend finalist presentations.
  14. Awards shall be announced at the Lumen West banquet in June.
  15. Each award winner will receive complimentary admission for themselves and one guest to the Lumen West Awards Banquet.
  16. Each award winner will be given a complimentary membership to the IES for the following year.
  17. The monetary awards will be paid to the student directly. It is the student’s responsibility to pay any applicable taxes and report the prize money to any applicable agency.
  18. Quantities of finalists and distribution of prizes are not pre-determined and may be awarded at the judges’ discretion to one or more students.
  19. Last year, $20,000.00 was distributed to the student award winners. However, awards values may vary from year to year at the discretion of the judging panel and IESLA Board of Directors.
  20. Regardless of “team” efforts, the awards will go only to the individual under whose name the project was submitted and only that individual will be recognized.
  21. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from each event.
  22. Questions regarding the competition should be sent to email hidden; JavaScript is required