Lightswitch Architectural San Francisco joined with the local design community at the 2012 DINING BY DESIGN benefit last week to demonstrate that design can make a difference in the battle against AIDS. Hosted by the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), the annual, two-night event raises awareness and funds for AIDS research. Local architects, designers and artisans donate their time, creating one-of-a-kind tabletop installations for a table hop and taste party and gala, the proceeds of which benefit uninsured HIV/AIDS patients at the UCSF Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital.

Lightswitch Architectural’s Director of Lighting Design Janelle Drouet and Senior Designers Kelly Roberson, John Cumiskey and Adam Rechner were invited to collaborate with architect Ted Pratt of MTP Architects; the team created a table based on the concept of progress. Designed and manufactured and by the Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Co., the table and bench bases were fabricated from reclaimed black walnut wood and metal salvaged from the Golden Gate Bridge, an historic symbol of progress for the city of San Francisco. Red saturated light was used to accent the historic “International Orange” hue of the bridge materials and to create an evocative backdrop for the centerpiece—a custom chandelier that visually charted the improvement in survival rates for American patients with AIDS over the past three decades.

Constructed from simple, bare-lamp pendants fitted with replicas of antique, quad-loop-filament lamps, the chandelier comprised bisecting, twin line graphs that depicted two sets of revealing statistics. The length of the pendants corresponded to the first set of statistics, AIDS mortality rates over a 31-year period, with each pendant representing one year in the timeline. Fitted with a red lamp, the shortest pendant symbolized the peak of the epidemic in 1995. The pendants to the left of the red light showed the spike in AIDS-related deaths that occurred during the ’80s and early ’90s, while the pendants to the right demonstrated a waning death rate in the ’90s and the 21st century thanks to medical advancements that have slowed the effects of the disease. The chandelier’s light levels represented the second set of statistics: the ratio of five-year survivors over the same 31 years. Individual lamps were dimmed or brightened according to the survival rates for that year. Like the graphic arc that depicted decreasing mortality rates, the increase in brightness in the second half of the chandelier demonstrated the progress that health care, awareness and education have made in combating the disease.

“From the red glowing aura that wrapped the table to the graphic chandelier, the lighting set the mood for our table. It created a whole environment that engaged guests and encouraged them to stop and learn more about the message behind the concept,” explains Ted Pratt, principal and founder, MTP Architects.

While the design was inspired by how far AIDS research and care have come, it was also a stirring tribute to the many bright lights that have been extinguished by the disease. “It was a very emotional experience for those who have lost loved ones,” recalls lighting designer Janelle Drouet. The table served as a space for contemplation and reflection, adds Pratt. “Among those who stopped to sit with us were several members of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a philanthropic organization that promotes AIDS awareness and education,” he notes. “One of the sisters remarked that we had made gay mathematics beautiful. It was one of the most gracious compliments that we could have received.”

For more information DIFFA San Francisco and its efforts to eradicate AIDS, visit http://diffasf.org.

About Lightswitch Architectural: Lightswitch Architectural is an innovative, award winning international lighting and media design practice that creates compelling and dynamic architectural environments. The Lightswitch team is a design consortium with offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and Hong Kong. Specifically focused on architectural projects, the Lightswitch Architectural Division is known for innovation and sophistication. Clients include developers, architects, property owners and managers who are seeking effective and responsible lighting and media design for corporate buildings, residential properties, museums, schools, hotels, and indoor and outdoor architectural spaces. For more information visit http://www.architecture.lightswitch.net.

About MTP Architects: MTP Architects is known for innovative, strategic thinking and bespoke, sustainable design and construction services for work, live and fun space clients internationally. We practice creative thinking to provoke change or new beginnings. http://www.mtparchitects.com.