She has always worked on the linguistic properties expressed by light, both in her projects and in educational activities.
Her philosophy in lighting design is "The Lighting Project is an Art as well as a Science". Each project requires to be developed with sensitivity, creativity, technique. But the main thing to focus on is knowing well understanding the "nature"of the built environment well and also enhancing and respecting its proper identity through the lighting project. This approach allows the realization of the appropriate hierarchies of visual interest, so as to guide the viewer's attention toward the highlights of the environment. The work of Paola Urbano can be defined as a “visual planner”. The first meaningful projects are related to historic and artistic environments, often characterized by conservation issues. Among her first works, there is the lighting project for Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings (including the famous self-portrait in red chalk) followed later by other projects dealing with cultural and religious heritage. Her projects are published in books and magazines and she participates as a lecturer in a meetings and conferences concerning lighting design issues, as well as design awards as a jury member. Her office is based in Turin, Italy, where she develops all kinds of projects, from churches, hotels, parks, offices, to lighting master plans. The product design and development of lighting fixtures design completes her professional activity.
The Lighting Project is an Art as well as a Science
She has an artistic and architectural background and she started specializing in lighting design in 1987 with an experimental dissertation on lighting in museums at Polytechnic of Turin, Faculty of Architecture. Afterwards she attended the Ph.D at the Photometry Dep. of the IEN “G. Ferraris” (now INRIM, National Institute of Metrological Research), branch of CIE (Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage), where she had the opportunity to further develop topics such as conservation, perceptive dynamics, lighting and exhibition of works of art in museums. In her researches, she analyzed different painting techniques such as fresco, acrylic, oil, pastel, watercolor. The surfaces obtained with the different techniques were measured in the photometric laboratory with the purpose of defining their optical and colorimetric characteristics under various lighting types. Moreover, for the different techniques she investigated all the phenomena of photochemical deterioration. She also studied the perception dynamics (physiological and psychological) of a visitor in front of a work of art, analyzed the lighting systems of a few museums that she visited for the thesis both in Paris and in Brussels.
The research optimized the lighting and exhibition criteria of the art work, increasing the aesthetic valorization of the paintings, encouraging their correct perception in respect to their conservation.
In addition of lighting design projects, from 1988 to 1990 she taught as assistant of "Lighting Design" at Polytechnic of Turin, Energetics Department, Faculty of Architecture. Since 1993, she has been teaching at the Istituto Europeo di Design IED in Turin, where she headed the Interior Design Department from 1996 to 2001. From 2003 to 2010 she was a lecturer of “Light Design” at the Bilgi University in Istanbul. From 2004 she has been a Scientific Coordinator and teacher for several Italian Orders of Architects.
From 1997 to 2006 she was the "Master Contributor" at magazine "Lighting Design Collection" (Reed Business Information, publisher) with articles on the project methodologies about outdoor and interior spaces, as well as articles on the development trends of lighting products. Since 2013 she has been on the editorial board of "Light & Design" magazine ( Tecniche Nuove, publisher).