Us Two: LUX designers Joshua and Samuel Lewis

Brothers Joshua, 23, left, and Sam Lewis, 21 are working together to produce a large-scale installation for this year's ...
Ross Giblin/Fairfax NZ

Brothers Joshua, 23, left, and Sam Lewis, 21 are working together to produce a large-scale installation for this year's LUX festival.

Joshua, 23, and Samuel, 21, Lewis are designers working on a large-scale installation for this year's LUX - a showcase of light sculptures throughout the Wellington CBD. The brothers are also flatmates.

SAM: Before I moved out of home, Josh and I didn't get along at all. Whenever he'd come home to Christchurch from uni, I just couldn't deal with it. We grew up, and found a common interest. Before this we didn't have anything. Brothers always kind of annoy each other.

Josh studied at Massey University two years before me. I was studying broadcasting down in Christchurch and I decided I didn't like that. I kind of took a year off and Josh was like, "At least come to the open day, have a look at the uni". So I did. I ended up studying industrial design; he studied spatial design.

Josh got a few projects overseas, and there were some problems he couldn't solve when it came to electrical work, which I had done a lot of. I started doing this for other projects of his and we decided to do LUX together this year. I did it by myself last year.

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Once we found a space we liked, we just sat down one evening at uni on the computers for probably six hours, just drawing, filling whiteboards with pictures.

We live in an apartment at the top of Cuba St. It's me, my brother and two of his friends. We don't talk about the project at home. Everyone's reasonably well behaved but I guess it's me and Jake versus Tom and Josh - they're the mature ones. We all cook separately. Josh has an annoying habit of stealing other flatmates' food.

He's probably the quiet one - until you start talking about his interests. He's easy to get along with until you start talking about art or design, then he's quite intense.

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He likes to disappear at 10 o'clock and go into uni until like, 2am, spontaneously. He'll never come to parties and stuff. He'll go to uni instead.

Josh does most of the design - the conceptual stuff - and I'm more calling up places overseas and finding out where we can get different materials, and doing the building.

We had a massive disagreement over what we would make the installation out of. We decided to go with Josh's idea - using plywood to make the frames - but we talked to some of the technicians and they said my idea - welded steel - was definitely the best way to do it. We're going with that now.

I'm always concerned about how much money we have, whereas Josh just wants to do it. I'm more interested in the impacts of design in the broader sense - sustainability and being waste-free. Josh takes it into consideration but if that's going to affect how something's going to look, it's not going to stop him.

I think our parents are pretty proud that we get along - Mum always says, "I think it's awesome."

JOSH: We were working on projects alongside each other and helping each other. LUX came up and we were both thinking of putting in entries, so it made sense that, now we get along a lot better, that we'd try doing something together.

When you help each other it's fine because you can step away, but with something like this you're locked in 'til the end. But it seems to be going fine.

As a flatmate, he's pretty good. His unicycle is always around the house. He used to do circus arts and he's sort of held on to it. He doesn't ride it a lot, it's just always around the flat. The hardest thing about working and living together is when the conversations come home. You might not want to talk about something at 11 o'clock at night just before you go to bed. And then one of us will bring up an idea and it's like, no, I don't want to talk about it right now.

We had one evening to put the proposal together for LUX - we'd waited to the last minute. We looked at all of our projects and how we might be able to take one further. I was doing work with dancers and recording the forms they make in computer graphics. We wondered what it could be like if this became a physical piece of work.

We didn't have a flat for five or so days and we went back home to see family in Christchurch. We had to work on this design at the same time. We were sitting at South library, having these design conversations at the same table as a knitting circle. For three days, we sat amongst them talking about our light-up wire structures while they're knitting.

We're both fairly organised. I like to record everything that we're doing a sit's done so the other person can refer to it. He'll make design changes and I might not know about them. He'll get really stuck in head first.

Sam probably takes on more of the technical role but that's not always the case, because I'm also trained in that area, so we can swap when it's appropriate. I do more of the concept stuff in the early stages. I don't know if he enjoys that as much.

Sam's strength is his critical eye - he will be looking for how practically an idea might work. I'm more concerned about how it will create atmosphere in a space, and those intangible qualities.

I probably was the quiet one - that's the case day-to-day- but when it comes to design-related stuff, I will take the charge and he might take a backseat.

There are three brothers in the family - we're typical brothers, as cliche as that sounds. When we were growing up, we were always fighting, always winding each other up with no holds barred. You'd get to the next day and have forgotten about what happened the previous day. Then it would start all over again.

We both into photography and train at the gym every day. Going to the gym together - not just with Sam but with my other brother, too - was when we all sort of started getting along.

I moved to Wellington first and Sam moved here three years after me. He always wanted to build things and was thinking of doing engineering. I did it for a year before I started doing design. It wasn't what I thought it was. I knew industrial design - what he does now - would be what he was thinking engineering would be.

He's a pretty likeable guy, he's pretty open and friendly. He probably takes in a lot more than I give him credit for.

LUX Light Festival will be held in Wellington from May 12-21.

 - Sunday Magazine


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