Zerlina Hughes

studio ZNA

Zerlina studied at Goldsmith’s College, University of London and the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.
Early in her career she worked as an assistant to film director Mike Leigh and was lighting design consultant for Warner Bros’ ‘Batman Begins’. Her theatre designs include the National Theatre, London’s West End, New York Broadway and Sydney Opera House. In opera and dance, she worked extensively in France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. This work continues in the studio with the recent work at the Royal Opera House, The National Theatre of Scotland, festivals in Europe and America.

In 2006, Zerlina formed lighting design practice studio ZNA, completing successful projects in all major national institutions including the National Gallery, V&A Museum, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Design Museum, Royal Academy. Recent completions include on a new build museum in Odense, Denmark, refurbishment of the Courtauld Gallery, the Wallace Collection and Raphael Court and Hintze Sculpture Gallery at the V&A Museum. The studio has designed lighting for commercial galleries: Philips Auction House and Gallery, Colnaghi Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery and David Zwirner Gallery. As well as completing several high end commercial, retail and residential spaces for clients such as HISCOX HQ, London, Rolex HQ, London, Asprey Store, London. The studio was also proud to deliver the lighting scheme for new Maggie’s Centre, at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Most recently in Summer 2023 two long term projects completed and opened to great acclaim: the transformed Young V&A museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

studio ZNA uses lighting in the design of spaces as a narrative tool. We consider time, season, mood, colour and texture as well as function and form. How do we want the occupant to feel as they enter a space, as they inhabit a space over time, navigate and obtain the desired messaging and also how they feel as the leave a space – what has it invoked in them.  From this, we create a choreography of luminance, a light journey.

Zerlina’s background in theatrical and film lighting is crucial as here. As part of the creative team, we collaborate fully in the conceptual thinking to completion. We find this delivers the most successful finished projects as the lighting is fully integrated into all aspects of the designed environments. It also informs the way we discuss and present design with our clients and creative partners. It is not purely a technical process but a shared creative dialogue led by people. We thrive in this collaborative process, and it informs our design practices.  We have established long working relationships with different types of practices and one our longest collaborations is with Nissen Richards Studio.

Zerlina and Nissen Richards Studio Director Pippa Nissen began their careers at similar times and first worked together in theatre nearly 30 years ago, before extending their work into architecture and exhibition. They both are fascinated with the way in which light expresses space and material and its transformative and sensory qualities that add another dimension to the built environment. They are both keen to develop their work with a view to support new types of more sustainable, flexible architecture.

Zerlina is a professional member of the International Association of Lighting Designers and a representative for the international platform Women in Lighting.