YOU MIGHT NOT REALISE IT, but Arnold Chan's work is everywhere. If you've sipped martinis at Felix, eaten dim sum at Dragon-i, sat in the Cathay lounge at Chek Lap Kok airport or strolled through Canary Wharf in London, you've seen his creations. But while we might admire architecture, we don't really think about the way it's been lit. Yet as Chan says: 'Lighting gives architecture an extra dimension. It's an enhancer. On its own it doesn't do anything. But if you know how to apply it and you light the right things in the right way, it gives space an extra dimension.' The job of a lighting designer is a tricky one. Chan says lighting must never steal the architect's show. 'I believe a lighting designer shouldn't have a style of his own.' Although, he says, lighting designers are far from silent partners. 'Often, when you develop a relationship with a designer, you become their sounding board. And if you're familiar with their work, as they're generating their ideas, they'll be asking you what you think and whether or not it's appropriate in that context.' And it helps to be adaptable: 'If I'm to do my job well, I'm there to follow that particular architect's style and language, so if I'm working with Philippe Starck, it's theatrical and it's wit. If I'm working with John Pawson, it's restraint and it's clean lines. I would never try to impose an idea that I had with Philippe Starck on John Pawson; it's like oil and water.' Chan was born in Hong Kong. He trained as an architect at the Architectural Association in London and ended up settling there. His decision to specialise in light was accidental. 'I was working for a lighting manufacturer in Italy, designing their showrooms. And in order to design showrooms, I had to understand what I was supposed to display, so that got me into understanding a little bit about technical lighting.' He went on to take a degree in lighting engineering, which, with his architectural training, evolved neatly into lighting design. When Chan founded his company, Isometrix, in 1984, it was just him working from home. Now he employs 44 people and has offices in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. He returns to Hong Kong every month. Chan's current projects in Hong Kong include M1NT, a branch of the shareholders' club (it is owned by members, who also receive a share of the profits) that opened in London in February last year, the new Nobu restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel and another restaurant, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, in the Landmark, all of which are due to open this month. When we meet, Chan is busy with final meetings for M1NT. The club will be in a 5,500 sq ft space on Hollywood Road. It will feature an art gallery boasting works by Turner Prize-winning artists such as Damien Hirst and David Mach, private dining rooms and VIP lounges. The two M1NTs will be distinctly different from each other. The London branch is a more sober affair than its Hong Kong counterpart is shaping up to be. 'Society here is very different from London,' Chan says. 'M1NT in London is elegant and understated. On the other hand, in Hong Kong, it's a little bit more of a diverse crowd, and people, I think, want a little bit more excitement.' And excitement they shall have. The prospectus promises, among other delights, tanks containing black-tip reef sharks and jellyfish. 'It's common to have a fish tank, but it's not common to have a shark in the tank,' says Chan. 'We're going to light it as if it were the sea, which ripples with light.' The jellyfish, however, are a first for Chan. 'The nature of the beast is that it can absorb any colour of light,' says the designer. 'So we're going to light it with different colours.' Yet bars and restaurants (and jellyfish) represent just a fraction of his oeuvre. 'I don't know any lighting designers who have achieved the diversity I've managed to establish. It keeps me on my toes.' He has collaborated with Starck on several Schrager hotels - St Martins Lane and the Sanderson in London, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and the Delano in Miami. He has lit the opera house in Lyon. He has worked on the Canal+ headquarters in Paris and on the Calvin Klein boutique in Tokyo. He has illuminated the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis and the Museo Picasso in Malaga, Spain, and helps the lighting artist James Turrell realise his creations. He once even designed a concept car with Marc Newson for Ford, although Chan says that was more of an opportunity for thrashing out ideas. Isometrix is currently involved in about 80 projects around the world, including four yachts ('they get bigger and bigger') and an eco-resort in the Sahara desert lit only with fire. Good lighting doesn't have to be elaborate, Chan says. Anyone can transform a room with a lightbulb or a candle and a bit of thought. Instead of having a single 100-watt bulb in the middle of a room, he suggests, try four 25-watt bulbs to create more atmosphere. 'Quality doesn't necessarily come from expense. You can have the best wonton soup noodles, real quality, but it doesn't cost you anything. Quality comes from a certain intelligence and a certain passion about what you want to do.'