Lighting and Architecture Have to Work Together

Before we get into how light and architecture impact one another, it’s important to know the main categories of buildings and what each try to accomplish with lighting. The first group (public buildings) is comprised of sports arenas, libraries, hospitals, etc. These types of buildings are more concerned with providing the right amount of light for tasks and other types of events. Sporting events like football and baseball require the right amount of light so the players on the field can see and so the spectators can see the field. It’s also important for when spectators go to and from their seats and navigate the rest of the arena/stadium. It’s the same concept with libraries and hospitals. In libraries, occupants need to have the proper light levels to read, write and find books on shelves, while hospitals need high light levels for doctors and nurses to successfully do their jobs.

The second group (official buildings) is comprised of mainly warehouses and office buildings. Their number one concern with lighting is the efficiency. With the large energy consumption of those properties, they can’t afford to spend a fortune on lighting and the electricity it consumes. And with green building trends on the rise, it’s important to have energy-efficient and sustainable lighting.

The third and final group (specialized buildings) is comprised of museums, theaters, casinos, etc. These buildings rely heavily on atmosphere and the experiences they can provide. They are concerned with enhancing the appearance of architectural spaces and elements. When people go to a theater to see a play or musical, they are expecting an experience before the show even begins. They want to see a beautiful chandelier welcoming them in the lobby, lavish wall sconces lighting the hallway to their seats, and the area around the stage to be lit to accentuate statues, pillars and other architectural features.

Lighting Spatial Borders

To enhance architectural elements and evoke emotions, it’s important to understand spatial borders and how to properly light them. To enhance vertical borders for example, light should be directed towards wall surfaces. If there is a wall that is a different texture, or simply one that the occupants should notice more than others, wall washing is a great tool (Image A). It will draw attention to the wall and make it appear as its own architectural element instead of a piece of an entire room. This can be used in retail locations to draw more attention to wall displays.

Horizontal borders can be emphasized by illuminating the floor and ceiling. By lighting the floor, objects and pedestrian surfaces are lit. This is particularly important in dark spaces such as movie theaters and night clubs. The ambient and accent light levels are so low that not enough light reaches the floor, thus requiring the floor to be illuminated (Image B). Executed properly, this can act as task and accent lighting. If light needs to be diffused in the room, lighting the ceiling can be a successful strategy. It helps create a uniformity of light throughout the room and provides proper light levels without the use of direct light on objects.

After vertical and horizontal borders have been lit, it’s important to not forget about lighting architectural elements. Lighting pillars, archways, textures, etc. can draw attention away from a room as a whole, and force the eye to focus on the illuminated architectural elements (Image C). In a room full of colors and architectural elements, it’s sometimes difficult to make certain areas stand out. Light can help with this problem by making those elements more obvious. This tactic can be used for interior and exterior lighting applications.


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