Is Lighting the Most Important Building Material?

Is Lighting the Most Important Building Material?

It’s not strange that we take the warmest and also the lightest part of the year for our annual break. I certainly recharged my creative battery recently on a trip to Spain with my family; most notably the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona was a wonder to behold. I would encourage you this summer – to look at light again. In our busy jobs, so much of our design roles are actually administration and meetings; it’s important to recharge with inspiration. After all, it’s not just about hitting deadlines, we have to reach high levels of achievement in delivering the spirit of a space!

Remember, when specifying and designing where the lighting will be on your next project, keep to thinking where the ‘light’ will be and not necessarily just where the fittings are placed.

Most of us involved with building in 3D – love lighting. Why? – maybe modern architect Daniel Libeskind is right when he likens light to the ‘spirit of a building’, an invisible but guiding element around an interior.

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Gaudi concentrated on the use of natural light. Mainly due the fact that artificial light wasn’t sophisticated in his era. Fortunately, modern architects embrace both artificial and natural – Libeskind believes it’s extremely important to embrace both equally but treat them differently. Of course artificial light can never compete with natural light; there is such a fundamental difference – it’s like comparing an idol with a god.
Libeskind thankfully agrees that form is created by lights and darks – therefore planning both where the light should be – AND – left out. “Consciousness of light, of course, is also consciousness of shadow.”

The Bible (not often quoted in a design context) says that light came out of darkness. You cannot neglect darkness, the darkness is part of the light and if you neglect the shadow you’ve neglected light itself. So I urge you to reflect on this visual thought in the long days of summer wherever you may be taking a well earned break.

Questions to Ponder

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What quality of light do we want to create?

Roof top image of Gaudi’s Casa Battlo (above first pic left) – demonstrates the importance of light and dark. The image is split in two – the foreground in shadow is as important as the glorious roof lit in full sunlight – essentially it provides the contrast. Ultimately we are looking to keep this magic within our interior.

How best do we manipulate this invisible artificial medium?
Use three dimensions objects to control the light as the sun moves throughout the day. Funnel daylight, restrict and reveal. These are surely more architectural decisions than that of a lighting designer? I would argue that it is the preserve of designers to concentrate on light. Although this is mostly artificial – we should not ignore how light will affect a space in the day and see whether artificial light is required to support and create the same effect in the winter when the sun is not as strong.

Daylight is dynamic and changes throughout the day, in contrast artificial light is static. Animage 3 interesting technique is to mimic the behaviour of daylight in our artificial lighting scheme; create brighter sides of a room by dimming the other half as if the daylight is penetrating the space from one side.

Daylight covers a wide selection of frequencies or colours – which the eye enjoys. Try changing colour temperatures of white in your interior space.

Daylight plays a large contributing factor to our wellbeing – we can do well to try and imitate it’s qualities as best we can. Low amounts of daylight contribute (second only to bad air quality) – towards sick building syndrome.

Best Practice

Remember to use fixtures that are going to deliver. I am still surprised by the excellent performance of some lower cost budget lighting and lamps – and equally how poorly some higher end fittings can behave. Vigilance is required.

Take the headache out of lighting schemes by using our in-house – highly cost effective lighting design services and take a look (here) for a taster of the range of fixtures and fittings you can rely upon!

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