How to Light Mega Spaces

The challenge of lighting a mega space may not present itself very often but arguably it will become more commonplace. After all, we are pressing more unlikely ‘brown field’ sites into new uses as industrial buildings are being converted into entertainment, commercial and even residential uses.

Naturally, LED light sources are in their element in these projects. Medium to high bay lamps that offer 10,000 to 25,000 hour longevity is providing a practical solution for inaccessible ceilings where costly access for maintenance teams, once made aerial lighting schemes untenable.Lighting spaces with large volumes are tricky – probably not something we’ll tackle that often in our careers but I think we can learn and reuse some important techniques for more common interiors.

Increasingly I am encountering double height rooms with balconies and minstrel galleries more regularly and of course, there is a seeming never ending appetite for barn conversions. A good case in point is the German Gymnasium in London a Grade 2 listed conversion featuring an amazing space with a vast expanse to fill.

The first sight of this project must have been daunting for the design team. However, like everything, it’s best not to be intimidated by the scale; instead, approach the exercise by breaking it down logically.

Ideally, large spaces should be treated in much the same way as we would approach any space, large or small. 

Lighting Checklist

1. Focal points – where do you want to entice the eye – lead people’s view.

2. Important secondary highlights – e.g. celebrate the architecture by emphasizing the form and textural qualities of the space.

3. Build layers of lit surfaces or objects – each with a chosen intensity and colour of light

4. Approach a new space with broad brush strokes – where do we need washes of light, where do we need fine lines of illumination. Question, how can we enhance the rhythm or form of the interior architecture?

5. The next step is to address the functionality – how will people use the space, where is task lighting needed? In an entertainment or leisure space, this is graphically demonstrated by the purpose of the surface. In a restaurant or bar there is a wide scope of lighting ranging from the strong illumination required in a food preparation area within a kitchen, through to the ambient subtle and even romantic table tops of a fine dining experience.  

Key Tips to be Learned from this Case Study 

A.    The huge timber ceiling of great importance interestingly is dealt with subtly, not a focal point but a supporting act lit with reflected light and light spilled from up-lights on the 1st-floor columns and LED projectors. Clever way to lift the ceiling higher – it almost floats!

B.    The bottles on the bars are always a good feature to light and relatively easy to do – here the bottles are lit front and back to provide an illuminated backdrop to each bottle and collectively across the whole display. Frosted diffusers in extrusions covering LED strips will diffuse the light well.  

C.    Strong forms are supported with light – hidden LED strips reflecting light onto the handrails of the stairs is a triumph here, producing thin lines of light, drawing the users up to the 1st-floor space using the conspicuously lit bar as the destination.

D.    There is a clever use of LED sources here. The balcony balustrade is demarked with channels of LED strip that emits an amber glow. Potentially dark spaces under the stairs are lit with another layer of LED too.

E.    Human level lighting is cleverly introduced with table and wall lights that create a relaxed ambiance. 

F.    The tables are lit with tight beamed lamps; it is essential to keep the light ‘tight’ over these long distances so that it only goes to where you intend – reducing spilled light retains the contrasts of light and dark within a scheme.

G. Whenever we choose a light source, it’s very important to deal with how the light will be brought or managed within the space. Remember to protect the user from glare by hiding the source as deep as possible within fittings or extrusions – use baffles and snoots where you can. (Snoot is an accessory to a light fitting that extends the barrel of a spotlight to deepen the source within the fitting). 

Working with scale is wonderful because it never fails to impress. Although the lessons of large spaces are the same as the rules of smaller interiors, you will need to use more powerful fixtures and fittings – so do approach the team at Orange Lighting for ideas that are offered with practical advice that ensures your vision can be delivered effectively! 

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.