Architectural Light

Architectural Light

Louis Kahn said: “The soul of space is light”;

According to Andou Tadao, “To truly understand architecture, it is more important than anything else to experience space not through the media, but through your own sense organs.”

Steven Holl also mentioned in his design practice that a rich experience should be created by designing multi-level, multi-functional and multi-element spaces. Using elements such as light, materials, color and sound, the space presents different appearances at different times and under different environmental conditions, stimulating user’s curiosity and desire to explore.

Architects such as Siza, Barragan, Cobb, and Baeza all have their own unique attainments in making good use of light. Due to technical limitations, the era in which these masters lived mostly focused on discussing the relationship between natural light and space, as well as architecture. However, with the maturity of artificial light technology today, there are few discussions on the relationship between artificial light and space, and between artificial light and architecture.

Today, we are talking more about “Architectural Lighting”, which refers to the combination of lighting design with buildings or indoor environments to create artistic, functional and emotional lighting effects. It is a comprehensive design concept, aiming at improving the appearance, space atmosphere and use experience of buildings through the arrangement, light distribution, color and control of lights.

Architectural lighting not only provides comfortable lighting brightness, but also emphasizes the creative use of lighting to show the characteristics and beauty of the building. It can highlight the outline, shape and details of the building and create a unique light and shadow effect. By adjusting the color temperature, intensity, and color of the lighting, different atmospheres and emotions can be created, providing users with a comfortable, warm, or creative experience.

The founder of architectural lighting is Richard Kelly, the first-generation lighting designer. One of his most famous works is the Seagram Building in New York. Kelly proposed the concept of the “Tower of Light”, which is a milestone in architectural lighting. He used a customized vertical lighting system on the internal facade to highlight the background of the core tube, and set up layers of downlights in the functional area to enhance the splendor of the whole tower. Kelly’s design focuses on effects rather than lighting fixtures, and his definitions of “ambient light”, “brilliant light,” and “focal light” still has extraordinary value today.

Looking beyond the realm of lighting design to the wider world, architects are more unrestrained in their thinking about light. As in the case of the Therme Vals project, Zumthor set amazing overhanging joints above the interior Gneiss wall, so that the light can freely sprinkle on the Gneiss texture, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior. In the project of Brother Klaus Fieldchapel, the process of building light slanting down from above is metaphorically regarded as the symbolic meaning of gaining new life. The lighting atrium of Louis Kahn’s Exeter College Library, the dome hole of the Pantheon in Rome, and the cross in the Church of Light/Tadao Ando also highly praised the opportunity for cooperation between light and architecture. Although light is unpredictable, it is one of the most important souls of architecture.

Today, with the development of technology, we are no longer limited to the utilization of natural light. In architectural lighting, we use various types of lamps and lighting fixtures, such as projection lamps, down lamps, wall lamps, chandeliers, etc., , and project lights onto specific areas or objects through reasonable layout and positioning. At the same time, utilizing the shielding, reflection, and refraction characteristics of light, it is no longer difficult to achieve control and guidance of light, making the appearance or internal space of buildings more layered and three-dimensional.

Architectural lighting is not necessarily a forceful design form. The Longyan Guanyuetai project designed by the author gave light to the most characteristic super flat top surface of the building itself, and the light covered by the flat roof above the site passes through both inside and outside, and is presenting a floating and light posture above the high slope. Restrained and strategic control of light is the first principle of architectural lighting. The project won the special award of the 2022 International Lighting Designer Awards (IALD), an authoritative award in the industry.

Architectural lighting can also be applied to indoor spaces to provide suitable lighting effects for different functional areas, such as offices, commercial spaces, exhibition halls, etc. Through the design of lighting, a suitable working environment, good product display effects, or a dramatic spatial experience can be created.

Human eyes have a high degree of tolerance to the visual environment. We can recognize a dark environment with an illuminance of 3lx (illuminance value, the standard unit is lx lux), and can move freely under 100,000lx at noon in summer. The content that the eyes can accommodate in actual scenes far exceeds the pixel limit that can be expressed in books and print media. According to relevant research results, there are two types of photoreceptor cells in the human eye to adapt to light and dark environments. When the illumination contrast is too large, the visual adaptability will be greatly challenged. From a scientific point of view, a considerable part of aesthetic comfort is determined by physiological comfort. Comfortable contrast is particularly important in indoor spaces.

Tanizaki Junichiro, a Japanese novelist, described the interweaving of bright and dark light and memory in his aesthetic classic In Praise of Shadows, regarding light as a symbol, showing the complexity of emotion, memory and life, and arousing the reflection and resonance of space environment and light. But it does not mean that the contrast between dark and light brightness represents complexity, bright and open represents purity, light is not closed and completely static in space, and light and shadow have significance and effect beyond materiality in space. The meticulous lighting design and the creation of light and shadow effects make the architectural space rich in perception, experience, and expression. The change and even flow of light, the contrast of light and shade, and the reflection of materials are integrated with the shape, sense of space and atmosphere of the building, making the space an artistic experience that can arouse people’s emotional resonance and thinking.

Architectural lighting is a design concept and practice that combines lighting design with a building or interior environment to enhance the appearance, space atmosphere and use experience of a building through the creative use of light.

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