Architectural lighting design is an area of study or work, which is primarily concerned with the layout and manipulation of light networks within the constructed environment, both exterior and interior. The lighting designer not only plans the illumination of the construction site but also makes provision for the proper functioning of other elements of the structure, such as windows and skylights. It may include design and manipulation of both electrical and daylight lighting or either, to properly serve human needs within the building. The lighting designer will work in conjunction with the architect to establish the most appropriate lighting solution for the building.
Architectural environments are usually constructed from basic building materials, such as concrete and wood, in square or rectangular shapes. In these spaces, the task of the architect and the lighting designer becomes one of integration of the physical and non-physical properties of these materials. In doing so, the visual effect of the illumination is made to complement the overall visual effects, as well as to allow the spaces to be functional and aesthetically pleasing. This integration of physical and non-physical properties is often referred to as architectural lighting design.
Architectural environments are often built in an area where natural light is scarce or obstructed by walls, roofing materials, or landscaping. Thus, illumination is important to allow for adequate visual observation by the people inside the buildings. In many cases, the task of the architect and the architectural lighting designer is to meet the demands of the building occupant. They accomplish this by the use of visual methods of presenting information as well as manipulating visual media to fit the needs of the people in the space. In many cases, the architectural lighting design fulfills the task of providing the exact amount of light needed to effectively illuminate the space.
Different approaches are used in the creation of architectural lighting designs. Some of the most common techniques used include the following: the track lighting system, the rope lighting system, hanging lights, sconces, wall sconces, halogen lights, and fluorescent lighting. Each of these techniques has different purposes that contribute to the effectiveness of the overall visual effect, but each of these techniques can be useful when applied correctly. Each of these techniques can be used to create particular visual aspects within the spaces that would not be possible with other methods, and each of these techniques can be used in multiple spaces to achieve multiple effects.
The construction of an office or a building is completed in one of two ways, from below or from above. Usually, the building is built with an underlying structural layout that consists of many interconnected spaces with individual walls or offices. In order to provide artificial illumination that complements the lighting systems already installed in the space, architectural lighting designers will often integrate the lighting with the materials surrounding the space. The result is an overall appearance that meshes well with the existing built environment. In this way, the light fixtures used are effectively added to the existing scheme and blend in seamlessly.
For example, many architects choose to incorporate light into outdoor structures in the form of daylighting. By placing daylighting fixtures on the outer edges of covered porches, for example, the space is bathed in soft natural light during the daytime. At night, however, the same porch becomes dark except for some simple light fixtures placed at strategic locations. Because the goal of using architectural lighting design to enhance the outdoors is to provide the building occupants with a comfortable and pleasant experience even on days when there is little daylight, architects often use daylighting in a subtle manner that adds to the ambiance while remaining aesthetically pleasing.