4 Do's for jaw drop-worthy exterior architectural lighting

Posted by Rob Gemmell on Jul 5, 2013 2:13:00 PM

Iconic modernist interiors (read: recognizable contemporary furnishings) with exterior antiquity (classical building forms and decor) is all the rage in design today, and with such an opposites attract, yin yang emphasis, it only makes sense to use different lighting approaches to the outside and inside of an architectural space. Looking for some inspiration? Here are a few thoughts:


Do look at context

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If the building you're working on is in the middle of the town's industrial district, eye-blinding lighting fixtures will make the building stick out like a sore thumb - and unless this is what the owner or client is looking for, this isn't the type of attention to attract. Conversely, some quieter lights can provide a space of solace in areas that have high energy - for a small office building or upscale hotel near a city's theater district, you may want to opt for exterior lights in warmer hues that provide a soothing vibe. In addition to examining the structure's neighbors, it's important to see how the space is used during the traditional working hours as well as during the night - depending on how diverse the area is, lighting for one time of day could be completely inappropriate during after hours. 


Do consider permanent vs. moveable surrounding features

While those outdoor benches in front of the lobby may move in a few years, a flag pole that has been firmly cemented since 1901 will likely be a permanent part of the space. Using archtectural lighting fixtures that are moveable with adaptible light distribution capabilities can help keep facades and exterior spaces well-lit, no matter how outdoor features may be oriented or edited in the future.

Given our dynamic economic environment and rapidly changing geo-cultural influences a building could go through several usage and tenant evolutions within the longer lifetimes of new LED lignting systems. A single tenant building occupied by a large government insititution could be occupied by multiple international business organizations, a dozen local startups or scores of artist's lofts in a span of 10-20 years. Each tenant type will have both overlapping and very different preferences for lighting based on cultural, functional and day-part occupancy needs. A savvy lighting designer will have created a lighting solution that keeps tenant clients coming back to optimize the lighting as the needs of the building occupants change with time.


Do think in and out

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UC Berkeley, Li Ka Shing Center, Architecture: ZGF Architects, Lighting Design: Pivotal Lighting Design, Image: Robert Canfield Photography. Lighting: Vode BeeFuse T5

Sometimes the interior lighting can also be the exterior lighting. Two big benefits can result. First, it enables interior spaces to also perform as an night-time beacon welcoming all passersby to spy on the building's internal design and goings-on, often intentionally to entice more of them to enter.

Second, it's a very responsible lighting solution. Fewer fixtures and less electrical infrastructure may be required translating to energy, installation and maintenance savings for the building's owners or tenants. And it lessens the building's carbon footprint. It's a win-win combo for everyone —and it can more effectively reduce undesirable light pollution in the night sky too. Something we're becoming much better informed about and sensitive to.


Do think longevity

Gaudy globular fixtures still left over from the 1960s and 70s have caused more than a few designers and architects to cringe. To allow your client to enjoy your lighting designs for decades (maybe centuries?) to come, think long-term. Linear, minimalist fixtures provide light without the chance to become eyesores, and are available in a wide range of T5 fluorescent, or new LED  options which virtually guarantee that the lighting will last a long time, both energy and style-wise. Plus, what organization today doesn't want to be seen as eco-friendly? Sure, the higher cost may make some clientele wary, but quality is something on which every client can (and should) be educated. In fact, dimmable LED lighting is frequently the same approximate price as dimmable fluorescent lighting systems. LEDs can also come in a variety of hues, ranging from the coolest blues to the warmest oranges and reds, so any fear of "blue shock" can quickly be remedied. 




Topics: lighting quality, architectural lighting, Lighting Design, linear lighting, exterior lighting