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What is Architectural Lighting?

What is Architectural Lighting?

Architectural lighting highlights design features in a space and adds to the asethetic
Published on October 5, 2022

Last updated on April 12, 2023 12:47 pm


Architectural lighting design serves and enhances certain architectural elements to foster, establish or emphasize a building’s aesthetic, history and purpose—its ethos.

Architectural lighting can be similar but is not exactly the same as lighting design. The former’s focus is on architecture. The latter’s consideration is often ergonomic or functional — any aspect that improves one’s ability to live, work, function, relax or play — to make sure light is optimally used and distributed.

Architectural lighting is the intersection of art (architecture), design and technology (lighting). Other fields of endeavor also come into play, such as physics, engineering and the psychological and physiological effects of light.

The significance of lighting in architecture

 Architecture is an expression of values.”

– Norman Foster, Architect

Lighting can influence a person’s mood and their connection to a space. Whether history, identity or values, the features of a building can tell a story. Architectural lighting can work to bring the story to life.

Common applications of architectural lighting

Architectural lights are products that can be customized with various options. These products can also be referred to as specification-grade lights.

LED lighting technological progress and versatility affords architects and lighting designers the ability to achieve more creative designs. This enables the designer to highlight architectural features without visually revealing the fixture.

Some of the most common applications of architectural lighting are cove lighting, uplighting, linear recessed, surface and suspension lighting.

Cove lighting used in a yoga and meditation studio to highlight an architectural design element on the wall
LED cove lights are used in this space to highlight the design element on the wall.

Cove lighting—which can be mounted to a ceiling or wall—casts a soft glow to highlight certain design features such as the wall design pictured above in this yoga and meditation studio.

Linear surface lights used as an architectural lighting feature to simulate traveling through the galaxy at the speed of light
Linear ceiling surface lights used in this AARMY fitness center popup in Los Angeles to set the mood for spin classes.

A recent case study features a West Hollywood, California, fitness studio which used linear LED surface lighting to create the impression of traveling through the galaxy at the speed of light.

Uplighting was used in this lobby to highlight the exposed beams of the ceiling
Using LED uplighting to highlight architectural ceiling features like exposed beams.

Uplighting, a form of indirect lighting, is often used to showcase notable structural ceiling features such as the steel beams pictured above.

Final Thought on Architectural Lighting

Finally, begin to contemplate what story your building may be telling and, in particular, which elements you may want to emphasize and bring to life.

Architectural lighting functions to accentuate and showcase architecture. Architecture and lighting ought never to be aesthetically at odds. They strengthen one another and must work as two parts of an integrated, whole human experience.

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