What is architectural lighting design?
I often meet people who don’t have an idea of what a lighting designer does, but I’m never surprised. It’s a very specific branch of design and I enjoy explaining what we practically do with our loved light. It's like when you meet somebody who works in finance (a huge field) and you have no idea of what they are talking about. If you're curious, you usually have to ask what their job title is translated into the terms of daily tasks.
Lighting design, in the big picture, explains how to illuminate spaces, studies natural and artificial light, its interaction with spaces, specifies what kind of equipment to use, how this is integrated, controlled and how it runs.
Fondation Louis Vuitton - Paris - ph: Alessio Lin
There are different types of lighting designers so I usually introduce myself as an ‘architectural lighting designer’ to specify the aspect that I work mainly in architecture.
A theatrical lighting designer, for example, specialises in dynamic and interactive lighting dedicated to events, concerts and usually on temporary installations, whereas an ‘architectural lighting designer’ works mainly on static lighting, permanent installations for buildings, landscapes, art, etc.
But this is not a complete separation because, given the latest trends, the architectural lighting designers are more and more involved in designing dynamic lighting and solutions that require some more evolved systems and techniques.
In general, and depending on the type of project, a lighting designer assists architects, interior designers, landscape designers and contractors to develop the lighting scheme for the final client.
In the big picture, we get information regarding the space and we give inputs through concepts, visuals, and ideas that are then transformed into a technical package which includes lighting plans, details and documents to explain the intent on the controls, the channelling and how to set different the scenes. We then assist the designers with the integration of the lighting package on their schemes and we follow the process until completion.
Lighting sketch - by lightera.
The lighting design process can be seen conceptually as a pixellated image that enhances its resolution as the project evolves. There are many aspects of design that are studied, reviewed and adjusted over time and this results in a constant work of coordination between the professionals involved in the project. At the end of the project, we get a beautiful picture in high definition and it’s exciting to see our abstract ideas translated into reality.
The Design Museum - London - photo by Andrea de Santis
Lighting design is an exciting profession that involves a mix of creativity, technical knowledge and passion for beauty in general. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with this magical and powerful means of expression: the light.