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Why is lighting so important?

Why is lighting so important?

September 2016

Light is the most important factor in the appreciation and understanding of architecture. The importance of integrating lighting early on in the design stage can therefore not be stressed enough, experts say.



Light defines the architectural space; it contributes to its perception and understanding while adding value to its function and bringing an emotional component for its users.

Yet lighting design is often looked at the final design stage of a project rather than from the very beginning, which, according to Sergio Padula, Technical Director and Lighting Expert at iGuzzini, can have negative consequences on how buildings or spaces are experienced.

Especially with the advent of new technologies such as LEDs, which allow lighting to be fully incorporated into any interior or architectural elements, closer cooperation between architects and lighting designers is needed to ensure that the correct lighting is perfectly integrated into these elements.

Cityscape Architecture spoke to Sergio Padula about the necessity to recognise lighting as an integral part of a project and how the dialogue between architects and lighting designers can be improved.

Q. Why is lighting often looked at too late in the overall design stage of a project?

The main reason lies in the fact that there’s a significant lack of culture of lighting.

We need to fully understand that lighting has a huge impact not only from a mere aesthetic perspective. It impacts the way we live, work, and interact with spaces and with each other. It affects human beings and their interaction, their socialisation and the extent to which we are productive or feel rested. Being such a fundamental factor in our lives and not only in our architecture structures, we need to involve as many professionals as possible in the dialogue on lighting. The topic can’t be limited to the industry’s actors, it needs to be a wider debate and must be incorporated in the general and long-term vision for our cities and communities.

With this in mind, a lighting fixture must be evaluated for its emission, performance, reliability, lighting features and aesthetic experience after installation. Light can convert function into emotion, transforming a building into a collective value and a landscape into a perceptive experience. Light comes before all else. Light is also a direction, it can be used as a semantic guide, it uses signs and graffiti, breaks continuity, underscores angles and curves, converts lines into vectors to indicate directions, and emphasises volumes.

As iGuzzini we are committed to foster the education in lighting through seminars, workshops and a wide range of educational activities in collaboration with universities and institutions, architectural practices and research centres. We transfer our knowledge and expertise at international and regional fairs along other commercial events, as there are no boundaries in spreading the meaning and the value of good lighting.

On the other hand, and as a consequence of the lack of a lighting culture, in presence of budget constraints and when it’s subsequently necessary decide to sacrifice something, the easiest and most common choice is to cut off lighting, as the less important element in the design scheme. The terrible consequences this has in terms of the overall aesthetic experience for both individual and social wellbeing are unfortunately clear to everybody nowadays with many examples across the globe and especially in those parts of the world where the education on lighting is still at an early stage.

Q. How can the dialogue between architects and lighting designers be improved?

It’s pivotal to involve the lighting designer from the early stage of a project. Lighting needs to be developed along and as an integral part of the project’s vision and needs to be in total accordance and in line with the message the architect wants to communicate through his or her project. Architecture has a strong impact on our lives and the way we interact with spaces; lighting needs to be a fully integrated part of this message. We believe the best way of achieving this would be organising workshops and brainstorming sessions where both the architect and the lighting designer can enable a mutual dialogue and come up with integrated solutions. It’s also important that the different roles are respected and both trust each other on their respective fields of expertise.

Design is made for people, and people talk and discuss to create new forms and experiences.

Q. The architecture industry in the UAE has developed significantly over the past decade, and along with it the lighting design industry. Where do you see the biggest opportunities in this region over the coming years?

Expo 2020, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and Saudi Vison 2030 represent for sure the most challenging opportunities in the region over the coming years. Lighting designers with a vision can really make an impact through the possibilities these events offer. And I can see that a huge potential will come from the hospitality and infrastructure applications in particular.

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