There is a lot of talk in the lighting industry just now about shadow, darkness and contrast, it’s always been there but sometimes I feel we, as lighting professionals, put it to the back of our minds. I felt that perhaps it was a good idea to just remind all of you lovely lighting people across the world to embrace the dark arts when doing design and to become a darkness designer!
Without the dark and the shadow we would have no contrast. All of our schemes would be flat, boring and bland, ultimately we need the dark. So how do we embrace it? What proportion of a scheme should be shadow and when is it not okay to give in to the gloom?
Safety within the space is probably the biggest motivator for eliminating shadow and I don’t see that changing, however there are times, like on building facades where the contrast is critical to making it interesting and dramatic.
Darkness also is a deciding factor when designing street lighting as although we want to ensure people can navigate their surroundings whilst outside of their homes we also want to allow them to sleep soundly without light ingress into their bedrooms. Of course now we also want and need to save energy and carbon which makes dimming later into the night is an option which works for both scenarios. The use of LED street lights can also help with light ingress as it’s often sharp photometric cut off stops the surround spill lighting we used to have from conventional discharge lamp with an optic style of luminaires.
Dynamic controls systems are now allowing us lighting designers to play with lighting levels during the day and night to make sure energy reduction requirements are met but how do we balance the needs of the individual who uses the space with the needs of a the Global populations need to save the planet one dimmer switch at a time?
I personally like my lighting dimmed when I work, as long as I have enough to read comfortably then less is definitely more. When I relax a low lighting level helps me unwind and feels cosy. Some of you out there might prefer lots of light and need it to function well during the waking hours so if we were to share a space how would we design for that?
Light helps us function as humans but then, thanks to our circadian rhythms and third eye receptor we need dark to set our body clocks and get enough sleep to be effective during the day. We are used to the sun causing shadow and to our eyes having to adjust to great changes in natural lighting levels during the day and yet we contain ourselves to rules and guidelines when producing artificial lighting schemes.
The darkness of the river makes the bridge lighting stand out and the brightness of the pods is framed by the darker surround and draws the eye in.
So consider the lighting levels but also consider the contrast and the shadow. Is there room for it in your scheme to make a space more interesting or dynamic? Do you even need to light? Will too much light be just as bad for the project? Ultimately start with the darkness and layer the light and think of those using the space because if they are not happy then you have failed.
Lorraine Calcott – Managing Director
it does lighting and energy ltd