August 29, 2023
Lighting Design has the power to transform environments, evoke emotion, and draw attention to key design features. In this article, Richard Voss unpacks the power of lighting design, exploring the principles that impact positively on wellness. With a passion for photography, Richard has captured the corresponding black and white images in this article.
Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.
Our eyes are made to see forms in light: light and shade reveal these forms.
- Le Corbusier
Lighting plays a pivotal role in architecture, but increasingly so now, with the need to incorporate Universal Design and accessibility in our responses. Office buildings now accommodate five generations in the workplace and need to take steps to embrace the 20% of our population who are neurodiverse.1 From my experience, effective and impactful lighting design can be broken down into three key drivers: comfort, ambience, and delight.
Lighting design for comfort
All spaces should aim to not only be fit-for-purpose, but fit-for-users. With an ageing population and increasing research available around Universal Design, our built environment should reflect this. We need to moderate glare, visual contrast, lux lighting levels and thermal gain for a diverse range of occupants and uses. This may involve using diffused daylight, zoning controls, or layering areas by task.
The 6-8 Munroe Lane development, a new 26,500m² workplace in Albany, Auckland features a high-performance curtain wall façade, completed with micro-line frit. The frit assists in managing solar heat gain and visual glare, thus supporting the comfort of those working inside.
Along with directly bolstering user comfort, the frit, complemented by the use of solid wall portions, reduces demand for artificial cooling in summer conditions.
Lighting for appropriate ambience
In terms of influencing user experience, lighting has a profound effect on the ambience of a space. Subtle adjustments in light temperature can influence intimacy, or the ‘welcome’ into a building. Cooler light temperature imparts a vibrant energetic feel, which we often see in healthcare, retail and some workspaces. Warmer colour temperatures, on the other hand, used liberally in hospitality and residential spaces, create a relaxed and homely environment.
Done well, the strategic placement of lighting can be transformative, directing attention to particular architectural features, creating intrigue. At 6-8 Munroe Lane, this has been established by using lighting to direct attention and flow. It contributes to the cultural storytelling of the timber walnut panel carvings, which line the public laneway, and are a result of a design collaboration with cultural advisors TOA.
Lighting and form to evoke delight
Finally, we must not forget the delight in architecture. Lighting has the power to inspire and create delight by creating immersive moments that engage our senses and emotions. This can range from playful interactions, such as touch-sensitive elements that allow occupants to engage with the effects – to spatial enhancement, influencing the perception of a space.
An 8-metre wide lightwell within the work floor of 6-8 Munroe Lane does precisely this. It adds a sense of depth and dimension, resulting in a visually striking space. Fundamentally, the lightwell diffuses daylight across the deep campus floorplates and promotes connectivity between floors. Daylight in office buildings is key to regulating the occupants’ circadian rhythms – an essential consideration in human-centric design, found to increase productivity and encourage faster cognitive processing.2 Occupants have an inherent need to look outside, they want to know what the weather is doing, what time of day it is, and even to be reminded of the seasons. This need for contact with the outside world is backed by studies demonstrating the direct and significant effect of lighting on mood.3
With the experiential benefits in mind, incorporating effective lighting design should be key in our design responses for office buildings and broader typologies. Drawing upon first principles, we can harness both artificial and natural light to create spaces that go beyond functionality and aesthetics. Seemingly simple additions such as façade frit, or more prominent interventions like Munroe Lane’s lightwell can have a transformative influence on the physical, mental and emotional wellness of occupants. It’s through this understanding that we can create spaces, which in Le Corbusier’s view are ‘masterful’ – manifesting comfort, ambience and delight.
Richard Voss is a Director at Ignite and has significantly contributed to the built environment of New Zealand in terms of architecture, workplace design, and sustainability. Richard has published extensively on urban design, sustainability, collaboration, and workplace design. He is also a regular guest lecturer at the Auckland University Business School.
In his spare time, Richard has a passion for photography and exploring how light has a fundamental influence on the built environment and landscape.
Learn more about Richard and his design ethos here.