Light and Space: How Architectural Lighting makes the room

Human beings have a very complex relationship with light, and with the areas we occupy as well. Architects often take a people-centric approach to the spaces they create, while lighting engineers and operators work similarly - using lighting to achieve a particular objective. Architectural lighting is where these concepts merge, utilising light and space to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

What is architectural lighting?

Architectural lighting exists at the crossroads of technology and artistic expression. It's not exactly an easy term to define, and as such, it frequently gets misapplied. Architectural lighting is not about the specific grade or quality of the lighting fixtures, and it's not determined by the fixture's place inside or outside of a building or structure.

So, just what is architectural lighting? Firstly, what is architecture. Architectural lighting encompasses systems designed to enhance or contribute towards this spatial experience. The lighting design then becomes just as important as the physical features of the building itself.

A good architectural lighting system braces the gap between design and engineering principles, as well as the psychological and physiological effects of light. In this sense, the lighting works with the physical design to give the space the character that it needs. Whether the lighting adds texture, influences mood or is used to exaggerate architectural features, the role of these systems to is to collaborate with the architecture in creating a cohesive spatial experience.

Architectural lighting knows no sense of scale or specific setting. From small, intimate spaces from single sources inside a restaurant, to bombastic illumination in enormous concert halls, the concept is the same: To design according to the context in which the space will be used.

What constitutes an architectural lighting system?

The size and extent of the system depends on the application, but there are a few essentials you will need for every project. Firstly, of course, is the lighting fixtures themselves. There are a huge range of fixtures available from industry-leading companies like GDS, ETC, Robe, Anolis and Chroma-Q.

Controllers and processors allow you to control and monitor your fixtures in complex setups, often to the most minute detail. Jands, ETC, and Pathway Connectivity Solutions offer a great range of controllers and processors, many of which include amazing features for flexible use.

There is also robust software available, allowing easier design and control of architectural lighting systems. Let's look closer at some of the best system components on the global market right now.

Architectural lighting fixtures

In general, lighting fixtures are considered either flood lights/wash beams (for illuminating a wide area) or spotlights (for focused beams), but there is in reality a wide variety of variations to either type. While all fixtures will have strengths and limitations, in many cases there are no set rules as to what sort of fixture works in which application - there are just too many variables.

Subsequently, choosing fixtures often comes down to the exact context of the setting; what each light needs to illuminate, how it needs to be illuminated, and how much light is actually required. Additionally, technical considerations such as output strength, power supply, and heat control should be taken into account. If that seems like a lot to take in, you are not wrong - however, the architectural lighting market is certainly not light on choices.

From the ArcSystem Décor LED Strip made by GDS, a perfect fixture for cove lighting, through to the ETC Source Four LED Series 2 range of super flexible spotlights, there is virtually no limit to what you can do with the right components in a system. While price is always a deciding factor, there are fixtures on the market that can be creatively used for a multitude of purposes, meaning you can achieve a great result even when on a tight budget.

Architectural lighting controllers and processors

Control systems offer the critical interface between the operator and the fixtures themselves. Consoles come in numerous configurations, from simple touchscreen to multi channel desks. A controller will allow the engineer specific fine-tuning of almost every facet of lighting, from dimmers right through to swappable gobo patterns. Some controllers can be programmed or have an option to record and playback sequences, and many are capable of interfacing with other equipment to improve synchronicity.

Lighting controllers are available in all manner of configurations to suit venues and performances of all types. Selecting the right controller is largely dependent on the job, but it's a also a matter of personal preference for operators. Whether this is a very basic controller on stationary fixtures inside or outside of a building or a fully integrated setup for a complex array of lighting in a performance venue, style, function and application are all considerable factors.

The processor is the brains of the outfit, connecting all lights in a chain by way of a Digital Multiplex network (DMX512), a protocol specifically designed for stage lighting and performance applications. This network offers extensive compatibility and has been developed to suit the need of today's engineers using increasingly complex lighting fixtures.

Architectural lighting software

Software has made the role of lighting designers and operators far simpler over the last few years, primarily in two ways. The first relates to the Android and iOS applications that can be used to control lighting systems. These come in various levels of complexity, some of which are produced by key industry players.

The second is that most lighting fixtures come with BIM files, meaning that the designer has greater flexibility in how they can model the lighting on a building design. This allows for a huge amount of experimentation with ideas, and an accurate model of how they will work in practise.

In conclusion

Now that we understand what architectural lighting is, and what's involved in a system, you can check out some industry leading components in our Architectural Lighting brochure. Not just components however - you can also see some of the breathtaking applications where this equipment has been used. For more information, get in contact with Jands today.

ETC and ArcSystem bring high tech lights to San Jose McEnery Convention Center When the San Jose McEnery Convention Center needed a new lighting system that could support the multi-use, high-production-value conventions their clients expect, they turned to ETC. Now they have a lighting system as advanced as the industry around them.