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Church of the Light by Tadao Ando

The Importance of Light

31. 03. 16   :   The Epistle

Light, both natural and artificial, is one of the most important elements in architecture. For an architect or designer, natural light is an ever-changing tool that can have a transformative effect on the look and feel of a building. Sensitive use of artificial light can create a warm and inviting environment, while a badly lit room can feel cold and stark. Light can be calming or energising; it can create a sense of intimacy or a sense of space.

The level of brightness, the way light is distributed and the shadows it casts all define the character of a space and our perception of it. Different rooms require very different lighting solutions, so the starting point should always be form and function –when and how each room is used. The dimensions of the space, the materials and furniture, the colour choices, the surface finishes, the time of day… all of these elements will affect the way light will react.

In this blog post we look at examples of architecture, art and design in which light is used to wonderful effect, starting with our own Project Khan in Knightsbridge, in which we focused on the interplay between light and dark, and the manipulation of natural and artificial light.

In the reception room and kitchen of Project Kahn, light responds to dark walls clad in smoked wood and leather. Here, all artificial light is concealed, while flush metal strips in the ceiling reflect and bounce natural light into the space:

The main living space of project Khan in Knightsbridge
Project Khan, 1508 London
Kitchen of Project Khan - clever lighting that reflects off light and dark surfaces
Project Khan, 1508 London

In the entrance hall, light’s intimate response to bespoke antique mirror illuminates the space, suggesting a continuation of natural light:

Entrance hall of Project Khan, with backlit antique mirror
Project Khan, 1508 London

‘Even a space intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is’ – Louis Kahn

Church of the Light by Tadao Ando
Church of the Light (Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church) in Osaka, Japan. Architect: Tadao Ando. Photo by Chris HE / CC BY-NC-ND

The way the sun casts its shifting shadow can be an integral and intentional part of a design:

A concrete walkway with the natural light creating a repeating pattern
‘Shadows of the Sun’: a pedestrian walkway in Munich, Germany. Photo by Nathan Rupert / CC BY-NC-ND

With natural light comes a constant shifting of light and shade; a clever design will take these changes into consideration. Furniture can be used to create dramatic shapes and create shadows:

Reception room of Project Adam, with natural light creating shadows on the floor and walls
Project Adam, 1508 London

A perforated patterned screen on the staircase of this penthouse in Istanbul casts interesting shadows throughout the day:

Silver screen with perforated pattern, which casts shadows on the walls
Project Esra, 1508 London

Artificial light creates pockets of light and shadow that introduce texture and contrast to a space:

Staircase in Project Sinatra, with subtle low-level lighting
Project Sinatra, 1508 London

The only light in this chapel comes from a sole narrow overhead light that emphasises the horizontal structure of the white-glazed concrete walls:

Chapel of rest with overhead light highlighting one wall
Chapel of Rest, Hörbranz Cemetery, Juri Troy Architects, Vienna.
Photo: © Robert Fessler