Natural or artificial, lighting is one of the most important elements in architecture, directly affecting our perception of spaces. It is capable of defining volumes, enhancing colors, textures, and therefore, contributing to the overall relationship between dimension, proportion, and contrasts. One of the many challenges of architecture is to shape spaces based on light and shade, and sometimes natural light is not enough, requiring additional light sources to be installed and controlled.
Since its early days, architecture has been challenged to create elements to absorb, reflect, diffuse, and transmit light, as to unveil the features of a space and convey a certain ambiance. Mastering natural lighting design has been one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, from the Gothic style to the contemporary designs of Álvaro Siza, but many projects also require effective artificial lighting to maximize the aesthetic and functional quality of spaces.
As we can see in this article that shows how artificial lighting can be used to improve projects, artificial lighting design is related both to technical aspects as well as to specific preferences and concepts proposed by architects and clients. Here we explore some interior design projects in Brazil that apply a range of different lighting solutions.
Some places require an abundance of lighting, such as beauty salons or health clinics. The Lushe Beauty Salon in São Luiz, designed by Roby Macedo arquitetura e design, for example, features a custom-designed large geometric luminaire, providing the whole area with general indirect lighting, and backlit mirrors with a soft and cozy dimmable light. In addition, there is also accent lighting on the green walls, highlighting the different textures and colors of the plants.
In the Rafael Paiva doctor's office by URBANODE architecture, the architects used this same solution consisting of a large light fixture that runs through the whole room, except that in this case, the luminaire provides direct lighting. The office also features task lighting above the desk and the countertop, next to the bathroom, as secondary light sources.
In this other project for MJanson Orthodontics designed by Caracho Arquitetos, the lighting solutions vary according to specific requirements since the office offers not only medical appointments but also courses and seminars. In the examination rooms, direct lighting is abundant, while the reception area relies on directional accent lighting, also benefiting from diffused lighting coming from the translucent wall, which is both naturally and artificially illuminated.
Corporate environments also require specific lighting solutions. Although corporate workplaces have changed a lot recently, lighting is still an important element that affects productivity and quality of life as well, given the amount of time we spend at work. The project for Bcredi, by Arquea Arquitetos, showcases a great variety of lighting techniques dedicated to different working environments.
For communal gathering spaces, the project uses direct lighting on track systems, with spotlights facing walls and countertops. For more introspective work spaces, there are warmer task lights over the desks. For shared workstations, the architects chose a direct lighting fixture with a zig-zag design using tube lamps, which provides a unique ambiance, while the relaxation rooms feature single downlight luminaires. Furthermore, the general lighting design accentuates the different textures of the materials used in the project, like the OSB panels and concrete structures.
Retail stores are great places to experiment with lighting without having to worry too much about functionality. The project for the Fast Shop Lifestyle Ibirapuera Store, by Kengo Kuma & Associates, proves this by designing spaces based on lighting. The store layout is divided into rooms such as News, Home Theater, Cooking with Family and Friends, Connectivity, Personal Care, Kids, and features symbolic lighting in each area. It is designed to portray the custom of people gathering around the light at home with their families. Different solutions vary from direct, indirect, ambient, accent, and decorative lighting, taking advantage of the different textures, materials, shapes, and the way they filter or reflect light.
The Dengo Chocolates Concept Store, by Matheus Farah and Manoel Maia Arquitetura, uses light to create simple and artistic sceneries through accent and decorative lighting in addition to natural lighting. This same approach is used in SuperLimão Studio's Toca do Urso Brewery by creating a balance between natural and artificial lighting. Since there is plenty of natural light due to skylights and light shelves, additional artificial lighting is used only in specific areas, such as the entrance hallway.
So far, we have seen that commercial spaces are very open to unconventional lighting solutions, but this is also possible in residential projects. The Loft Solar by Talita Nogueira Arquitetura is a great example of this, combining different artificial lighting techniques in an artistic and minimalist environment. In the living room, for example, linear recessed luminaires on the ceiling provide wall grazing and wall washing effects that highlight the artworks. In addition, some environments have secondary lighting, such as directional pendant light fixtures over the table in the dining room.
The Sensorineural Suite project by Piacesi Arquitetos Associados also features accent lighting, achieved through a line of tube lambs that runs along the entire room ceiling and walls. According to the architects, the lighting design is very important in this project, as it provides a cozy ambiance and general well-being through light.
There are many unconventional projects which combine technical aspects and decorative effects, however, simple solutions are often very effective to achieve a cozy and warm atmosphere in residential lighting design. For example, the Praça Henrique Monteiro apartment by Studio Arthur Casas which features accent lighting on the shelves and in the bedrooms, and a very clever solution using recessed cove lighting falling on the curtains. This way, both artificial and natural light sources are directly related, establishing a close relationship between the nighttime and daytime ambiances in the apartment.
This selection of projects shows that being able to understand and control how natural and artificial lighting affects a particular space can help us define the environment and the ambiance we desire. About his installation for the Swedish fashion retailer COS, Sou Fujimoto said: "A forest which consists of countless light cones made from spotlights above. (...) These lights pulsate and constantly undergo transience of state and flow. Light and people interact with one another, its existence defining the transition of the other." Although he was describing his project, we can also apply this idea when we think of light as a "space shaper" that can also be used to shape atmospheres, ambiances, and rituals.