We continue with the third of our series of four entries about “the experience” of our client, and how design plays an important role in it. In our previous posts, we talked about the basic notions behind effective design and the importance of the textures of materials and surfaces in order to achieve the desired outcome. In this post, we would to focus on one of the most important tools of a designer, light.
Light is a necessary concept in order to perceive things and their character, and to assimilate them in an immediate and obvious way through our eyes. It is when we want to move from this basic perception to influence our senses, when we need to manipulate light in order to give different spaces a special character.
The symbolic effect of light
Throughout history, the manipulation of light in architecture has its most obvious examples in religious settings where it has always been used in to achieve a mystical character. We can differentiate between one period and other thanks to the treatment of light used in temples and churches, where it had a very symbolic role. Light represented God. Thus, in the Middle Ages, natural lighting used was subtle, largely determined by the technical conditions then, while in the Gothic Ages, it was extensively used in, for example, repeated holes in walls, following a more open idea of religion, one closer to God.
Today, designers play with different types of lighting as it determines the perception of the object shown. Direct light allows us to see a shape in a true way, while diffused light can be a good way to blur edges and to make objects look different from the way they really are. Its perception through our eyes can change in distance and form, up to a point where it can make a building appear to be ‘floating’.
Mastering light. Chapel Ronchamp
We can find one of the best examples of the mastering of light through the architecture, in this case also religious, of Le Corbusier´s Chapel of Notre Dame Du Haut, commonly known as the Chapel of Ronchamp.
Despite a modest main interior, Le Corbusier managed to achieve a great impact on all those who visit the Chapel, thanks to a very unique and special use of light. Small irregular windows were drilled in its large walls that allowed for indirect lighting coming in from the towers. The way in which natural light penetrates through the walls gives the building a mystical character. This is due to the way the holes open up onto the surrounding walls. This is a perfect example of how suitable lighting, designed in accordance with the place´s activity, can give the space its unique character without the need of any additional details.
Materialising abstract concepts and applying them to our business
In one of the best books on traditional Japanese aesthetics, “In Praise of Shadows”, Junichiro Tanizaki reveals the importance of understanding light through its opposite, shadow. In this book, Tanizaki develops the idea that in the West, beauty is linked to light, while in the East, it is shadow that qualifies spaces, far away from the negative connotation usually associated with darkness. Tanizaki explores concepts as back-light, tenuous, or half-light, as something necessary in order to emphasise the beauty of objects.
Seeing the importance of light, and also its opposite, shadow, and how throughout history they have been the perfect ally of architects and designers, we can think about integrating this concept in our sector. We can rely on the power of appropriate lighting to create relaxing spaces, which almost generate that mystical mood that so many examples of religious architecture have. By creating the right play of light and shadow, we can achieve, through the subtle use of tenuous light, the feeling of peace and quiet needed. Moreover, focusing on lighting as the most important premise of design, can create, as we have already seen, magnificent projects where only simple decisions are required. The right use of light can allow us to achieve changing spaces and moods in the same way that natural light does.
Playing with artificial light
Both in the Baroque and in some Eastern architecture, architects introduced polished surfaces and mirrors in order to flood a space with light. Additionally, another important concept comes into play when projecting light: reflection, and its ability to duplicate everything that is attractive to us.
When we begin to play with these different types of concepts, where we have the opportunity of working with more than natural light, the possibilities of creating unique spaces increases exponentially. With the arrival of electricity, and the ability to illuminate spaces artificially, we now not only have the ability to use any area at any time of the day that was not previously possible, but we can now enter into a new dimension, previously unthinkable, such as providing the desired colour and intensity, wherever we want to.
If we think about how different the above-mentioned examples would be if they had received a different type of light treatment, it seems obvious that adequate lighting is fundamental to the final outcome of a design. Any small centre can get the desired character if the treatment of light, a key factor when it comes to relaxation, is closely studied. If we also take into account its relationship with different types materials, the possibilities of creating a truly unique spa or wellness centre are endless.