Shedding Light on Architectural Illumination


Over the years, as architectural design embraces more free-form geometry and elements, there is an increased appreciation of architectural lighting that complements the physical form.

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The diversity we see in contemporary architecture today gives rise to varied and distinctive possibilities in terms of lighting. Good lighting design improves the mood and desirability of such spaces and can contribute to a sense of well-being.

There remains a common misconception though, that all lighting designers do is merely meeting requirements for illumination levels. In reality, a lighting designer’s work is a balance of science and art. A beautifully decorated room can look uninviting and spooky, if poorly lit. Conversely, a subpar space can be made more visually appealing through quality and intelligent lighting design.

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Consideration of the impact of lighting and the materials finishes of the space are an important factor in the appreciation of the space. Whether indoors or outdoors, lighting is more than just a function, it creates a human experience, conveys a brand’s visual identity, and enriches the architect’s design.

Robert Tsu, Aurecon’s senior lighting designer, has an extensive track record in lighting design, including designing lighting for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands entertainment, food and beverage outlets, Australia’s Wellington Mixed Use Development in Perth, and Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum. In this article, he discusses his top three tips for getting the most voltage and value from your lighting design team.

Southeast Asia’s tallest tower, Landmark 81 in Vietnam

Igniting ideas early

On average, about 20% of the energy consumption of a building goes to lighting, so it is important to engage the lighting designer with useful info. Start with:

  • Rather than providing uniform lighting coverage across the entire space, what are the important areas that you want to draw the eye to?
  • Are there areas of architecture that should be emphasised?
  • What is the mood or ambiance the lighting should create?
  • Will lighting be used to guide people through the space?
  • Is there an opportunity to use natural light to complement the interior electric lighting?
Photo by Annie Eng

“Being part of the project early also allows us to recommend areas to highlight, while ensuring the light fittings don’t interfere with the interior or exterior design,” Robert explains.

At a hotel project in Hong Kong, Aurecon was appointed early in the design process to create a zen atmosphere at night. In a city that’s famed for its sea of colourful lights, Aurecon chose to illuminate some of the hotel’s vertical surfaces in a more subtle manner, so it stands out against the backdrop of neon. The visual hierarchy also used light to guide people toward the hotel’s brand and logo, even from afar.

Let’s get visual

Sharing visual renderings help lighting designers effectively communicate the options that align closer with the desired result.

“Visual cues are vital to ensuring we understand what the client would like to achieve and what they would like us to highlight,” Robert said.

On the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum project, Aurecon was appointed to provide specialist lighting consultancy services for a significant upgrade of its lighting system. The design was approached with the aim to better reflect the worshipful atmosphere and enhance the visitor experience for both tourists and worshippers. The design also focused attention on the Temple’s intricate design and detailing and it required a full overhaul of the Temple’s interior and exterior lighting sources.

Photo by John Scott

One of the design objectives was to strike a balance between maintaining the serenity expected of a place of worship while also creating a system that would best highlight the ornate and intricate design of the building and its array of culturally-significant artefacts. Lighting design plays an important role in defining how people will behave within a given space and the Temple project was an opportunity to use that to maximum effect.

Smart lighting solutions

As discussed earlier, about one-fifth of a building’s electrical consumption goes to lighting. This can be a substantial part of a building’s operating expense. Therefore, part of the design effort will go into reducing ecological footprint while increasing sustainability and energy efficiency, without sacrificing aesthetic impact.

Indicating the budget early in the process to lighting designers helps them to recommend smart options and solutions that fit within the capital and estimated operational budgets available.

Robert says there are a myriad of lighting solutions available for all budget levels, so it is important to understand the parameters before creating the lighting design concept. Then designers can draw upon their knowledge of technologies, products, and post-installation maintenance.

“As lighting designers, we work to ensure that the function, technologies visuals and budgets are all in alignment to create lighting

This is a guest post written by Aurecon

About Aurecon

Aurecon is an international engineering, design and advisory company, but not as you know it. We’ve reimagined engineering.

Our clients’ ideas and aspirations drive all that we do. We work alongside them like no other firm to co-create clever, innovative solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges, adding value across the project lifecycle through deep technical and advisory expertise. We serve our clients across a range of markets and international locations. Hardwired in our DNA are engineering, design and the deep need to leave a legacy. We are as diverse as we are dynamic. As curious as we are clever.

Drawing on our deep pool of knowledge, we bring vital engineering experience, technical capability and design expertise to the table. Then we listen deeply and intently. We see the opportunities, possibilities and potential that others don’t. Through a range of unique creative processes and skills, we collaborate with our clients to re-imagine, shape and design a better future.

We believe humanity depends on engineering; and we recognize we have a broader stewardship role to play. A deep responsibility to hold. As we continually strive for a life in balance, Aurecon clients will be both future ready and engineered for life.

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