Seeing these amazing lighting solutions proved me yet again that light is one of the most impressive means of building architectural volumes, but also one of the most underestimated. Strange how we, humans, as civilization depend so much on our visual perception and still are toying around like dumb kids with one of physics strongest energies. It also pains me every time I’m involved in interior design projects, on one degree or another, to see how of little importance the lighting is to the architects or the client (can’t blame the latter, though, especially in Romania).
One of the rare things that impressed me during college was the lighting lecture kept by a great designer (even if he was a former doctor and also a plastic arts graduate), Mr. Savel Cheptea, one of the founders of the Design College in Cluj. He taught us the importance of good lighting, the effects it has on our eyes and especially on our working/reading stamina—by extending, the huge importance lighting has on our mood (ever wonder why you’re grumpier on rainy days?—it’s the lack of strong, warm sun light and the omnipresence of cold, shadowless light, not the rain itself). I bought that week a 200 watt light bulb for our student room, it boosted our drawing efficiency by at least two times, being able to draw till 4 or 5 in the morning without our eyes feeling the fatigue. After two weeks we got used to it so well that we could sleep with the light on, as others were working.
Most of my 3D renderings were light studies, I could fine tune radiosity and light scattering for days, but got bored in modelling in just three hours tops. The biggest pain while working as an interior designer was that the company made just 3DSMax scanline rendering for the clients, with no real light simulation whatsoever. Sure real light took hours of rendering compared to the 20-30 minute basic renders, and of course clients were visually uneducated (and sadly, still are in Romania). But lighting is one of the most important parts in interior design. Build anything you like, using the most amazing materials, put a 50 watt bulb inside and you’ve got nothing. Use just plasterboards and LED lighting and you can suggest any mood you’d like, from burning hot to freezing cold. And even if the client is uneducated, presenting a light study rather than a washed out top view image will help you sell the project a lot easier. Engineers can easily make top views, an architect should sell concepts, moods, impressions (Monet anyone?).
Sadly, romanian architecture is in the dark. The majority of public-interest buildings are either washed out with cheap lighting (not cheap actually, cost-inefficient to be more precise) or totally “stealth”, like haunted houses on a creepy road.
Concluding, here are some examples of superb lighting. You can easily guess the succes they have as a retail marketing and branding tool.