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Layered lighting in architecture

Layered lighting is an important aspect of architectural design that involves the use of multiple light sources to create a dynamic atmosphere within a space.

By combining various types of lighting, such as ambient, task, and accent lights, architects and lighting designers are able to emphasise architectural features, provide functional illumination for specific activities, and create a visually appealing environment.

Layered lighting not only serves a practical purpose but also adds depth and character to a space, enhancing its overall aesthetics. This article will explore the concept of layered lighting in architecture, highlighting its significance and benefits in creating well-lit and visually engaging spaces.

Architectural lighting best practices

Benefits of layered lighting in architecture

Layered lighting in architecture offers numerous benefits to a space. By providing different lighting options, it allows for flexibility and adaptability in creating the desired ambiance. Different light sources can be strategically placed to illuminate various areas of a room, enhancing functionality and aesthetics.

Layered lighting also creates depth and dimension by highlighting specific architectural features or featured artwork, drawing attention to focal elements.

This lighting technique not only enhances functionality but also elevates the aesthetic appeal of a room.

Types of lighting layers

There are different types of layers of light that can be used in architectural design to create a visually appealing and functional space.

Often, more than one person uses the same room at the same time which is where the combination of ambient and task lighting is useful. People also use rooms at different times for different purposes. This demonstrates each layer serves a specific purpose and contributes to the overall lighting scheme.

By understanding the different types of layers of light, architects and designers can effectively use them to enhance the aesthetics and functionality of a space.

  1. Ambient lighting: This is the foundational layer of light that provides general illumination to a space. It typically includes overhead lights, downlighting, or natural light sources such as windows and skylights. Ambient lighting sets the overall mood and brightness level of a room. 
  1. Task lighting: Task lighting is designed to provide focused illumination for specific activities or tasks. It includes spotlights, linear LED strip lighting, desk lamps, and under-cabinet lights. Task lighting ensures adequate visibility and can be adjusted to meet individual needs. 
  1. Accent Lighting: This layer is used to highlight and accentuate specific architectural features, art pieces, or decor elements. It adds depth and visual interest to a space and draws attention to focal points. Track lighting, recessed lights, wall lighting and art lighting are popular choices for accent lighting. 
  1. Decorative Lighting: Decorative lighting serves both an aesthetic and functional purpose. It includes fixtures such as ceiling surface options, chandeliers, pendant lights, and wall sconces, which add a decorative element to the space while also providing illumination.

By incorporating these different types of layers of light, architects and designers can create a well-balanced and visually stunning lighting scheme that enhances the overall design concept of a space.

Design considerations for layered lighting in architecture

Creating a well-designed lighting scheme is essential in architecture. Layered lighting, which involves the strategic use of multiple light sources, is a popular technique among designers and lighting specifiers in achieving a visually appealing and functional space.

By combining ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting, design professionals can create a dynamic and versatile environment tailored to the specific needs and aesthetics of a space.

The following design considerations explore the various factors to keep in mind when implementing layered lighting in architectural design.

  1. Balancing light levels

One important consideration when implementing layered lighting is achieving the right balance of light levels. By varying the intensity of different light sources, design professionals can create a welcoming and engaging space.

Here at Detail Lighting, our team works with design professionals to help them work out the appropriate brightness for each layer of lighting to ensure they work together seamlessly. Careful attention must be given to the light fixtures’ output, placement, and colour temperature to create a blended lighting scheme.

  1. Highlighting architectural features

Layered lighting allows for the highlighting of architectural features or artwork pieces to enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of a space.

By using accent lighting, such as track lighting, ceiling surface lights or art lighting, specific elements can be illuminated to draw attention and create visual interest.

The Cortes 48v System is a popular choice for design professionals. Not only is it the slimmest LED lighting system available, its aesthetic qualities and high functionality mean it can be used in a variety of applications for example residential, commercial and hospitality settings.

  1. Creating functional zones

Task lighting is an essential component of layered lighting, as it serves to provide focused illumination for specific activities or areas within a space. This is an important consideration as often more than one person uses a room at a given time, for a range of purposes. Because of this, design professionals wish to create functional zones within a space to accommodate the users.

This is particularly relevant for modern offices. Recent trends mean open plan offices are popular choices among businesses, however it is important to break such a large expanse up into smaller, functional zones. Examples include banks of desks where users are working, break out areas where users are relaxing, and meeting areas where users gather for team meetings.

The placement and intensity of task lights should be carefully considered to ensure optimal functionality and user comfort.

Design considerations for layered lighting in architecture
  1. Integrating natural light

In addition to artificial lighting sources, incorporating natural light into a layered lighting scheme can greatly enhance the overall design.

Architectural elements such as skylights, large windows, or glass walls can be integrated to allow natural light to enter a given space. When properly balanced with artificial lighting, natural light can create a warm and inviting atmosphere while also reducing energy consumption.

Architects must consider the orientation of the space, window size and placement, and the use of light-diffusing materials to effectively integrate natural light into the design.

  1. Implementing lighting controls:

To maximise the effectiveness of layered lighting, the incorporation of lighting controls is crucial.

Lighting controls allow for the adjustment of light levels, colour temperature, and even the timing of the lights within a given space. This flexibility allows users to create different moods in a space, adapt to changing lighting needs throughout the day, and improve energy efficiency.

Architects should consider incorporating mains dimmers, DALI control systems, Casambi Bluetooth controllers, and timers, to provide users with control over the layered lighting scheme.

Detail Lighting can assist you with your layered lighting scheme

The team here at Detail Lighting works with architects, interior designers and lighting specifiers on a daily basis to create architectural lighting schemes.

Our technical competence can assist with creating layered lighting, integrating lighting controls, assisting with beam angles, helping you with the placement of lighting fixtures, and much more.

We worked closely with south London based architects Architecturall, providing layered lighting designs for Beech House. This is a stunning residential property that was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs program.

We created a relaxing layered lighting scheme in the bedroom using pendants, lamps, and the anti-glare Mini Allegro IP67 Niche recessed downlights.

In the bathroom, Voleos directional recessed downlights in the ceiling were layered with stylish gold wall lights and spotlights. Task lighting in the kitchen was provided by directional recessed downlights, the Cortes 48V track system and suspended pendants.

Take a look at the Beech House case study for more information.

For more information on how we can help your layered lighting scheme, contact our team today.

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