Lighting the way



The importance to architecture of lighting was the subject of a talk at the DesignMENA Summit.

Designer Dean Skira spoke of how important it is to get the right mix of light and shadow to enhance a building and provide the right ambience for those who are using it.


Beyond Utilitarian was the title of the seminar given by the Croatian designer who has more than 20 years of experience in working on projects for urban, landscape, commercial and residential spaces.

Skira said: “Lighting design in architecture, something that’s been following me for 20 years. And it’s the human experience which should be on top of the list, because lighting design adds value to human experience, biological, visual and emotional.

“In order to understand the process and the thought of vision, we have a particular language that we use, which may sound like a cliche, but I think it’s important to understand that lighting is like music.

“They share two particular features they are both invisible and tangible, but they both create very strong emotions when people tune into them.

“The easy thing for a composer is he has very precise tools so that he can write music with notes and for anyone who can play an instrument it’s easy to reproduce it.

“In lighting, it’s not that easy. We have our language, our symbols, but it’s not as easy to reproduce them as music.”

Skira said it was important that architects consider his speciality right from the outset of any project and although people were happy to talk and discuss natural light – such as that found in woodlands or forest they were less comfortable analysing what it means to create the right artificially lighted environment.

He said: “Lighting has to be involved from the very beginning – but the words that we are using in this profession are not always very understandable for our customers. We tend to not speak about lighting very easily. And lighting very often, is not as good as it should be.

“Nature has a simple and silent way of speaking of lighting – but we have to speak loudly about it to be heard.

“The other thing that we need to understand about light is that it has a form, even if it’s not visible, it does have a form.

“Everything we see depends on light and it creates another form called shadow. That is also very important in our process of design. We do have to consider the form of that light and the shade that is going to come out. We have different forms of light.

“Lighting creates the first impression, the flow and the lasting experience.”

Skira told the audience that lighting should be a part of the whole process when it comes to design – and not only the specific project under construction be considered. The overall environment will have an impact on the finished design, he said.

“We are kind of selfish every time we do a project, because we tend to only think of that certain project,” he explained.

“But that is part of a bigger picture that we have to take into account. If we do a private house, that house has a neighbour, and maybe a private road, and light travel infinitely.

“Our eyes can see wide angles – so it’s not only that particular object, but how light influences everything around it.”

And Skira concluded by stating that light and darkness can both be taken on board by designers.

“We need to have an understanding of  this integration,” he said.

“But what is integration? Is this the right word, because every time we turn on any source of light regardless of its shape, that light is always going to be brighter than the surrounding space.

“As much as we try to integrate lighting into architecture it’s not always possible. The only way to do it is to make the architecture become the source of light – but then we lose some sense of space. So we must work with the shadow.”

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