Light & Architecture

A short excursion into the history of the interplay of light & dark.

Reading this headline, one or the other is directly reminded of monumental buildings. Or of great architects, like Le Corbusier, or the Bauhaus co-founders Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. But even those who do not have a degree in architecture will find helpful facts in this article to understand the effect of lighting for a space! We take you on a journey through different eras & human buildings and summarize important experiences, since the discovery of fire once again: So that your next project will also appear in exactly the right light.

When man tamed fire 300,000 years ago....

...the human species not only secured an evolutionary advantage in terms of self-defense, but also domesticated light and heat for the first time. When, in addition to campfires, torches, tallow and oil lamps were introduced into the everyday lives of prehistoric people, light could even be transported. Archaeologists have found ancient oil lamps that are probably more than 10,000 years old.

Our Photonia no longer relays on the basis of combustible oil. But it is still relatively mobile! Because we have provided the outdoor beauty with an extra long cable. In addition, it makes everything a little cozier. With the centrally installed E27 socket our Photonia does radiate a homogeneous light - quite reminiscent of the coziness of torches or oil lamps from days long gone. But do not worry, it does not "flicker"!

This way to discover the whole Photonia family >

Spacious garden with large white columns, gazebos and path lights from SLV.

Religious buildings and their connection to light

Light plays an important role in almost all world religions. It stands for the divine and creates a sacred atmosphere in the often monumental places of worship. Light directs the eyes to the essentials. While the style of sacred buildings changed constantly and their architectural language developed, the reference to light remained.

In the most diverse religions, light stands for "brightness", which gives people orientation. Fittingly, architects transferred the important meaning of light into their designs.

What is applied in religious contexts and buildings can also be seen outside of faiths. Ideally, the usage of a building influences the ultimate design. Office spaces are used differently than traffic areas. Industrial halls require a different lighting concept than shopping stores.

In order to emphasize special building elements, lighting designers rely on the support of artificial light for temples, religious buildings or other architectural highlights. It is important to preserve the buildings. Including the preservation of their historical and cultural value. Therefore, it is always advisable to involve an expert in the planning of the lighting. Our team of experts in the house has also mastered one or the other project, in which the special form of a dormer or monument protection played a role.

There is one recommendation we can make without having more detailed knowledge about a project: Cable systems and track systems! They provide flexibility in the placement of various lights. For instance, it is only necessary to drill into masonry once to attach the fixtures. Individual luminaires can then be placed variably along the rails/cables.

This way to our new spot-, and downlight system Numinos® >

Modern architecture: the interplay of light & shadow

For today's architecture and the design of spaces, the planning of lighting is as much an integral part as the calculation of statics. Spatial thinking and spatial experience are inextricably linked to perception through the various bodily senses. In addition to the senses of balance, heat, cold, and hearing, people perceive space primarily through vision. The stereoscopic vision, which is a condensate of the two different images of our eyes standing apart from each other, provides the spatial impression and the possibility to estimate distances.

But in order for our eyes to perceive anything at all, something must first be built and illuminated. Transferring this into lighting design, there are often certain specifications or special features that need to be taken into account.

Building styles & light

Since people settled collectively, commitment to a place often began with the construction of buildings. These varied in shape and form depending on the region or century in which they were built. Buildings of the Roman Empire are characterized primarily by columns, round arches, and barrel vaults - well-known examples can be found in ancient thermal baths or the amphitheater in Rome. From the first millennium A.D., architectural styles changed more rapidly. The appearance of the buildings changed in the course of the epochs. They became more ostentatious or more purist, had round domes or triangular gables. But no matter how individual characteristics changed, one thing always remained a link and an important component of the different buildings: light. While lighting initially consisted only of a combination of sunlight during the day and torches at night, the invention of artificial light, especially from 1900 onward, added a new component. Artificial light! Which could be deliberately used as a design element to stage architectural refinements even better now. Already "Wiebeking's Bürgerliche - Baukunde" (aka Wiebekings Construction Guide) mentions the windows and the light that falls through them, have a significant influence on the rooms inside. This influence of light on the building and the people living in it expands considerably, when it is no longer just the sun that provides brightness.

The Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, a very influential architect of the 20th century and known as Le Corbusier, also saw this connection:

"Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light: light and shade reveal these forms."

LE CORBUSIER (1887-1965)

Spacial cut, ceiling texture, material & colors

- all thes characteristics influence how a room is perceived

Space shape

Whether a floor plan is square, rectangular, or even oval influences how one perceives that space. The right lighting ideally accentuates the room's assets or works to contrast features that negatively alter the feel of the space. For instance, high ceilings can be made to look more dramatic and narrow by wall washers. Tube-like spaces can be made to look wider by an exciting lighting scheme. By using low-beam luminaires with reflectors, light is "pushed" into the lower half-space, leaving the upper half-space darker because it receives mainly indirect light reflected from the floor. Thus, the height of the room is perceived as reduced and the light area appears wider.

Ceiling design

The height of a room also influences the mood or vibe one is getting upon entering the space. Whether it is more of a cozy, secure feeling or a sense of imposing spaciousness. In addition to appropriate decoration, the right lighting can support or counteract this. Not only the position of the luminaires may influence this atmosphere, but also the light color, or temperature, ranging mostly from warm 2000 to rather cold 6500 Kelvin. Furthermore, the nature of the ceilings plays a role. Concrete ceilings can appear oppressive but can also complete a minimalist industrial look.

Materials, colors & reflectance

The texture of surfaces and their colorfulness can equally create a certain mood in rooms. Natural earth tones can be calming, but also boring. A white wall can visually stretch the room, or appear bare & cool. The perception of this texture is significantly influenced by light. Especially the color fastness can even be measured and is expressed in a very high CRI value. A CRI > 90 is recommended, for example, if one really wants to tell the difference between a dark blue and black blouse in a closet, or if a hairdresser wants to find the perfect shade for a customer.


In addition to the generic characteristics of a room, there can also be architectural features. Columns, for example, or beams and vaulted ceilings.


Light has a significant influence on how we perceive our surroundings. Light has accompanied mankind since the taming of fire. In the form of the sun, light was already integrated as an aid in building plans from past centuries. Today's architecture also thrives on the symbiosis of light and space. So if you want to make sure that you feel comfortable in your living room or can tell black from dark blue in a clothing store, you need to plan not only the space but also the lighting accordingly. Questions about the type of use, daylight incidence and potential psychological effects should also be clarified in advance.

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