• Sabi Kiesel

The main three aspects of Architectural Lighting


According to Richard Kelly, the lighting of architecture divides into three important types of lighting: “Focal glow, ambient luminescence as well as play of brilliance


This is how I interpret these aspects into my lighting language and understanding:


There is - focusing lighting to highlight (Kelly’s “focal glow”)

- ambient lighting for general light (Kelly’s “ambient luminescence”)

- decorative lighting to bring a spark or lighting object into the room

(Kelly’s “play of brilliance”)


When looking at a space instead of just making it bright, the better strategy is to think of the architectural space from the dark. What should be lit to be visible or eye catching? Thinking in the way what should the audience see on the theatre stage.


So first focusing on elements of the architecture or interior which seem important to highlight. Asking oneself what should be in light / in focus / what do you wanna show obviously?


Once those specific objects or architectural elements, like stairs, specific walls, exhibition pieces, ceiling structure, are illuminated as focal highlight, it is time to slowly add the ambient lighting from darker to brighter illumination to be able to recognise the environment you are in as well as to reach specific lighting levels for example according to BS British Standard recommendations.

In addition there can be decorative lighting elements added to give a more sparkling effect, making the lobby more glamorous with a chandelier or giving a more cozy home feeling with lighting objects like freestanding or wall mounted luminaires.


Important to consider is to find the right balance between these three lighting aspects. Avoid to overdue it, but instead get a great mix between them.


To read more about Richard Kellys follow this link to his essay ‘Lighting as an integral part of architecture’ in the college art journal in 1952.



Happy lighting :-D


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