Lighting is a powerful and cost-effective way of making creating competitive commercial spaces, says lighting designer Sam Neuman
Some years ago, we were asked by Le Pain Quotidien to look at the lighting of their cafés as a measure to help increase footfall in the evenings. By revisiting the lighting in a way that created a more welcoming, warmer feeling in the spaces, we had helped to significantly increase its evening turnover: a neat case study to illustrate how design adds value.
In an increasingly commercially astute world, businesses dependent on footfall are acutely aware of the need to create environments with a competitive edge. Lighting is a subliminal yet powerful way to achieve this, and is relatively cost-effective. We collaborated with architect Softroom on the design of the Wahaca restaurants, to conceive an identity for the group through distinct interiors in which lighting played an integral role.
But lighting is more than just the art of helping make a commercial outfit thrive. Intelligent lighting can help bring to life any well detailed building. It can create a landmark effect, particularly at night. And it can significantly improve a value-engineered or otherwise compromised design. Fundamentally, working with a lighting designer is about introducing a different yet complementary thought process on a project: another way to communicate the value of a building and its design narrative.
There is still room to outshine the competition by getting your lighting just right
On big projects, we have seen how lighting designers can bring relief and variety to how spaces are treated. The introduction of daylight can be critical in deep-plan buildings, yet the ability to combine daylight with artificial light is a real skill. It requires an understanding of how the sun and sky emit light dynamically in different ways over the year. Overlaying the design of the electrical lighting requires experience in seeing how light flow, power and colour temperatures work under different conditions. At Heathrow Terminal 2, Hoare Lee and Fractal have done this just right, allowing passengers to feel the outside environment, albeit in an enclosed space.
Architects of course think long and hard about light; their buildings are ideally orientated to make the most of natural light. Many architects are nonetheless frustrated by this field, as they have seen the lighting design market constantly flooded with new and ever-changing products. Issues of compatibility, standardisation and performance are commonplace. However, lighting is such a rapidly changing field that it comes with many opportunities for those seeking to get to grips with technological advancements, particularly in the application of LEDs. And with so many grappling to seize these opportunities, there is still room to outshine the competition by getting your lighting just right.
Sam Neuman is co-founder of Kate & Sam Lighting Designers