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Architectural Design for Learning: Lessons in Lighting

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Topalov | Dreamstime

When students learn in a classroom today, a wide variety of learning activities fill their day. Students learn in almost all parts of the classroom and when designed correctly, all parts have a purpose. Architectural design for learning means that an architect has provided space for a quality educational experience – and it is interesting to understand where lighting fits into the big picture.

Randall Fielding has written a paper, Learning, Lighting and Color, which is quite informative as it describes where educational architecture has been and where it should be today. He explains how students do not think and learn in a “linear path”; thus the surrounding architecture (and lighting) should reflect this. In addition, Learning, Lighting and Color explores how architecture should “nurture a broad array of learning styles” as each student learns differently.(1)

As diverse lighting types are combined, educational environments can capitalize on different lighting effects for different uses. In the paper, Fielding explains that when codes call for a “uniform brightness of 55 foot candles in academic spaces”, this unvarying illumination does not provide for different types of learning within a classroom.(1) Learning spaces should me multi-faceted as they provide for students to learn individually, in groups, by listening to a lecture, by conducting an experiment, by socializing and so on.

A school’s design should not only motivate students; it should simultaneously guide their focus and inspire curiosity. Randall Fielding explains that “[s]cience education at its best takes advantage of all of our senses […]”.(1) Wouldn’t it be great to learn by doing more than just reading from a textbook and listening to a lecture? More hands-on experience or interactive digital media tutorials can really work to make learning more meaningful.


(1) Fielding, Randall. Learning, Lighting and Color. 2006.




what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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