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Architecture and Technology: Exterior Lighting

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

Bird’s Nest Stadia for Beijing Olympics 2008. Image Credit: © Sanctu | Flickr


The question you should be asking yourself as you design architectural lighting is this — “How can I enhance the message, meaning and essence that this architecture conveys?”

The lighting design in an architectural project is very important. With today’s emerging technologies so much can now be accomplished by lighting a building in creative and unique ways. Integrate lighting into your building design process — it’s all about the true merger between architecture and technology through design.


“Incorporate the play of light as seen in nature,” says Sabedra. “Buildings have activity inside. The façade lighting should let that come outward. (1)

Lighting is an integral part of exterior architectural design — especially as night falls. According to the article Façade Lighting: A Fork in the Road, lighting design generally falls into two categories, one biased toward “nature” and the other biased toward “technology” and each of these approaches accomplishes different things. (The quote above shows an example of how a “naturalistic” lighting designer might think about a project.)


It is interesting to note that lighting can significantly impact your building design as its qualities exaggerate or minimize architectural elements. For instance, shadows, color and brightness all play a part in displaying architecture’s form in certain ways. As the article explains, certain lighting effects can mimic the sunlight on a façade, while others bring to life a “billboard-like” display of an array of lights.

The important thing to remember is this — lighting is another “material” integral to both your form and your function. Don’t let this become an after-thought. You can accomplish many great moments by using lighting strategically.


Learn about new lighting technologies out there. Use lighting to design and convey your architectural message. After all, lighting can go a long way in giving your occupants (and surrounding community) a meaningful experience. What interesting ways have you seen lighting designed for a building? What worked about it? Why?


(1) Saucedo, Christian. Façade Lighting: A Fork in the Road. December 15, 2008.





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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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