Architectural Lighting, Material Architectural Design, Building Space, Construction Design, Property

How to Use Lighting, Space and Material in Architectural Design

Good Architecture Style Design Advice Article

10 Apr 2019

How to Use Lighting, Space & Materials in Architecture Design

The finest architects understand that function is just as important as style in architectural design.

How to Use Lighting, Space and Material in Architectural Design

While a building’s exterior might look beautiful, if it features a badly placed window or poorly designed rooms, it will be the opposite of practical.

To ensure you never make a big mistake when designing a stunning building, find out how to use lighting, space and material in architectural design.

How to Use Lighting, Space and Material

Who Are You Designing a Property For?

Before you design a building, you must first consider who you are creating a property for, as they should influence every architectural decision you make. For example, a family will use space differently to a single occupant.

Your design must trigger a psychological and physical emotion in an occupant each time they step inside their home.

For this reason, you must consider how they will utilise this space each day, which should determine the rooms you design, the lighting you incorporate and the materials you will use.

How Can You Maximise Lighting in an Architectural Design?

Most architects enjoy playing with natural light when developing a jaw-dropping design. After all, it can unite an exterior with an interior, which can add balance to the space.

Yet, not only can sunlight serve as a natural element in architecture, but it has the power to highlight space, texture and colour, which can generate an emotional response once a person steps inside of a room.

While many occupants might take good lighting for granted, knowledgeable architects understand that sunlight can offer several physical and mental benefits. After all, studies have found that sunlight can improve students’ academic performance and can help patients to recover at a faster rate.

Good architects, therefore, understand the importance of welcoming as much natural lighting into a room as possible, as it can impact an occupant’s physiological health. After all, it can:

It is also possible to play with lighting using window coverings from, such as plantation shutters and blinds, so an occupant can adjust the light to create different moods within their home and enjoy different levels of privacy.

Can Lighting Improve Function within a Property?

The function must never be overlooked during the design stages. While you might want to incorporate lighting to add a sense of drama into a space, you also must ensure it serves a practical purpose, which is to help an occupant to see and move across a property.

For instance, you must focus on the different ways to help a person navigate their way throughout a building while making them feel relaxed and protected. Incorporating both natural and artificial lighting will enable them to see both the floors and the walls so that they can move from A to B with ease.

Should Architects Focus on Energy Efficiency?

Forward-thinking architects understand they have a duty to develop energy efficient spaces for both an occupant and planet Earth. In the modern age of sustainability, architects must look for ways to build greener properties that will not compromise on aesthetics and function.

To do so, architects must ensure a considerable amount of natural light enters the room. By doing so, it will help to create a more energy efficient space that’s less reliant on artificial lighting or central heating.

Also, rather than installing incandescent lighting, LEDs should become every architect’s best friend. The environmentally-friendly bulbs consume approximately 90% less power in comparison to incandescent.

Who Pioneered Modern Architectural Lighting?

While many architects understand the critical role of architectural lighting in design, few know the pioneer behind its use. Richard Kelly is, however, one of the first innovators behind the technique, which he used to add drama, height and personality into a space, instead of using lights to solely illuminate a room.

In the 1940s, Kelly trained at Yale University School of Architecture, before embarking on more than 300 impressive projects during his respected 40-year career.

Many now deem him one of the most influential people in architecture, as both his teachings and theories have hugely inspired world-famous architects and, of course, modern lighting design.

You might recognise his stunning work in the following architectural projects:

  • The Glass House (1949)
  • Yale University Art Gallery (1953)
  • Dulles International Airport (1963)
  • Kimbell Art Museum (1969)
  • The Yale Center for British Art (1974)

How Should You Use Materials in an Architectural Design?

The materials you use can either detract or complement a neighbourhood, while determining an occupant’s mood when standing inside and outside of the home. Both factors must be a serious consideration during the designing process.

After all, the material you choose can evoke a feeling in an occupant, guest or a passer-by. For example, you can recall the feeling experienced when touching a material, such as a cold metal door handle, the warmth from a wooden wall, or the roughness of slate. As a result, a property can create a feeling each time you look at it, so the option you pick is just as important as form and function.

It is critical to incorporate materials and develop a space that can positively impact how an occupant thinks, acts and reflects within their home. It is, however, important to note that good architecture is subjective, so it is impossible to measure how it can affect a person’s mood.

What Materials Should Architects Use?

There are some materials that must become part of an architect’s repertoire.

For example, wood, which is one of the oldest building materials in the world, is starting to rise in popularity once again due to the development of many engineered wood products. The diverse material is helping architects to bring their vision for translucent properties and high-rise buildings to life.

The discovery of steel has also made it possible for giant skyscrapers to dominate city skylines, as the element is commonly used to reinforce the structural integrity of a building. Many modern architects are also choosing to use steel as a beautiful skin on many design projects.

You might be surprised to find that many environmentally-friendly architects are using plastic in their designs. While you might instantly judge their tactics, as plastic is an unsustainable, cheap building material, it can actually be beneficial to the environment. After all, as the world produces so much plastic, it is helpful to recycle it and use it in architectural design to ensure it serves a purpose.

Of course, glass is a go-to material for many contemporary architects, as it has the ability to achieve transparency and welcome light into a building. It is, therefore, becoming a popular façade element in modern architecture.

Bamboo is also becoming a favourite option with architects, as it is a sustainable, strong and flexible material, which can be manipulated in many ways across a building. However, its usage tends to be determined by the location of an architectural project. If you have access to bamboo, and it makes architectural sense to use, it is an effective way to develop an eco-friendly property.

What Materials Should Be Avoided?

While an architect has the freedom to design buildings using his or her materials of choice, there is one material that is best avoided as much as possible.

For instance, if you want to create beautiful, eco-friendly buildings, you would be smart to steer clear of concrete, if possible. Despite being one of the most widely used building materials on the planet, it can significantly impact the environment. It reportedly causes up to 8% of worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

What Issues Can You Encounter?

Compromise is vital as an architect. It is almost impossible to create the perfect property, as architects cannot test a building prototype away from a 3D model or computer graphics.

Tight budgets and laws can also limit architectural vision. For example, while you might have created a seemingly perfect prototype, you may need to make some adjustments to your windows, materials or room sizes before you can receive planning permission in the UK.

As a result, you might need to regularly review and refine a design until planning permission is agreed and building work can commence. While it can be frustrating, it is the nature of a career as an architect, so you must develop a flexible mindset to ensure you can create a project that reflects your architectural vision while considering both the occupant and your legal requirements.


To become a successful architect, you not only need to have an affinity for design, but you must aim to connect with how an occupant will use a space each day.

What’s more, you must routine find ways to maximise light inside a space, which can generate an emotion in an occupant, expand a room’s size and improve a property’s functionality.

The materials you choose must also evoke a feeling each time a person looks at a property’s exterior and interior. However, you also must also aim to utilise materials that can positively impact the planet, which could help you to create an impressive masterpiece.

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