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What is Architectural Lighting Design: Features and Ideas

May 10, 2023

Lighting is functional for illuminating spaces and crucial for creating a mood, enhancing visual comfort, and emphasizing colors. Architectural lighting design is crucial to perceiving shape, size, and texture. This blog post will explore the many features and concepts behind this type of lighting design, including how it can transform spaces and create captivating experiences. We will also provide examples of innovative lighting designs used in museums, residential areas, and commercial spaces. Additionally, we will offer tips on incorporating lighting into your designs, such as different illumination techniques and choosing the right fixtures. We will discuss lighting's impact on well-being, including the importance of natural light and circadian rhythms and how to design spaces accordingly. Learn how architectural lighting design can enhance your designs, making them more inviting and memorable for all visitors, as we explore the world of architectural lighting design.

What is Architectural Lighting?

Architecture lighting design involves much more than just installing impressive light fixtures. It is a complex field that combines scientific principles with artistic vision to create lighting systems that enhance the user experience of a space while meeting technical and safety requirements. The goal is to balance the intricate interplay between art and science to create a visually stunning and emotionally engaging environment that showcases the best of a building's architectural design.

A skilled architectural lighting designer considers many factors when crafting an illumination system. They must consider the building's purpose, the nature of the space, the people who will use the area, and the materials and colors used in the construction. The designer must also consider the desired mood and tone of the space and how lighting can create or enhance it. The result is a carefully crafted lighting plan that is both functional and visually appealing.

The importance of architectural light design cannot be overstated. With the right lighting, a building can become a true masterpiece, accentuating the beauty of its design and creating a strong sense of unity. Lighting can also be used to draw attention to specific features of the building, such as a grand entrance or an impressive facade.

Why is Architectural Lighting Design Important?

Lighting is a crucial element when designing interiors and must be considered early on to achieve the desired effect based on the type of space. The proper lighting can encourage productivity in a workspace and create a welcoming atmosphere at a home's entrance. Lighting and architecture must create a cohesive experience, showcasing and accentuating certain design elements to foster a building's aesthetic, history, and purpose. Architectural illumination design differs from lighting design, which focuses on ergonomic or functional aspects. Instead, architectural lighting design is the intersection of art, design, and technology, with physics, engineering, and light's psychological and physiological effects also playing a role. It plays an important part in conveying a building's story and bringing it to life.

Benefits of Architectural Lighting Design


Architects and designers focus on the visual impact of lighting and architecture on people, determining the desired emotional response to a space. They consider various factors, such as the purpose of the space, its size, shape, and color scheme. In hospitality settings, like restaurants and bars, the right light can create the ideal atmosphere to appeal to the target audience. For example, warm lighting can make the space feel cozy and intimate, while cool lighting can create a more modern and sophisticated vibe. In addition, lamps can highlight certain elements of the space, such as artwork or architectural features. By carefully selecting and placing lighting fixtures, architects and designers can enhance the overall aesthetic of a space and create an unforgettable experience for visitors.


Sustainability must be taken into account when designing architectural lighting as our environment becomes increasingly concerned. LEDs can be used to accomplish this, ensuring light reaches its target with minimal waste and remembering that quality of light is more important than quantity. Centerlight, for example, provides energy-efficient and sustainable illumination solutions for a variety of architectural light designs.

Functional & Ergonomic

Architectural lighting design prioritizes the needs of the space's inhabitants and aims to maximize lighting effects functionally and ergonomically. Lighting influences well-being, spatial awareness, and the atmosphere of a space. Modern architectural lighting combines all these elements to create a cohesive environment that enhances productivity and uplifts the overall mood.

Types of Lighting

Ambient lighting

Lighting that is ambient can either be direct or indirect. It is used primarily for illumination and visibility. It promotes safe space utilization and reduces the contrast between light sources and their surroundings. Indoor ambient illumination includes chandeliers, ceiling-mounted fixtures, track lights, downlights, and floor lamps. A variety of outdoor ambient lighting methods are available, including spotlights, hanging fixtures, and post lanterns.

Accent lighting

As a decorative element or as a tool for highlighting, accent lighting highlights specific objects or areas. It needs to be efficient and accommodate a variety of lamp wattages. It can be used to light artwork, such as paintings in museums and galleries, statues, ornaments, and moldings. Lighting fixtures for indoor accents include slimline bar lights, under cabinet lights, mini spotlights, track lights, tape and extrusion lighting, and wall mounts. There are many options for accent lighting outside, including low-voltage landscape fixtures, wall sconces, and uplights.

Task lighting

To improve productivity and provide visual comfort, task lighting illuminates specific areas or surfaces. It is beneficial for tasks that involve small objects or materials with low contrast, such as reading, cooking, or working. Task lighting can be achieved with various fixtures, including directional gimbal recessed fixtures, gimbals, downlights, desk lamps, and pendants. In some cases, ambient lighting may be sufficient, while flexible luminaires may be used for versatility in others.

Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is lighting that serves primarily for decorative and creative reasons. Even though it isn't necessary, it can add ambiance, provide a sufficient level of illumination, and embellish the space. There are many different decorative light fixtures for the interior and exterior, including staircase lighting, wall sconces, fans with lights and lamps, as well as lawn lights, solar stake lights, and fairy lights.

Architectural Lighting Ideas for Commercial Spaces

Choosing the correct fixture for commercial applications can be a complex decision due to the many options available on the market. Today's commercial LED lighting requires a deep understanding of smart lighting systems and controls. Architects and designers must stay updated with innovative products that allow for more creative designs, such as highlighting architectural features without revealing fixtures.


Daylighting is a method of using natural light to illuminate an area. It involves using windows and skylights to bring the outside light into a space, which can help create an energizing and visually pleasing environment while saving energy. It is instrumental in creating a productive workspace.

Surface & Suspended

Surface and suspended lighting is a versatile type of architectural lighting used in various settings, from commercial spaces to homes. It can create a sense of drama, highlight specific features of a space, or provide general illumination. Surface and suspended lighting fixtures come in many shapes and sizes, from linear to round lights like Centerlight's Round Series. These fixtures can be mounted directly to the ceiling or suspended from the ceiling using cables or rods. They can be used in various ways, such as a single pendant light over a dining table or a row of lights mounted on a track to illuminate a hallway. Surface and suspended lighting is a flexible and dynamic way to enhance the look and feel of any space.


Uplighting is indirect lighting that illuminates a room by directing light upwards. It is often used to showcase unique structural ceiling features and minimize glare, creating a comfortable and appealing atmosphere with reduced ceiling dark spots and shadows.

Linear Recessed

Linear recessed lights are architectural lighting that can create clean and straight lines of high-CRI LED lighting in continuous runs of any length, with seamless connections from the ceiling to the wall. They are commonly used in workspaces like the Slack Toronto Office to foster creativity, productivity, and alertness. The lighting system can be recessed into the ceiling, wall, or floor and create any desired linear design, making it perfect for accentuating modern interiors or providing balanced general lighting.

Cove & Valance Lighting

Cove lighting is indirect interior lighting that bounces light toward ledges, ceilings, recesses, or upper walls using incandescent or fluorescent lamps. You can add accent lighting and color to your rooms with LED strips and fixtures that are more energy-efficient. An indirect lighting fixture hidden behind a wooden, metal, or glass valance is known as valance lighting. In bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms, it generally runs along a wall. A cove can be located at the top of the roof and a soffit can be located at the bottom, with the light directed upward, downward, or in both directions.

Soffit Lighting

The purpose of soffit lighting is to enhance a property and add a dramatic accent to it. A rooflight can be installed between windows, on balconies and decks, or near the edges of the house to illuminate the walls. Undersides of buildings are called soffits.

Types of Light Bulbs & Lamps

Architectural lighting can be broken down into four primary types of lighting: ambient, accent, task, and decorative. It is also essential to consider the types of light bulbs and lamps used because they significantly impact lighting presentation and performance. This post covers eight of the most common light bulbs and lamps to understand how lighting design can enhance architectural spaces comprehensively.


Incandescent light bulbs are made with a coiled tungsten filament enclosed in a glass container filled with a gas such as argon. They are the modern version of the first electric bulbs, but now various types are available, including low-voltage and energy-efficient ones. Old incandescent bulbs had a very short lifespan of only 2 hours, but now there are ones that can last up to 20,000 hours.

Standard fluorescent & Compact Fluorescent (CFL)

Fluorescent light bulbs are commonly found in stores and offices and come in long glass tubes containing mercury vapor or argon gas under low pressure. Compact fluorescent lights or CFL bulbs with a small, twisted shape are more commonly used at home. These bulbs have a long lifespan of at least 8,000 and up to 20,000 hours and are much more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Light-Emitting Diode (LED)

Among all types of light bulbs, LEDs are the most energy-efficient. They use semiconductors to produce light, requiring very little energy to function. As well as producing little heat, they can last up to 50,000 hours, or around a decade.


Lights using halogens, such as iodine and bromine, instead of argon work similarly to incandescent lights. Compared to incandescent bulbs, they are more energy efficient. As a result, they emit a lot of heat, so it is best to use them sparingly or in limited-use settings. They have a shorter lifespan of 3,000 to 6,000 hours.

Smart lights

WiFi-controlled smart lights can be controlled by an app, your voice, or other intelligent controls. They allow you to easily switch between different colors and adapt your lighting to different activities. Despite this, they tend to be more expensive than other light bulbs.


Architectural lighting design is a vital part of a building's design process. A skilled designer can create a lighting plan that is both functional and visually appealing by considering factors such as the building's purpose, the space, and the materials used. Proper illumination can enhance a building's aesthetic, history, and purpose, creating a cohesive experience for visitors.

At Centerlight, we provide sustainable and energy-efficient lighting solutions for various architectural designs. Whether you need help with design or installation, our team of experts can help. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist you with your architectural designs.

  • Phone: +1-424-274-7444
  • Address: 4712 Admiralty Way, #299 Marina Del Rey, CA 90292