Text: Anusha Muthusubramanian

05. Feb 2012

Die Gestalt theory in lighting design

In the active process of visual perception the eye and brain scan for visual stimuli that relate to the biological need for visual order and meaning in the environment. Part of the human visual perception system involves a dynamic self organizational tendency to maintain a sense of equilibrium when the eye is confronted with visual overload.

The process of this perceptual organization as explained by German psychologists in 1920s and 1930ssought to explain how the mind was able to see order amid all the intricacies and redundancies in visual world. German psychologist Wolf-gang Koehler insisted, “We do not see individual fractions of a thing; instead, the mode of appearance of each part depends not only upon the simulation arising at that point but upon the conditions prevailing at other points as well”. This theory came to be known as Gestalt Psychology. In German Gestalt means form, or ‘the whole’. The central theory of Gestalt can be summarized as “The whole is greater than the sum of parts”. The theory states that our visual system tends to group perceptual stimuli into organized patterns. It is a form of psychology that is interested in the higher order of cognitive processes relative to behaviourism. It claims that it is the simplifying and unifying tendency of the perceiving mind to reduce the phenomenological complexity to a simpler, regular order in the visual reconstruction of the forms. Organizing similar stimuli to mostly simpler relationships gives relative stability to perceived organized patterns.

The objective of studying Gestalt is to put the designer in control of what the viewer sees when he looks at a composition. It is important for a designer to understand the viewer’s perception of given visual stimuli and how a viewer derives visual meaning from the environment. Lighting is an ambient variable that brings coherence to how a form is perceived. Composition in architecture is duly understood through the lighting, and light can either underplay or highlight features with its variables and techniques. Lighting completes a viewer’s perceptual experience by enabling the perception of a space or form. […]


The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 80/81.

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