12. Jun 2017

Engaging design research strategies in the education and practice of architectural lighting.

Text: Dr. Amardeep M. Dugar and Dr. Karolina M. Zielinska-Dabkowska

The definition of design research in the realm of architectural lighting revolves around what research is, and where it belongs in design education and practice. The premise is that design research functions as a development of practice, rather than as a distraction to it. This article explores the role of design research in evolving innovative approaches towards design and the implementation of best practice. It reviews literature to identify different approaches to design research, and develops a relevant knowledge base framework by defragmenting and building upon existing bodies of frameworks. Finally, it demonstrates practical applications of this defragmented framework by analysing architectural lighting projects, which are used as case studies.

Architectural lighting is defined as a field within architecture, interior design and electrical engineering that is concerned with the design of lighting systems – daylight, electric light, or both – to serve human needs. Donoff (1) argues that architectural lighting is an act of crafting exterior or interior spaces with light, which are in concert with architecture using the appropriate knowledge, experience, and expertise. The inference here is that architectural lighting is meant to last for a substantial period of time, unlike related fields such as theatre or event lighting, which is created for a specific performance and exists only for the duration of its run. She further argues that the lighting designer disposes over a knowledge base which is very different from that of an artist or an industrial designer whose focus is on designing “decorative lamps”. An architectural lighting designer requires the know-how and skills to be able to work on both interior and exterior projects of different scales, an understanding of technical issues and the associated vocabulary, skills in the application and control of both natural and electric light, an acute understanding of the operational mechanics of luminaires, and the ability to discern the qualities of different light sources, the colour temperatures they offer and the optical systems required.

Design research refers to the scholarly inquiry that seeks to advance design by studying and improving it in systematic and scientific ways; it covers a wide range of interrelated disciplines including industrial design, design computing, interaction design, product and innovation management, engineering, architecture and interior design, and therefore by extension architectural lighting (2). Studies reveal that design research has several relevant implications in the practice of architectural lighting: research on ‘dynamic white’ electric lighting systems that can shift colour temperature in alignment with daylight paired with well daylit spaces shows improved recovery time in hospital patients (3,4); a connection has been found between mood, gender, quantity and spectral distribution of light, where women’s problem-solving skills decrease in warm light and increase under cool sources, while men’s problem-solving skills increase in warm light compared to cool light (5,6). However, the belief that design research has little impact on practice is persistent (2). Boyce (7) argues that research plays little or no role in the design process, as designers are confident with regard to their ability, creativity and powers of judgement and seldom require inspiration from research results. Popovic (8) further argues that research has not been very common among designers because of its nature and the way that professional practice operates. Additionally, the connections between design research and practice have not been well defined in the realm of architectural lighting. While the traditional perspective is that research can be characterised as a linear spectrum from basic to applied, design research has no logical or natural mapping related to this spectrum (2).

The full version of the article can be found in  PLD No. 103  as well as in our  PLD magazine app  (iPad App Store).


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