Stop. Look around you…

October 21, 2021, by Guy Kornetzki

Although we have five fantastic senses, we tend to experience our environment mainly through our vision. And there is so much to see: your smartphone, the computer screen you are reading this on, the corridor you walk through, a billboard, a window display you passed, the pavement (watch that poop; why do dog owners not collect that!?), the person you are talking to, your phone (again), watch that cyclist!! (phew), your phone (again??)… our eyes are very busy from the moment we open them in the morning to the time we close them at night. But do you actually look around?? Really observe your surroundings?

For example, when was the last time you observed light?

Look outside – is it day or night? Can you see Sunlight or are the skies overcast? What is the difference in the type of daylight you see? Did you notice that direct sunlight produces strong, sharp shadows whereas overcast daylight produces very soft, diffused, evenly distributed light? That is why we refer to light during the daytime as daylight not just sunlight, because there can still be plenty of light even if the sun is hidden behind clouds.

And if the clouds are scattered, and there is some wind, I highly recommend you take time to look at how the daylight changes over time. How the sunlight morphs from direct (=cloudless/clear) to indirect (=cloud/overcast) and what it does to light as it hits various objects around you, for example trees or buildings or people. Make sure you notice both the light and its close companion, the shadow. Their relationship is the stuff of imagination and storytelling. And remember, this is not a series of finite states, of still pictures, but an ever-changing, constantly evolving action movie you are seeing.

And this is just during the daytime. Between day and night we have the joy of seeing a spectacular display of light that passes through three main stages: Dusk (transition between day to night), Twilight (time between day and night when there is still light outside, but the Sun is below the horizon) and Dawn (transition from night to day). There are also different states of Twilight depending on whether you are in the city, countryside or at sea that defines how dark the environment is. It is very interesting; I encourage you to look it up.

As you can see, daytime illumination offers so much to the willing observer, wait until we look at the magic of human-made, electrical light.

Consider some of the differences between daylight and electric light:

For example, think about illuminance (simply put = the perceived brightness of a space): is the daylight brighter or dimmer than electric light? Do you perceive your street to be bright or dim? What about your car interior – is it bright or dim? Have you ever looked out at night during a cloudless, full moon and marvelled at how bright it seems? It is fascinating to observe how little light we actually need to navigate our surroundings.

How about the colour of light? Daylight is confusingly very cool (blue) by definition (around 6500K CCT), whereas electric light, certainly in domestic environments, is usually perceived as warm (around 2700K CCT or below). Recent research has reiterated for us that the colour of light (or its Spectral Distribution to be precise) does impact our wellbeing, so very broadly speaking we are “energised” by cool white light and “relaxed” by warm white light.

What about direction of light? Where is the electric light coming from: ABOVE (e.g ceiling downlights, spotlights or pendant) SIDES (e.g wall light) or BELOW (e.g in-ground uplight or floor light)? Daylight originates above us, in the sky, though you could also argue that because daylight gets reflected by everything around us, the cumulative effect is omni-directional (=multi-directional). The direction of the light will impact how objects are perceived, and instinctively create a certain mood or perception based on our evolution. For example, uplighting is often dramatic (think campfire or old scary movies) whereas wall lights are typically quite warm and reassuring (because we can see faces more clearly).

Observing the world around us is a key part of what we do at Light House Designs. It guides our choices, informs our decisions, not to mention inspires us. From the dapple effect of sunshine passing through a tree, to the warm glow of a fireplace and the countless stars in the skies. There is so much to see, if we just stop, and look around.