Being able to see the beauty of the ‘big picture’ often requires focus on small details. This is especially true in architectural lighting, where successful projects are a collaborative integration of lighting into architecture, rather than lighting hardware applied to the built form. Hidden uplights, concealed cove fixtures, silhouetted planes, and lighted niches can all enhance and animate a space by accenting the architectural surfaces. This layering of lighted planes creates depth within the visual environment, while creating a balanced background for more ornate fixtures to be added to the composition when appropriate.
Sometimes, however, it isn’t just the composition of light and architecture but, rather, the execution of the smallest details that completes the picture. Balancing the grand gestures and features of a space with the construction of details is what allows an architectural lighting project to truly shine, for instance, detailing cove fixtures so that they are completely concealed from sight:
Other examples: perfectly aligning a pendant with an architectural datum, or matching a custom paint finish so that the hardware blends smoothly with its background. Equally important, ensuring that a junction box and its faceplate align with a minimalist fixture:
Or, coordinating the location of a switchplate:
Botching these minute details can transform the elegance of a design into an assortment of missed opportunities that cause visual clutter instead of visual clarity. An excellent design requires excellent craftsmanship and coordinated construction to reach its full potential. This responsibility falls on every member of the design team and construction team, to work together diligently to ensure that beautiful ideas on paper are transformed into beautifully lit environments.
On every project, there will always be lessons learned and ‘a-ha’ moments that contribute to our future projects. It is this continual learning process and devoted attention to detail that elevates our designs. It is too easy during construction to view these examples as oversights and to point blame.
Was it the design team, the contractor, a last-minute change by the owner, a field conflict that couldn’t be resolved? The answer is: it doesn’t matter. What matters is that each case is viewed as a reminder to us all, that without careful execution and attention to even the smallest of details, the true brilliance of the big picture cannot be brought into focus.
Photo Credits: Jon W. Denker/CAPS (1, 5), Lam Partners (2, 3, 4)