Would that be architectural lighting or architectural lighting? (MAGAZINE)

June 5, 2012
Conflicting usage of the term architectural lighting has been on the rise in the industry, and perhaps it's time to settle on a single meaning.

This article was published in the June 2012 issue of LEDs Magazine.

View the Table of Contents and download the PDF file of the complete June 2012 issue, or view the E-zine version in your browser.


Excuse me if I don’t understand the difference between architectural lighting and architectural lighting. I’m relatively new to the lighting industry having only covered it for the last few years with LEDs coming to the fore as a light source. I’ve spent far more of my career focused on the electronics industry.

Still, I thought I understood that architectural lighting referred to lighting on the outside of buildings, bridges, and other structures. We’ve covered such lighting regularly as LEDs have shown brightly in such applications. Indeed solid-state lighting (SSL) brings energy efficiency to such applications, and can easily include dynamic control and full-color capabilities when fixtures are equipped with red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs. There is a good example of architectural lighting on our cover with the blue light cast by RGB fixtures on the Recouvrance Bridge lift towers in Brest, France (also see page 19).

But do I really understand the meaning of architectural lighting? Back in February at the Strategies in Light (SIL) Conference, I was in attendance at the LEDs in Lighting track. Sarena McComas and Jennifer Rueth, partners at lighting design firm Type A Productions, discussed an SSL project at a Marriott hotel in Indianapolis (www.ledsmagazine.com/features/9/3/5). McComas at one point used the term architectural lighting. But she was discussing indoor downlights.

When I heard McComas use the term architectural lighting, I wasn’t exactly sure of the meaning. But the context of the presentation led me to believe she just meant lighting fixtures that were perhaps specified by a building architect. But I heard the term used relative to indoor lighting a couple of other times at the conference. Meanwhile, SIL also included a tutorial entitled “Architectural lighting design with LEDs” that was clearly focused on lighting the outside of structures.

I had not given the ambiguity much thought until recently. But lately we’ve been preparing to launch a new lighting-centric magazine called Illumination in Focus (www.illuminationinfocus.com). I was working on a taxonomy for the site and thought about the ambiguous use of architectural lighting and how we should handle it.

Then Cree Lighting announced some indoor fixtures the week before Lightfair (page 9). And they explicitly referred to one of the downlights as targeting architectural lighting applications. I asked Cree about the meaning. It seems in indoor cases, architectural lighting can refer to a premium product. Architectural-grade products are presumably a cut above contractor-grade products. It seems that architectural grade is used synonymously with specification grade.

Who knew? Maybe a lot of you but not me. I’d certainly like to hear from you on the topic. I’ll post a discussion in our LinkedIn LEDs and Lighting group (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2443165) once this issue is out, and hopefully allow some of you to address the ambiguity. From the standpoint of a taxonomy or a topic center on a website, it seems to me to be a fairly major problem with loads of opportunity to confuse readers. I’d certainly like to see the industry choose one meaning or the other.

Back to the cover, we on the staff were especially fond of the photo of the Brest bridge. And it’s a neat outdoor lighting project. An old bridge with new LED lighting is once again a proud architectural landmark.