Designing With Lumiere: How to Determine the Right Lighting System


"Light creates ambience and feel of a place, as well as the expression of a structure." - Le Corbusier

From the pioneer incandescent bulbs to modern LED lamps, architects now revel in the wide selection to choose from for their projects.

Join us as we compare the four most common types of lamps and discuss their best uses.

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Designing With Lumiere: How to Determine the Right Lighting System

Upstairs at The Kimberly, designed by Architect Frank Denner & Pentasia Designs and De-Spec

Incandescent Lamps

Emitting visible light as a result of heating, incandescent lamps are contained in a sealed glass wherein the ends of the coiled or straight filament are connected at the base contact area to produce an electric circuit. With a variety of shapes and sizes for the glass envelope, bulb designations use a letter to indicate the shape (i.e. ellipsoidal reflector, globular, tubular, pear-shape) and a number to specify the diameter in eights of an inch.

Despite of the poor efficacy and sensitivity to voltage fluctuations which resulted in the decline of its use before, incandescent lamps are being utilized again to produce warm atmosphere in commercial projects such as the notable floating incandescent strings at the Upstairs at the Kimberley.

Fluorescent Lamps

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Designing With Lumiere: How to Determine the Right Lighting System

Tate Modern, designed by Herzog & de Meuron

Functioning as gaseous discharge lamps, fluorescents are tubular (T12, T10, T8, T6) or circular (T9) glass bulbs filled with low-pressure mercury vapor and inside thin phosphor coating which converts ultraviolet light to visible light. Equipped with cathodes on its ends, it requires an automatic switch known as starter and a control device ballast on its metal base to supply the high voltage necessary to start the arc and limit it after it is formed. Method of tube operations include pre-heat, instant start and rapid start which eliminate the need for starters.

A recent variation includes the spiral or tubular compact fluorescent light (CFL) which are manufactured with integral ballasts and connected by pins on its ends. With a diverse range of application, the high-efficacy fluorescent lamps are greatly integrated on Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern and FR-EE's Museo Soumaya.

High Intensity Discharge Lamps

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Designing With Lumiere: How to Determine the Right Lighting System

Taipei MRT Daan Park Station, designed by Che Fu Chang Architects

Through the discharging of an arc inside the glass tube filled with high-pressure metal gas, HID lamps yield high efficacy for use on industrial areas, outdoor applications and street lighting. Developed as the first HID lamps, mercury vapor as seen on Taipei MRT Daan Park Station, produces blue-green color light through a sealed liquid mercury inside its argon-filled quartz arc tube.

An improved modification of mercury vapor but now filled with metal compound mixture halide, Fyrstikkalleen School efficiently uses metal halide lamps for its luminous efficiency and good color rendition. Moreover, high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps which are constructed of translucent ceramic arc tube and sealed mercury in xenon gas fill, generate better efficacy than any other lamp of the same wattage. With its efficient lumen maintenance and long life span, orange-white HPS lamps are commonly installed on high ceiling interiors and outdoor lighting as exhibited by Clyfford Still Museum.

LED Lamps

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Designing With Lumiere: How to Determine the Right Lighting System

Ports Flagship Store, designed by UUfie

A type of solid-state lighting, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are semiconductor devices producing photon energy or electroluminescence through two electron-charged materials. Known for its energy efficiency and versatility, its appeal popularly grew from general lighting application to street lighting, facade, office, healthcare and commercial projects.

Designed by UUfie, Ports Flagship Store emanates an outstanding trifecta of aesthetic, function and structural integrity as LED lights are embedded within the masonry joints of the facade.

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As an architect equipped with knowledge and discretion, what factors do you consider in specifying lamps for your projects? Leave your comments below!

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Comments (2)

hamed, Engineer • 2017

I think led lamps are very useful

Jeremy, Student • 2017

Great article! China is sitting on most of the world's Tungsten, used in old light bulbs, armor-piercing rounds & bullet proof vests. War was considered more important than comfortable lighting, this is the real reason for incandescent's demise. LED sure didn't fight its way to the forefront on merit. Look it up.