"I find the lighting in here annoying."
I have a vivid memory of being in a restaurant with my parents. It was kind of fancy. I'm not sure why we were there at the time. I don't really remember the food, or the occasion, but we were all dressed up. What I do remember is my mother turning to my father and saying, "See, I find the light in here annoying."
The vision I have floating in my mind's eye of that moment had us in a restaurant that was very dim, but I suspect with little contrast or points of visual interest - just dim light. In the haze of memory the room feels to me like it was just filled with incandescent down lights all dimmed to 15%. That moment didn't define the rest of my life. I didn't rise from the table at the tender age of 10 or 11, point my finger to sky and say "God as my witness! I shall design lighting!" I didn't make that decision until years later when designing lighting for the theater.
So why tell this story? Because I think it reveals something. Why did I hold onto that conversation that's probably now 20+ years old? Why did did it resonate?
I have a theory, this theory has been the guiding force behind my career and ambitions. It can be summed up easily this way - lighting is the eyes through which we see the the environments created by man. At every spot on this globe where mankind builds things, the sun eventually goes down. When that happens it's lighting as created and controlled by human beings that gives us the ability to see the world that we create.
Lighting is a powerful tool of art and design that has the power to tell stories, enhance beauty, and create memorable experiences. Despite the power of lighting we don't really have a language for it. We often don't even talk about it unless it's bad. (I have no childhood memory of a family member ever saying "wow, the light in here is awesome.")
Never the less, the lighting we live and work in everyday has profound effects on how we experience the world and whether or not that experience is pleasant and refreshing, or maddening and headache inducing. Somewhere along the line we collectively settled for lighting that "worked." If the fixtures sprayed enough light into the space from the ceiling so a person could see the papers on their desk it was considered adequate for most office purposes. At home the decisions were simple 40, 60, 75, or 100 watt light bulb in our table and floor lamps.
I believe we can and should do better. Human beings rely on their vision to take in 80% of the information they gather about the world around them. The light we create directly improves or degrades the quality of our visual experience.
I'm creating a series of four essays on why we need to invest in better lighting for our homes, our places of work, the places we heal, and the places we learn. The first of these essays is available today for download as free PDF. The question it answers - Why Pay for Better Lighting at Home?
So go ahead and give it a download. It's a quick read and I think it will help settle the argument the question of why lighting is so important at home.