“Appropriately designed lighting aids in reducing stress and increasing tranquillity.”


“Biophilic design” can refer to several trends in modern “green” design, but in most uses, it indicates a design principle that goes beyond merely minimizing the impact of the built environment to create actual close contact between users and the “natural” world. By inviting nature into the design, a design reengages occupants with the environmental elements that are deeply wired to our genetic predispositions. Biophilia can be thought of as a subset of culture, with each environment having its own geographical
signature as defined by the climate and flora and fauna that inherently originates from a place. As culture and climate are often a reflection of the surroundings of a place, an understanding of biophilia can be an important tool in a designer’s box, to be used to derive designs that are rooted in context.

As being disconnected from natural environments can negatively affect one’s mental health, biophilic design is a solution to restoring balance to surrounding environments. Appropriately designed lighting aids in reducing stress and increasing tranquility. This can be further reinforced through the use of natural patterns such as cloud movement, ocean waves, and foliage patterns. At the heart of biophilic lighting design lies the way humans perceive the movement of light over time.

People have strived to root design in their context. “Moonlighting,” our interpretation of biophilic lighting design has been successfully implemented in projects of varying scales— from masterplans to transportation projects to residential buildings. The benefits of moonlighting are many— it eliminates any visible lighting hardware at the pedestrian level and increases the ease of installation and maintenance. It eliminates dark areas, enhancing the pedestrian experience at night. It lends a touch of nature to the architecture as well (by making the architecture come alive), creating a distinct look for buildings as the light coming from high above creates patterns through the leaves, which are constantly moving as they respond to the wind through the landscape. When we were brought on board to light what would be the longest spanning arch bridge in the world, the Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Crossing or “Sixth Crossing” in Dubai, UAE, we would return once more to the universal appeal of the moon and its influence on life systems. Utilizing complex mathematical algorithms, the subtle lighting on the bridge’s graceful arches is programmed to correspond to the respective luminosities of five lunar states: those of full, gibbous, half, crescent, and new moon. Reflecting off the water, the image of the arch becomes a complete loop and thus completes the circle of the lunar profile.

The proposed facade of the building on Parcel 4.11 of the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is dramatically blanketed by a display of linear lights, which from a distance, cohere into a single image. Considering the potential of the 8-story feature, we proposed a number of possible alternatives to the status quo, text-based functionality of typical billboards. The firm’s ideas included a ‘phases of the moon’ project that would show a visualization of the Earth’s satellite, waxing and waning with the lunar cycle even while gradually moving across the face of the wall laterally.

“Opting instead for a custom wall art piece entitled the ‘Tree of Life’ using colour-controlled lights and a luminous moon element synchronized with the lunar cycle, we balanced spectacle with the natural surroundings.”

This realism of both cyclicality and side-to-side motion was motivated by and sought to activate the biophilic appeal of the moon as a source of light, security, and regularity for flora and fauna throughout human evolution. Extending the potential for biophilic imagery, we also proposed a creative design option displaying the “flight of the falcon,” a locally revered bird, moving realistically across the face of the building.

A second aspect of the project afforded an opportunity for biophilic design: that of a 6-meter diameter custom light fixture to become the focal point of the building’s lobby space. We decided to create a moon chandelier, a three-dimensional spherical matrix of spherical LED lights, again animated with the changing phases of the moon. In practice, the fixture would at different times be darkened or illuminated in sections, with careful attention to the neatness (i.e., the lack of bleeding light) at the boundary between bright and dark.

In the integrated lifestyle enclave of Brigade Gateway in Bangalore, one might expect a superstimulatory artificial environment of advertisement and commercial infrastructure. Instead, the space is centered on water and trees, and it incorporates related imagery throughout. For the facade of the Orion Mall, situated on the site, the client’s initial desire for a “feel of ‘Time Square’” was satisfied without the need for a full-wall backlit billboard. Opting instead for a custom wall art piece entitled the “Tree of Life” using color-controlled lights and a luminous “moon” element synchronized with the lunar cycle, we balanced spectacle with the natural surroundings. Though the moon is essentially inorganic, its regular cycle of 29.5 days so influences the rhythms of terrestrial life forms and life systems that it becomes an object of biophilia too. Extending the theme of pseudo-natural light, a reflective golden sun element directly mirrors the moon on the facade and the entire the facade lighting scheme for the project recalls its inspiration: the glow of the setting sun striking the buildings. The shadows created by the 5-story embossing of the Tree of Life, the wall’s ornamental centerpiece, mimic the filtering of light through foliage.

Indeed, the idea of the tree canopy is present elsewhere in the design of the space as well. One of the key focal points of the outdoor space is the 200-year-old rain tree, seen to its best advantage when moonlit by powerful lamps on the roof of the World Trade Center, the complex’s tallest building. This powerful yet broadly diffused light imitates the light of the moon, ensures the safety of users of the outdoor space at all times of night, and eliminates the need for harsh “area” lighting. The dappling of light through foliage was kept in mind when lighting the extensive tree plantings and pathways surrounding the body of water at the theater’s center.

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