Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Lighting Design of a Retail Space

Corus Quay, Atrium: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium, photo by
Photo: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium
See how the eye is drawn towards the light.
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Design is all around us. Coming from an architecture background I look at spaces and often start analyzing them to see what makes them work or more often not. Recently I looked at the impact daylight has on the illumination of an up-market restaurant.

Let's imagine a restaurant with a store front, i.e. any passer-by can look into the restaurant and daylight can enter the building. This is a challenge during the day due to the brightness contrast between outside and inside. If the restaurant is not lit brightly enough to be seen, the space will look dark and forbidding from the outside. How often have we stood in front of a restaurant or a shop and wondered if it is open or closed. And, of course, if there is uncertainty we don't even try the door.

An up-market restaurant is a special case, since over lighting it during the day would make customers feel as if they were in a fast food environment, not very romantic and relaxing, but under lighting it would not be very inviting from the outside. Big dilemma.

Fortunately, a solution for this dilemma is simple and inexpensive. The solution is a combination of lighting and surface treatment. As the eye is automatically drawn to bright areas, the end area or wall of the restaurant has to be brightened up by using lighter colours and light fixtures that will wash the wall with light. This will give the inviting element to the space. The remaining restaurant can be kept relatively darker to create the more intimate setting. The lighting should be concentrated to shine on the tables, so that the diner can appreciate the food as we do eat with all our senses: taste, smell, appearance and even sound (just remember the crunchiness of freshly baked bread).

It is important to be able to create different light levels, as at night the contrast to the outside is reversed and it does not take as much light to sparkle. Hence in any design dimmers and selective switching of light fixtures is a must.

Lighting design is not cookie cutter and each situation need to be designed on its own merits. We incorporate lighting in all of our designs, and for restaurants and retail spaces good lighting is an absolute must. It will often make or break a space. Just imagine how much better your business would do if you created the right ambiance for your space.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build
Member of IESNA
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

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