Ten tips for lighting landscapes
From parks to gardens, the principles are the same, Mary Rushton-Beales reveals.
Use natural shapes
All the rules of exterior architectural lighting apply but with the additional need to exploit or enhance natural shapes and contours, especially through the use of shadows. As ever, the watchword is subtlety.
Make use of walls
Vertical surfaces are the lighting designer’s and the landscape architect’s friend. Grazing or washing hard and soft surfaces can be both effective and gentle ways to create ambient light.
Use colour temperature carefully
Colour temperature helps set the atmosphere but that does not necessarily mean that you have to use warm light in gardens and parks. Diffuse, cold light coming through trees and bushes like moonlight may feel more natural and comfortable than warm light that evokes subconscious images of embers and flames.
Use light as a guide
Lighting has a particularly important role in way-finding in outdoor spaces. Techniques such as silhouetting and spotlighting can be used to orientate as well as to draw the eye to features such as planting or sculptures.
Match plants and lighting
It is essential to coordinate planting and lighting. If the contrast in lighting levels between a pathway and its borders is too great, the effect can be threatening, Dispersed lighting can be very effective on shrubbery. Edge lighting and other forms of low level lighting such as bollards have a role to play here.
Think day and night
At night the use of open spaces may change, and with it the viewpoint that the lighting has to serve. For example a garden that is well used in the day but empty at night may still be overlooked, in which case low-level lighting may be very effective, particularly where there is water.
Reflect on water
Water, of course provides endless opportunities for lighting, with movement and reflections.
Design for distance
One key difference between landscape lighting and most architectural lighting is the distance over which lighting effects can be seen. Schemes on green field sites are often viewed from long distances and even miniscule lumen outputs no greater than a candle’s create impact.
Don’t pollute with light
Up-lighting can be problematic in terms of light spill and light pollution, which clearly have to be controlled carefully. Light spill into neighbouring areas is not only bad design but also illegal.
Design in context
All exterior lighting design needs to be balanced with the back ground light of the existing environment.