Material finishes: black or white

Pune 28th November 2009

Another day, another city…today I traveled to Pune, an emerging city nearly 200km away from Mumbai. Once you leave the Mumbai metropolis area, the road leads into the mountains on a rather scenic route. But as the road slopes up quite strongly the many trucks struggle to get up the hill slowing down traffic which resulted in a trip of well over 3 hours. There is not much high rise in Pune, and with a population of more then 4 million, it is a pretty vast city area! My client is building a hotel here. With 17 stories it will become the highest building in the city.

I reviewed the two mock-up rooms and the subject I wanted to post is about material finishes. Each mock up room was designed in a different style, same layouts, but different material finishes. To make it even more interesting, one predominantly in dark wood with semi glossy finishes and materials, the other in light mostly matt finishes. How better to prove that the same amount of light on a black surface does not result in the same brightness levels as on a white surface! In both cases the same lux level is measured, but as we see reflections dark looks dark! How often have I not heard a client telling me that there is not enough light! My point today is the importance of understanding (in the early stages of design!) the impact that material finishes have on the end result and appreciation of a space. And this I believe only experienced designers can tell. This is where it becomes crucial to be involved early in the design process with architects and interior designers and highlight the potential pitfalls of their material finishes. It does not mean we can not work with black or glossy surfaces, but it restricts our lighting options and calls for creative solutions to resolve the challenges that these material finishes poses us.

28. November 2009 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting design | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Dear Martin Klaasen,

    Your Blogs are pretty interesting! I am a Lighting Design Student at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

    The challenges you had faced in lighting up the black surface in Pune, India triggered me some memories of the same kind of problem i came across. I would like to share this with you.

    When i was working on an Outdoor Lighting project back in school in December 2008, there was a task to light a black sculpture standing amidst the dark park in Stockholm. By so many trials we found out its so difficult to make the BLACK sculpture to appear bright and eye-catching. What we achieved finally was, we played with shadows of the sculpture instead of making the sculpture to appear bright. Light fittings at carefully selected points casted beautiful shadows on the wall and ground, which predominantly given the message of existence of one BLACK sculpture in the park! It was a nice experience experimenting with different materials having varying textures and tones versus LIGHT!

    Thanks with regards,

    Sathish Kumar. A

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