The power of simplicity
Shanghai, 3rd February 2010
As lighting designers we tend to overdo it at times, don’t we? We want to make sure the client feels they really got value for their money. We come in and add a spotlight for the artwork there, recommend some indirect cove lighting here. For ambiance and safety we put some tree up lights and some step lights, and so on. Very often after we have provided our lighting design input, both power load provision as well as budget allocation for lighting are blown to pieces. The QS (quantity surveyor) or electrical engineer who provided the initial figures did not account for mood and ambience settings nor other basic elements that creates a nice and comfortable visual environment. Their estimates are generally based on simple engineered solutions.
I was reminded of how much we tend to over design our lighting by the simplicity of the lighting in the restaurant where I dined tonight. Fair enough, the setting was a rural themed Chinese restaurant, like dining in a farmers shed, that type of ambiance, so you really would not expect sophisticated lighting anyhow. The two naked light bulbs in an open birdcage like rattan shade was all it took to light the room. But still I caught myself thinking about how nice it would be to have indirect lighting on the thatched roof structure or have some accent lighting on the wall decorations.
It is well known that in retail for instance we can make expensive things look cheap by placing the goods in a “cheap” looking environment, or vice versa. For instance selling expensive fur coats in a supermarket style fluorescent tube lit environment creates the impression of the coats being cheap, right? Reversely selling dog food in a interior designed environment with an expensive looking chandelier will make you think twice before you buy the dog food :).
So in this restaurant the simplicity of the lighting was actually very powerful and totally in line with the rural theme. Sometimes the best lighting designs are the ones that are simple…