“The Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.” – Le Corbusier

That is how world-famous architect Le Corbusier defined architecture in the nineteen-thirties, thus demonstrating the prime role of light in architecture. Using ‘light’ as a building material and respecting the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, and working with the five elements of nature is what makes a building stand out. Projects that participate, understand and work with nature while also trying to imbibe culture not only impact the architects with the satisfaction of creating something phenomenal but also the user with the satisfaction of living in the lap of nature. Buildings that are simple and modest are something modern architecture summons. Climate is integral in creating naturally cooler internal conditions by creating buffers to avoid the harsh sun, minimizing glazing on western facades with high radiation, and bringing in a strong airflow into the building.

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Light- Tuskegee Chapel, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama, USA_©Paul Rudoph


Lighting plays a prime role in the way people feel and understand architecture. Whether buildings and structures are getting light naturally or by artificial means. Lighting is the medium that allows us to see and explore the beauty in the buildings around us.

Lighting can bring a sentimental value to architecture – it helps create an experience for those who use the space. Without light what would architecture be? Would it still have the same value? No, it wouldn’t. Whether it’s sunlight or artificial lighting, light draws attention to textures, colors, and forms of space, helping architecture achieve its true glory. Vision is one of the prime senses through which we enjoy architecture, and lighting enhances the way we experience architecture even more. To create a successful balance between lighting and architecture, it’s important to remember three key aspects of architectural lighting: aesthetic, function, and efficiency.

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The aesthetic is where designers and architects try to bring a balance between lighting and architecture for occupants. Using it, designers determine how they want people to experience when they walk around a space. The role of full and void masses, recesses and projections, and apertures on slabs or windows, which may be enormous or tiny, make the work of the architect almost like that of a sculptor, in molding forms and allowing light to pass through them. Architectural lighting design has changed over time and new ideas were proposed by various architects which have a great impact on modern lighting design.

Richard Kelly was one of the lighting pioneers who began using lighting as an architectural element instead of simply using it to light a space. He taught at the Yale University School of Architecture in the early 1940s and later worked on 300+ projects in his 40-year career. His effort and teachings have changed the fate of lighting design as a whole and he will remain one of the most influential people in the industry. Some of his most well-known projects include The Glass House (1949), Seagram Building (1958), Yale University Art Gallery (1953), Dulles International Airport (1963), Kimbell Art Museum (1969), and the Yale Center for British Art (1974).

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Church of Saint-Pierre (by Le Corbusier), Firminy, France_©Henry Plummer2011

Climatic influence

Due to the effect of extreme solar radiation, high thermal loads can be prognosticated in structures in numerous climates of South-East Asia, and the factors to protect and vent the facades have been known for centuries. Features similar to the jalis’ stone lattice work combined with deep protuberances and rudiments conceived to reflect the sun similar to ritual ponds or indeed elaborate water tanks have adorned Indian- style palaces and tabernacles since ancient times. These features have latterly inspired modern architects like Le Corbusier, Antonin Raymond, Benjamin Polk, and Geoffrey Bawa to cite just a few. 

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Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut_©Henry Plummer 2011

In Indian temples, we can observe this phenomenon in temples like Dharmaraja ratha, Rathas, and Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, Brihadeshwara Temple in Tanjore, Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple in Madurai

Talking about light, a few architects who need to be named are Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Louis Kahn and the list goes on.

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Glass House (1949)_©www.atlasobscura.com/places/phillip-johnson-s-estate


  1. https://www.tcpi.com/importance-architectural-lighting/#:~:text=Whether%20it’s%20daylighting%20or%20artificial,we%20perceive%20architecture%20even%20more.
  2. https://www.linealight.com/en-gb/blog/light-for-architecture-what-is-it/23756

Sriya Mitra is a student of architecture from Kolkata with a strong interest in journalism. Apart from being a student, she is a fencer which allows her to travel to new places and explore more.