Nocturnal Architecture or the Architecture of the night is associated with illuminated architecture. It focuses on maximizing the effect of night lightings which include both internal lighting as well as the lightings on the facade and advertising elements. The trend of using artificial lighting prevailed in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Architects and designers have been implementing it as a design feature in skyscrapers and commercial buildings since then. The idea of nocturnal architecture was to have the light system designed to address the night-time urban environment. 

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The design of the lighting system on the exterior can substantially increase the overall beauty of the facade. And it also makes the surrounding context more lively. There have been several studies on how and which type of lighting can be used to enhance the structure. 

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Nocturnal Architecture- 20th-century high rise_©This city knows

One of the studies by Delft University of Technology inspects how luminous intensity, color diversity, lighting type, lighting state can altogether affect the facade of the building at night. The beauty of the facade increases by using the single color accent lights which are in harmony. On the contrary, the use of multi-color lights which are not in harmony can affect the facade negatively at night. Also, it is equally important to rightly consider the intensity of lights, as they play a crucial role in uplifting the perception of the beauty of the building facades.

Here are 5 remarkable examples of such buildings:

1. De Volharding Building, The Hague

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De Volharding_©architecture guide

De Volharding building, a stunning glasshouse was built to house shops, storage for products, and offices. According to the requirements the building was supposed to have the display of advertisements on the facade during the night-time. The architect Jan Buijs designed it in such a way that during night De Volharding seemed to transform into a huge, luminous billboard. 

Built in 1928, this building was remarkably revolutionary in its way, giving the example of the new style of architecture. Inspired by the crystals, De Volharding also has its true essence by the means of light. 

Cladded entirely in glass, there is a light tower that rises above the roof. The facade has white, yellow, and blue glass, while the rest of it has windows that are separated by opal glass spandrels. As per the brief maximum emphasis is drawn on providing the advertisement space on the facade. De Volharding is an internationally famous example of the architecture of night and is frequently cited as the most famous of all luminous buildings.

2. Chrysler Building, New York

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Chrysler Building at night_©

Being one of the tallest buildings when constructed, the Chrysler building’s design was modernist and iconic. New York City is famous for its illuminated urban surroundings. The spire of the Chrysler building is illuminated and is an instantly recognizable feature of the New York skyline. 

Completed in 1930, the nocturnal lightings were installed in 1981. Due to the use of floodlights the spire could be lit in different colors as per the events and occasions, the crown and spire have a combination of fluorescent lights which frame the crown’s triangular windows. The colored floodlights face towards the building, which makes it to be lit in different color schemes.

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The spire_©

3. Theme Building, Los Angeles International Airport

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Theme Building – LA International airport_©pinterest

The Theme Building is an iconic space Age structure, whose exterior and interior were both designated by the historic-cultural monument in 1993. The building has signature cross arches created by topping four steel-reinforced concrete legs. In 2010, the structure was renovated which implemented a new exterior lighting system that illuminates the arches from below. 

By highlighting these arches the structure stands out in the context during the night. The lighting system is such which helps to change the colors gradually, which creates a captivating effect.

4. Sony Center, Berlin

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Berlin Sony center_©Wikimedia Commons

The Sony Center situated near Berlin Potsdamer Platz railway station is easily accessible. The nearby surroundings are quite buzzling, as there are hotels and malls in the neighborhood. The most dazzling factor of the Sony center is its roof made in steel, glass, and textile which is self-cleaning, teflon-coated fabric. The idea of Parisian Lighting artist Yann Kersale was to underline the striking roof. 

As the roof has transparent structure, light helps to enhance the building in dark. The colors constantly keep on changing as per the event. As it houses restaurants, a mix of shops, conference centers, hotel rooms making it one of the busiest places. The roof on the center forum with nocturnal lights helps it to bring more liveliness to space.

5. Watercube – National Swimming Centre, Beijing, China

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Beijing Aquatic center_©
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The Beijing National Aquatics Center provides public multi-functional leisure and fitness facilities. The concept of the building derives from the symbolism of the square in Chinese culture and the natural structure of soap bubbles which is directly translated into the architectural form. The materials are used accordingly to give that effect. 

The bubble structure lends itself both to maximizing daylight and to dynamic LED lighting at night. Colour-changing LED lighting illuminates the bubbles from the inside, giving the whole structure an extraordinary glow. The irregular organic pattern of the foam bubble was developed by slicing through bubbles in the foam which is cladded by ETFE – Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene. The bubble cladding helps to get in more light and is a thermal insulator. 


Kimaya is a recent Architecture graduate. She loves to design, travel and learn through exploration. Her interests also lies in reading, narrating and capturing stories. With her designs and stories she desires to delve deeper into her passion.