John Bullock Lighting Design
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Lighting in Retail Malls


A friend asked me for a quick statement on lighting strategies for retail malls. I said:

Lighting design is about people, not about buildings. It's about the way that people relate to their environment, and how well that environment reflects back the needs of those within it. Lighting is NOT just about the ability to see. Of course,illumination levels are important for us to be able to see what we're doing, but there is a vital element often missed -beyond that simple mechanical function.

This is the interpretive act of understanding our surroundings and its this element that helps determine the level of success that may be achieved in the relationship between any environment and the individual.

Lighting design proposals for shopping malls need to be developed on the principle that every visitor comes to the Mall to be entertained.  From the moment that the visitor leaves the highway and arrives at the Mall, the entire visual scene should be created with the principle of entertainment behind it. It doesn't necessarily follow that the car parks should be filled with dancing elephants and fireeaters not every day, at least but its vital to create a sense of anticipation at the point of arrival and to sustain that sense of something exciting going on throughout the visit.

If this smacks a bit too much of Disney World, it's probably because the Disney Imagineers were the first people to properly touch on the innate sense of wonder that is inside every person, available to be exploited with the full commercial zeal of the corporation.

from Wikipedia: Imagineering is responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other entertainment venues at all levels of project development. Imagineers possess a broad range of skills and talents, and thusover 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lightingdesigners, show writers, graphic designers, and many more

So Mall lighting design sees with the eyes of the visitor whether a newcomer who's heard about this fantastic new Mall, or the returning visitor who's bought into the excitement and can't wait to get back for more. That's the main puff for Mall lighting design.

Now, in a bit more detail, everything should be considered as being a series of visual / lighting layers:
* the base layer is the background lighting that gets people around makes moving around the Mall a pleasant, unthreatening activity
* the next layer builds out of the first, because this is where the light is actually coming from: lighting in and on the architecture (internal and external) that celebrates the features of the Mall, its features, Courts,  Squares and Gardens.
* the upper layer (and now we start to see layers within layers) defines the activity of each space;  along the retail streets, this has to be the shopfronts the window displays the promotional paraphernalia - the heartbeat of the Mall - in the Courts, Squares and Gardens, which serve as the meeting places (the Piazze) of the Mall, this layer will include lighting for decorative features (fountains, etc) and theatre lighting for special events the circus that gives the Mall its speciial ambience and unique identity... it's all about fun. No one ever went to a shopping mall to be miserable.

This does not mean that everything is singing and dancing because that just induces nausea. There has to be a sense of order, as in a painting: the building is the frame as ornate or plain as the work demands; the discipline of the work is established in the background and mid-ground; the FUN comes in the focus of the work because that's what the work is all about. The background in the Mona Lisa isn't often talked about but its VERY important. The focus for a Mall, and therefore the focus for the lighting, is to bring visitors to the reason for their being there in asattractive and sensual a way as possible
(sensual: arousing or exciting the senses or appetites)

The tools that we have available for creating this environment are all well-proven and we have no need to stray into the realms of the unlikely.
* All lighting sources will be high-efficiency, low-energy as defined by Codes of Practice.
* All lighting will be controlled via the in-house lighting control system, ensuring that energy is only used as it is requiredand as it best serves the needs of the Mall.
* All lighting will serve more than one purpose: it will be a promotional tool as well as a source of illumination.

And let me say again: No one ever went to a shopping mall to be miserable.

RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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