Marina Bay, Singapore lit up for the winter light festival.

Talk of  New York, London or Mumbai skylines and the visions of beautifully lit night skylines flash across your eyes! That is the magic of lighting. While city skylines cannot easily be planned, architects have been planning building facade lighting and their impact on the local neighbourhoods for decades.

Professional facade lighting creates landmarks, creates a sense of safety in the area, enhances tourism and can even revive a local economy. On the other hand, poor lighting design can have a serious impact on the environment and nature, growth of plants may be altered, biodiversity suffers, astronomical observation becomes problematic, and can also disturb human sleep-wake rhythms in the neighbourhood.

When it comes to lighting in architecture, especially in the current phase of greener buildings, there is a constantly swing between natural lighting and electric lighting. While natural light is the key to an energy efficient building and makes a huge impact on the inhabitants of the building, the electric lighting, or more precisely the façade lighting gives the structure an identity from the outside. External lighting determines the look and character of the building in the evening. Different architects use lighting in their own ways to achieve varying impact and effects.

Beauty in the city jungles
Innovative lighting is used to show off a building in the right light, to enhance its architectural features in the dark, or to get across a positive corporate image in the area: think of all the large retail outlets, supermarkets and malls that can be seen from a distance.

Increasing use of LEDs
Need for lowered energy consumption has led many architects to use energy efficient high power LEDs to accentuate the building architecture details in a multi-faceted manner by directing light very precisely. Light that is not properly directed onto a façade is perceived as distracting and an unnecessary waste of light.

Different lighting methods
* Uniform wide area illumination of a façade reveals its natural shapes and surface structures, while preserving the building’s original appearance.
* Dynamic, dramatic lighting is used by many architects to deliberately give their structures a completely fresh night time look.
* Emotional coloured lighting achieved by the use of coloured lights and large panes of coloured glass transform a neutral daytime architecture into a breath-taking work of art at night.
* Interactive lighting solutions too are slowly making their way on to the smart streets of tomorrow’s city as a result of the continued search for reduced energy consumption solutions and smarter streets.

With onset of winters and longer evenings in the northern hemisphere, several light festivals are orgainsed and attended by local communities and visitors from nearby cities. German curator Bettina Pelz states: “…whenever you do something with light cities in the night, then people do come. If you do it good, they come twice.”

The 30-storey ‘Light Creature’ of Sao Paolo is visible during the day and at night, changing with its surroundings, responding to stimuli like air quality and sound.