Have not you yourselves sensed a difference in the light that suffuses such a room, a rare tranquility not found in ordinary light? (Tanizaki Junichiro, In Praise Of Shadows)
A repulsion for the dark (which may vary from mild discomfort or outright fear) is a natural human reaction imprinted into our reptile brain, which is in part largely responsible for our race’s emergence up the tiers of evolution. The discovery of fire and the eventual harnessing of it, in tame and controllable intensities, helped to extend the day beyond sunset; electricity destroyed the demarcation of day and night altogether. It opened opportunities. We were free to wander now, and expansions of space meant widening of imagination.
A key element in making or breaking a place is the subtle curation of light and shadow. Harnessing the former has allowed us to control the latter as well. “In good light,” as the saying goes, extends beyond the intricacies of photography (with its very precise control of the very movement of light particles), but expands from the simple human need for illumination in the dark. Impressions, powerful means by which the mind takes stock of its surrounding and files information for future use, are affected by light. Does a room feel more inviting because of the warm white glow of multiple pendant lamps? Is staying up until the wee hours made easier by the stern and steady flood of florescent from a dark room’s single tabletop lighting?
The function of rooms usually direct the placement of lighting, and the materials that lamps are made often always affects this. The bulbs used likewise play a pivotal part, and can turn a soft shadow-casting accent lighting fixture, to a more duty-specific task lighting lamp that is necessary for activities like reading, or cooking. The development of LED lighting has helped to tremendously increase energy efficiency, and reduced the risks of heat-induced accidents with the traditional florescent bulbs—which produce only 10% light against 90% of heat! This has also allowed for a wider range of flexibility in terms of design, allowing for full exposure outdoor illumination, or mixing materials that would otherwise be sensitive to heat over a prolonged period.
Time and light form the backbone of relativity, as Einstein has proven, and both are phenomena that have driven human progress through millennia of evolution and innovation. Controlling one may give us mild rein on the other, albeit in some measure. Where once our forebears looked up to consult the stars, we’ve gone ahead and unhooked them, without permission, and hung them on our rafters, in windows across our cities, atop our tables, making conversations are a little warmer, on days when there are no sun.