Font Size

- Aa +

Wed 14 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Age of enlightenment

Despite the dark, dreary clouds that hang over the global economy these days, parts of the world are still bathed in light.

Despite the dark, dreary clouds that hang over the global economy these days, parts of the world are still bathed in light.

The Winter Solstice (i.e. the longest night in the lunar cycle) has long since determined that this time of year would play host to myriad national and cultural festivals and traditions devoted to the celebration of light.

For example, Diwali is a five-day event during which Hindus clad their homes in lights and use fireworks to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Sadeh and Chahar Sanbeh Suri are mid-winter celebrations during which Persians honour fire and its defeat over the forces of darkness, frost and cold. The Buddhist Day of Enlightenment falls right around the same time of year Christians traditionally decorate pine trees with shiny ornaments and wrap them in strings of twinkling lights.

With projects from the world's top lighting designers on display around the region and a two-part feature on architectural illumination spanning January and February, ARCHITECT is having a bit of a light festival of its own.

In the January edition, freelancer Liz Moody tracks down lighting designers and manufacturers to talk about the impact of lighting on the built environment and highlight several successful examples. While February promises to focus on sustainable lighting and the role intelligent products, designers and developers can play in energy-efficiency.

Le Corbusier once said: "Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep." Given the financial and intellectual investment in thoughtful and contextual lighting strategies in today's projects, Le Corbusier could not possibly have imagined the poignancy of his simple message.

In fact, lighting was so important in building Constitution Court in South Africa-featured in this month's international case study-that Justice Albie Sachs often refers to light as one of the six indigenous materials used to help shape the Court into a successful piece of architecture.

More than that, Nelson Mandela himself referred to the Johannesburg complex as, "a beacon of light" as it has risen from the shadows of its tragic past to become a symbol of justice and democracy in post-apartheid South Africa.

Ever since that first caveman or cavewoman used fire to illuminate a dark corner, lighting has both been considered a basic human need and been used in architectural applications. Just as the rising and setting of the sun is the parametre by which we order our lives, so are the Middle East's lighting designers and architects setting the benchmarks and defining the parametres by which we light our spaces.Jeff Roberts is the editor of Middle East Architect.

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.