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Light and Emotion: Achieving Emotions in

Landscape Architecture by Using Light

Carmina Constanța GHEORGHIȚĂ*), Mircea GRIGOROVSCHI, Dragoș-Emil CIOLACU-MIRON
The “G.M. Cantacuzino” Faculty of Architecture, “Gh. Asachi” Technical University of Iași, Romania.

Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014

Print ISSN 1843-5254, Electronic ISSN 1843-5394

Environmental elements of built space, landscaping elements, comprise fixed, ephemeral, and
transforming elements, being perceived and experienced simultaneously or sequentially by users.
However, what happens to these elements at night? They are metamorphosed, light shaping space and
outlining the scene. It is know that artificial light represents a valuable element for evoking emotions
in architectural spaces, but unfortunatelly in the design of the landscape spaces it is often overlooked.
Until the 21st century, light has been primary used for its functional qualities: sight allowing, displaying
landscaped spaces during night time, providing shades in landscape, etc. beeing considered a true
spatial element, an inspiring, authentic, and intrinsic element of landscape architecture. The perception
of light and its effect on humans is subjective. Lighting determines the appreciation and influences
people’s behavior: how they feel in a place, how they perceive it, behave in it, and how they use the place.
Technology is allowing for new forms of lighting design with more opportunities to appeal to people’s
emotions due to a wider range of colors and interactive technologies.

Keywords: sentimental landscape, light and darkness, artificial light.

INTRODUCTION various artists. Today, it might be said that arti­

The environmental elements of built space, ficial lighting has embrace the challenging task of
also known as landscaping elements, comprise adding emotional content and of enhancing the
fixed, ephemeral and transforming elements, unique sense of a place, either public or private,
being perceived and experienced simultaneously city or home.
or sequentially by users. But at night, the built With World’s Columbian Exposition within
space is metamorphosed, it is light shaped and its Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, people started being
scenes are outlined. intrigued by the use of light in the landscape. “The
It is know that natural and artificial light re­ White City” used streetlights and building lights
presents a valuable element for evoking emotions that made the space usable at night. Since then,
in architectural spaces, but in the design of the lighting design has evolved greatly, today artificial
landscape spaces light is often overlooked. lighting becoming much more about emotion
Till the 21st century, light has been primary rather than function.
used for its functional qualities: allowing sight, The image of the city and, by default, measu­
displaying landscaped spaces at night, providing ring the quality of life, depend largely on public
shades in landscape, etc. In recent years the space, which plays a major role and polymorphous.
artificial lighting is considered to be a true spatial Between spatial conformity and the needs of the
element, an inspiring, authentic and intrinsic inhabitants, appears the question: should we
element of landscape architecture as it can be change the city in order to improve the quality
already seen happening through the work of of life or vice versa? However, the two processes

follow and mold each other - the history of cities proposal for revitalizing different areas of the city of
has pointed out that spatial transformation accom­ Iasi, one of the tasks of the project being to present
panies spatial development and back (Țurlea, how the spaces live at night by using artificial light.
2008). The study was completed using analytical and
The city is not only landscape, but also anthro­ visualization methods. The works carried out with
pogenic heritage, tradition, culture, daily, sound, light the students aimed to determine the parameters
and dark, vegetal, air, human element, water, sky, all influencing the aesthetics of landscape during
assembled in spaces and landscapes in constant day and night time. Once identified, the next task
motion and continuously evolving, the landscapes was to increase the attractiveness of urban areas.
that we consciously or unconsciously perceive. It can In their proposals, the students had to conceive a
be noticed that everything that there is in human lighting system, to design night paths, to ensure
existence, will cause a landscape scenery, as any the feeling of safety and to establish a connection
landscape directly or indirectly affect the human with the adjunct areas of the studied sites, whether
being, group, society as a whole. The concepts of place, lit or not. The best proposal will be presented as
space, living setting, shape, define the landscape of practical results of the study.
the urban life and are all elements that interact and
seek to achieve a continuously balance of the forces RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
acting in order to define landscape and the scenery In landscape architecture, the perception
in which we evolve as town actors (Grigorovschi and is an extremely important factor considered in
Răchieru, 2011). designing any composition and arrangements
Landscape design has some of the greatest (Dascălu, 2011a). Certain aspects of urban space
potential as a form of art, in shaping not only are perceived through a single organ of sense,
the city spaces, but also moods and perceptions. other aspects are perceived through more senses:
People are surrounded by landscape and move we see colours, we hear sounds, we use our tactile,
through it. Landscape affects all of the senses at taste and olfactory senses, etc (Dascălu, 2011b).
once; sight, sound, movement, perception, touch, Light triggers emotions in different ways and
smell. has a profound impact on the way people perceive
and experience their environment. A number of
MATERIALS AND METHODS factors influence the desired emotional reaction,
This paper aims first to determine how can but however the desired effect is, designers always
light generate emotions in landscape. Secondly, use the same tools: brightness, color, direction,
this paper intends to go beyond the functional contrast, and time.
role of artificial lighting and to understand the The lighting designer Kaoru Mende states that
aesthetic and emotional aspects of light by adding “architectural lighting design is not about the big
emotional content and enhancing the unique statement, but about expressing feelings” and that
sense of landscaped space. new artificial lighting technologies are changing
The study analyses specific parameters of lighting from playing a functional role to going
artificial light (ambient brightness, color, direction, beyond function, altering the landscape user’s
penumbra and shade) and tries to explain the emotions (Laganier and van der Pol, 2011).
way artificial lighting in landscape architecture His statements are most well represented
generates emotions. The purpose of the research in the lighting design project for the Nagasaki
was to identify artificial lighting design techniques National Peace Memorial Hall for all the victims
currently used by practicing landscape architects, of the atomic bomb. The architect Akira Kuryu
as well as identifying existing types of lighting wanted to create a place for prayer. By daytime,
that move beyond function. Is also aims to display the water mirrors the translucent glass and fulfills
new methods of creating light landscapes of the spaces with magnetism and stillness, evoking
exploration, discovery, and emotion. specific emotions for a commemorative outdoor
The conducted theoretical researches were space. At night, the lighting is intentionally very
presented to students of the 5th year of study of mysterious resembling with the image of the wind
the Faculty of Architecture. The Landscape Design blowing 70,000 lights of mourning which sparkle
Project required to present different landscaping in the water of the basin (Fig. 1). A place can

Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014

Light and Emotion: Achieving Emotions in Landscape Architecture by Using Light 45

breathe through dynamic lighting. Subtle changes spaces, brightness could increase the perception
of light can have a calming effect on people. Using of space and generate comfort.
no dynamic effect ensures absolute silence. If lighting is a composition between bright
Brightness guides the eye and focus on a specific and dark parts, then contrast is responsible for the
object (Fig. 1, 3). It is used to create a hierarchy dramatic part of it. Contrast can be used to accentuate
and increase the understanding of a space, while specific features or to create rhythm by repetition
it always refers to the subjective perception of two (Fig. 4, 5, 6, 7). By lighting a wide range of effects, like
objective physical characteristics: the intensity highlighting outdoor interest points can be achieved.
and the amount of light (Laganier and van der Accent lighting can be used for creating silhouettes
Pol, 2011). In outdoor spaces, low light levels and shadows, while spread lighting maximizes the
give a cozy and friendly ambiance, while in closed beauty of the subject (Fig. 3).

Fig. 1 Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall - designed by architect Akira Kuryu

Fig. 2 Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome, Italy by Michelangelo


Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014


Color lighting comprises two aspects: white for earth, red for fire, green for water and blue for
light with its different shades from cool to warm air –with white in the center” (Laganier and van
and colored light with shades from saturated to der Pol, 2011).
pastel. White is believed to make people feel better There is a connection between light and
and healthy, warm white inducing comfort, and emotion. The light changing throughout the day
coziness. Even though color is used in a symbolic affects our mood. Some of these associations are
way, the subject determines the color of the light generic, and sometimes there is a bias, like red
and the generated emotions depends on the context means hot and danger, green is life or nature,
(Fig. 4, 5, 6). The cool/warm light color contrast blue is cold and distant, yellow is more neutral.
is linked to different meanings: exterior/interior, Nevertheless, all these are just cultural associations
cold/warm and inviting ambiance, dark/light. that have passed through us through generations.
The architect Francesca Stararo, author of the For example, in India, red signifies danger, but in
lighting project for Piazza del Campidoglio (Fig. 2), China, it is the most sacred color and so is always
Rome uses “the four elements – fire, earth, air, and going to mean fortune and luck. Red light makes
water – symbolized in Michelangelo’s concept” people feel uncomfortable and induces interdiction;
(Laganier and van der Pol, 2011). In her lighting, blue light induces a lighthearted feeling.
it was used “a combination of four colors – ochre

Fig. 3 Students’ project – Natural History Museum garden - day and night views

Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014

Light and Emotion: Achieving Emotions in Landscape Architecture by Using Light 47

Fig. 4 Students project – Observatory garden - day and night views

Fig. 5 Students project – Independence Square - day and night views

Changing colors attracts people. It creates or symbolic projection, along with the material
curiosity, fantasy, and fun, but slow color changes properties of the surface.
are more comfortable for people and are more The angle of the rays of light, direction, is
like natural light. Depending on the color, it can closely related to the type of shadows that are
change the mood of the people. The choice of light cast when light falls on objects. The direction of
color always depends on the desired effect, mood, light uncover if light is natural or artificial (Fig.
7). Daylight is dynamic: the sun moves and the

Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014


shadows are always changing; but with electricity, CONCLUSION

light becomes static. For example, the glow of The perception of light and its effect on humans
lanterns generates contrast in a space, but is at the is subjective. Lighting determines the appreciation
same time it is welcoming and inviting (Fig. 5). and influences people’s behavior: how they feel in
A multidisciplinary approach using light, color, a place, how they perceive it, behave in it, and how
texture, materials and sounds, creates a setting they use the place. Technology is allowing for new
that induces people emotions. In landscape design forms of lighting design with more opportunities
it is critical that the foreground, middle ground, to appeal to people’s emotions due to a wider
and background are well defined so space can be range of colors and interactive technologies.
better perceived and people feel comfortable. In general, the proposals for improving the
urban image of the area and the overall visual

Fig. 6 Students project – Tg. Cucu Square - day and night views

Fig. 7 Students project – Casa Patrata Square - day and night views

Bulletin UASVM Horticulture 71(1) / 2014

Light and Emotion: Achieving Emotions in Landscape Architecture by Using Light 49

impact have sought to create new compositions REFERENCES

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