5 Steps to Mall Lighting
Once you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall. Puns aside, what makes ‘em all not look the same, and how do you create a definite nighttime and indoor identity to the shopping center that you are designing? These 5 key lighting strategies have proven to be successful.
1. View from Far to Near
From far to near, make sure that the project speaks the same language. Many times, especially in Asia, shopping malls are multi-storied structures with perhaps a tower or two with the mall in the podium. When looking from far away you may only see the top of the project. From close, you may see the first few floors and walking next to it, you may only see under the canopy. Make sure that the lighting message is consistent.
Consistent Lighting: On a recent study for a mall in Wuxi, the lighting consistent at both levels, creating a visible nighttime identity for the project. Lighting Design: Oculus Light Studio. Architect: MulvannyG2 Architects. Art: Oculus Light Studio/MulvannyG2 Architects
2. Create a Storyline
Like in a movie, storylines help create a consistent look and feel to the space. Many times the story is part of the architectural and interior concept. Examples of actual storylines include following Ibn-battuta’s travels across Asia, taking clues from being on a catwalk in Hollywood; taking inspiration from nature preserves and the ways various cultures have interpreted market places throughout history. In each case, the lighting was different and supportive of the storyline. Lighting design complements and adds to the scheme. Visual luminaires like pendants and sconces create the look and feel, while hidden and recessed luminaires light surfaces and provide lighting for safety.
Storyline: On a recent project, the goal was to create an outdoor street character for an interior mall. Initial lighting concepts studies look at street references and distil the lighting goals to the essential components. Lighting Design: Oculus Light Studio. Art: Oculus Light Studio.
3. Light Surfaces, Not Just Measure Lux and Footcandles
When we see light, our eyes don’t measure it in lux and footcandles. In fact, studies have shown that there is very little correlation between what the light level (light falling on a surface) is to what the perceived light level is in a space. A white space with very little light may feel bright, whereas a room with black walls, ceilings and floors will feel dark even with bright, office-like light levels. Calculating lighting levels in each and every space is not required once bare minimum code required levels are met. What is needed is to make sure that surfaces are illuminated. When we see across a space, we do not see the floor, we see vertical surfaces, we see ceilings, we see the surfaces that face us—let’s light them.
Surfaces: At this mall lighting concept study, ceilings are illuminated and surfaces get light from wall sconces. Openings also help in creating a well-lit ambience. Lighting Design: Oculus Light Studio. Architect: MulvannyG2 Architects. Art: Oculus Light Studio/MulvannyG2 Architects
4. Create Interest
Work with the design team to identify focal areas in the mall. How do you lead people from one side to the other? Especially to the top of a multi level mall? How does the food court support a comfortable space for relaxing and eating? In a skating rink, how is the ceiling illuminated? Is there a role for color and pattern projections? How are the architectural surfaces highlighted? Is there a pattern or texture on them? Can we graze it to bring out the texture? Can they be back lighted to glow? Can we integrate lighting into the columns, ceilings and floor? Lighting helps with wayfinding, and leading patrons through the mall.
Interest: At this mall lighting concept study, metal ceilings surfaces are illuminated with concealed cove lighting. That combined with both downlights and signage integrated into a structural support element, add visual interest to the space. Lighting Design: Oculus Light Studio. Architect: MulvannyG2 Architects. Art: Oculus Light Studio/MulvannyG2 Architects
5. Be Pragmatic
The lighting of the mall has to look great on the first day and keep looking the same several years later. Choose lamps that have a long lamp life. Luminaires that are not one of a kind, and hard to replace. Work with the design team to integrate common luminaires in architectural detailing to create special experiences. Think of dust or bugs that may collect over lensed luminaires. Simple is better—anything too fussy will most likely get destroyed quickly. Metal halide lamps work great in Europe and America where there are no power interruptions, but not so well in Asia where power supply is not reliable. LED lamps and luminaires need to be evaluated closely to make sure that they are the right color, have been tested properly and from a reliable source. Malls often have large open atria—make sure that lighting is not designed to be in places where maintenance would necessitate a call to Spiderman.
These key lighting strategies will help guide a designer through the collaboration process with the project team. They will help the designer create lighting designs uniquely suited to the character of the project. A mall that provides unique experiences and feels comfortable will allow patrons to visit often and stay for longer. That combined with a pragmatic approach lends direct support to the mall’s overall business goal of having successful retailers.
Oculus Principal Archit Jain has designed lighting for over 20 malls in the Middle East, India and China.