Architect Jim Olson on the Importance of Lighting Design
March 12, 2012 - 8:55am

Jim Olson, architect, interior designer and principal, at Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, Seattle:

“Lighting design is critical to a design concept; you absolutely need
it to create an overall environment. In the things I’m doing, energy efficiency has become extremely important. We do this, of course, with fixtures, but also through [techniques] like daylighting—finding ways to bring light in naturally. I’m also using a lot of dimmers and dimming systems to create ambience, but they save energy, as well. We try to focus light just where it is needed, instead of using only general illumination.

“Another thing we’re doing is cleaning up the ceiling. You have a lot of flexibility with track lighting, but it can be cluttery. In many cases, we can set a trough inside the edge of a soffit, and we set the lights up inside so they’re flush with the ceiling. Square recessed lights are also very nice. We line them up in a row; it looks organized and really helps to reinforce the rectilinear lines of a room.

“There’s a definite trend in architecture to create homes where the inside and outside spaces are continuous. So, it’s becoming more and more important to really pay attention to and balance the indoor lighting with the outdoor lighting. We treat it as one thing, so at night, the lights in the home are able to be dimmed and you can look out the window to see lights in the trees or in the garden.”

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