Form & Surface

To begin to understand form or space and what they require, as mention in “visual perception” we need to identify their basic characteristics. For example, whether it is two-dimensional or three-dimensional, where depth is largely influential, the simplest way to do so is by the use of light, as the easiest way to identify something is to see it. 

After figuring out its characteristics, we can then begin to understand its needs, taking our example into consideration, a critical point to deal with in the case of three-dimensional objects and flat surfaces is contrast control, where certain surfaces or elements may need more or less lighting than others. For instance, if a space were to be lit identically from all surfaces it would appear flat and undefinable. In some cases, this may be the desired effect as James Turrell has beautifully created at Ganzfeld in 2011. However, architecturally this may not be the desired result of an observer in an everyday experience. 

Brightness or contrasts should be considered as an overall part of the design of the space, in this way the designer can take advantage of these brighter surfaces as a reflector, bouncing light back off a wall, ceiling, columns and so on, reflecting light back into the rest of the space, while keeping even illumination in mind, as it’s very critical for user comfort. As designers, we should always be mindful when using contrast, as it may give unwanted results to a space. For that reason, it's best to get rid of unnecessary contrast, as it could distract from the purpose of the space. This though does not apply to when contrast is actually needed. Where in such a case, if used correctly, focus lighting may be a great addition to the space.

Next Article: Glare & Noise