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The Light Book [by Graham Reid Phoenix]

As a designer, I worked with light in the way I felt about life. I was concerned with the connection between visible light and our inner experience of light. What we do speaks to our inner souls. The work we do displays much of who we are.

I became involved in lighting in the theatre, because I wanted to get involved in what people saw, how they saw things and how they felt about it. Lighting not only enables vision in a physical sense, but it also underlines the vision people have for their lives. It underlaid the vision I had for my life.


Light helps people to understand buildings and the spaces they live in. It helps them not just to see their way around them, but to understand their nature, their form, their use, what they are for and what they are about. Buildings are accentuated by light, as are our lives. Light is about emotion, whether it is the more obvious manipulation that happens in the theatre, or the more subtle results of great architectural lighting.

From within, not from behind, a light shines through us onto things. It makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. We are casting the shadow obscuring what we are looking at, or creating the light that illuminates the world around us. Light opens up everything, and we fool ourselves if we think the world is revealed just by our own efforts. It is also revealed by something greater inside us.

The Light Book


Cathedrals embody powerful images of the country's cultural and built heritage. They are both liturgical and historic spaces that are enjoyed for their dedication to God and for history. The lighting needs to respect and account for the day to day needs of the clergy and congregation as well as highlight the building for tourists. This all needs to be created within the context of an ancient building that needs to be preserved for future generations. A successful design will balance the subtle accentuation of the architecture through the highlighting of columns, roofs and objects within the building, with the practical needs of the services and events in the building. While large cathedrals are soaring, numinous spaces, small churches have their own spiritual and practical needs to be considered.


Museums present complex lighting problems in requiring a balance between the technical requirements of the exhibits and their visibility to the visitors. Behind this is a need to light the architecture such that it supports the exhibits without over-powering them. Modern buildings present a different design challenge to historic buildings. Although they are often simpler as buildings it takes more ingenuity to make them attractive to the visitor. One off the greatest challenges is to light galleries as if they are daylight while needing to exclude the daylight to preserve the paintings. Modern exhibition requirements are strict in terms of how most paintings can be lit. It is always important to allow for differences in curatorial styles when lighting spacific exhibitions.


Exterior lighting takes many forms and provides a way to improve the environment in our cities. At one end of the spectrum is the need to light particular features, such as bridges, and at the other end are City Lighting Strategies. Strategies are complex studies that look at the way a city is set out and attempt to present a night- time view that is markedly different from the day-time view. Cities are plagued by street lighting and bad floodlighting. When creating a strategy it is necessary to look at areas in their context in terms of colour, brightness and people flow. Following the approval of a strategy the work starts on the detailed lighting of individual buildings and monuments. The three dimensional nature of this work makes it particularly interesting.


Theatres are exciting buildings to light. Architectural lighting in a theatre considers the auditorium, foyer and exterior light. This must always provide a backdrop to the performance that is at the core of the building. The nature of the performance lighting is constantly changing so the architectural lighting needs to be able to work with whatever the stage lighting becomes. The nature of the building and its architecture is critical designing the lighting. Historic theatres, particularly in London, are looked after carefully and are often historic monuments needing sensitive treatment. In a theatre foyer it is important to take the people flows into account. These happen over short, intense periods around performances and so need to clearly mark and emphasise the routes people need to take.