All posts by t_schielke115

Tongji University: Video tutorials for residential lighting in China

Lighting design students from Tongji University created inspiring video tutorials to improve residential lighting. They developed concepts to enhance the lighting quality of small apartments and introduced steps to save energy. Within the one week workshop the students analysed residential lighting in China, created storyboards for the tutorials, produced visualisations, edited the film and developed a strategy to communicate the video tutorials in Chinese social media channels. Linked annotations in the workshop film summary will take you to the final student video tutorials.

Students: Chen Yaodong, Dong Yingjun, Fu Meiqi, Ge Liang, Jin Qiying, Shao Rongdi, Xu Junli, Yang Xiu, Yin Wenting, Zeng Kun, Zhang Ji, Zhang Meng, Zhou Na, Zhou Yinan


Tongji University, Shanghai. 22.-26. April 2013.
College of Architecture & Urban Planning
Vision & Lighting Art Research Center Tongji University

Student projects

Harvard GSD: Media facades and their luminous tweets

Brands strive worldwide for distinctive visual identities in the urban landscape. At night they rely on luminous messages ranging from conventionally illuminated signs and billboards up to dynamic luminous architecture for story telling. Therefore, media facades have turned into a fascinating medium to create an architectural image in the nocturnal city. Some brands use guerrilla lighting projections for temporary installations to subversively transform urban spaces. Other companies equip their flagship stores with large LED pixel screens for high-resolution images or they consider the building façade as an interface for more artistic solutions. Often video screens appear as decorated elements competing for attention with traditional commercial billboards. Here media facades have become an interesting alternative to establish a more sophisticated design language for merging the dynamic content with the building. Whereas some luminous facades appear as monumental monologues repeating a fixed animation daily, some installations even allow people to interact with the building to receive enlightening responses. Thereby, the consumer becomes part of the urban marketing strategy to shape a vivid and progressive brand identity. The lecture gave an overview about media facades for urban brand communication and addressed questions like: Will the energy consumption of luminous facades go along with the desire to introduce sustainability? To which extent do neighbors accept obtrusive luminous content? Further, what kind of media facades will shape the future of urban branding with luminous tweets?

The Language of Lighting: Applying Semiotics in the Evaluation of Lighting Design

Architectural lighting provides optimum visibility for tasks but illuminations convey meanings as well. Though many studies analyze technical dimensions of lighting, research on the meaning is rare. Therefore, this article discusses semiotics as a methodology for lighting design within the design process and critically reflects the appearance of light and architecture. The semiotic discourse starts with terminology and presents models of architectural signs. The history of architectural semiotics serves as a background for the transfer to lighting and leads to an understanding of recent debates. The relevance of semiotics for lighting design is shown in three aspects: Firstly, the influence on the lighting design process; secondly, how physical characteristics of light intensity, distribution, and spectrum are interpreted as signs; and, thirdly, the evaluation of different lighting design tasks like daylight, lamp and luminaire design, interior and exterior lighting, as well as media façades. A critique of architectural and lighting semiotics reveals the methodological limitations of the linguistic concept. It can be concluded that semiotics provides a useful instrument to identify the meaning, which helps to improve the quality of lighting design. The semiotic matrix offers a differentiated view of relationships based on the aspects of sign, object, and interpretant with relation to light characteristics, illuminated buildings, and architectural lighting in general.

Semiotic design layers for architectural lighting: Space, texture, light, and luminaires. Rendering layers: Axel Groß. Image © ERCO

Publication open access
Leukos Journal. The Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society
Volume 15, 2019 – Issue 2-3: Lighting Research Methods. Pages 227-248

Architectural lighting images – The influence of visualisation techniques on lighting design

Images of light are a medium for designers to evoke inspiration, to evaluate concepts and to visualise ideas. Within the design process, images are transformed into material, or an abstract language of signs is converted into lighting objects. Architecture and lighting design are always preceded by graphic design processes. Various designers reveal their dialectic through individual images: Erich Mendelsohn with sketches, Ben van Berkel with data visualisations and Frank Gehry with cardboard models in combination with a 3D scanner followed by computer aided manufacturing. The question hereby arises whether their techniques and their design results can be understood as a response to image techniques of their time? How does digital image production influence architectural lighting design today?

Professional Lighting Design Convention. London, 25.-27.10.2007

ERCO Lichtbericht Edition 86.

Illustration of the brightness contrast at the Macau Apple Store designed by Foster + Partners.
Image: Thomas Schielke

Corporate Lighting: Architectural lighting for brand communication

In a period where companies and their products have become more indistinguishable, corporate identity is not solely restricted to graphic design any longer, but aspects such as architectural lighting have started to play an increasingly important role. The dissertation therefore, detects lighting methods and techniques for corporate architecture. The research examines lighting history, design processes, as well as lighting solutions and their suitability for different corporate design concepts. The investigated projects range from retail, company headquarters and gastronomy to hotels and urban lighting master plans. They are analysed for their subtle or expressive use of modern light sources, luminaire designs and lighting concepts.

Online access to complete doctoral thesis
Corporate lighting. PDF file

Selected Publications:

  • Influence of lighting design on marketing communication. Leukos. 2015 Vol 11, 3. Article
  • The language of lighting: Applying semiotics in the evaluation of lighting design. Leukos. 2019. Vol 15, 2-3. Article open access
  • Impact of lighting design on brand image for fashion retail stores. Lighting Research and Technology.   2014 July. Article
  • Validity of simulation for lighting and brand image evaluation. Lighting Research and Technology. 2015  Article
  • Light and corporate identity: Using lighting for corporate communication. Lighting Research and   Technology. 2010 Sep, 42 (3). Article
  • Leuchtende Marken. archithese. No. 3. Zürich,   Switzerland, 2008. (german)

Selected conferences

  • Enlighten Europe. Berlin, 9.-11.11.2014
  • IES Annual Conference, Huntington Beach/CA   USA, 26.-29.2013  
  • Experiencing Light. Eindhoven/NL, 12.-13.11.2012
  • Enlighten Europe Conference. London, 4.-5.2.2009 
  • Experiencing Light. Eindhoven/NL, 26.-27.10.2009

I.M. Pei: Cubism to Clarity

Although the Louvre pyramid, often recognized as his masterwork, created a luminous icon for presenting culture, IM Pei’s early museums were characterized by the harsh shadows of brutalism. Project by project, the Chinese-American master developed a sophisticated, open architectural language. Pei’s holistic approach for welcoming museum visitors comprises powerful symbols which utilize sunlight to its fullest during the daytime, while employing the magical glow of illumination in the evening. Whereas most assessments of the Louvre have praised the achievements of the luminous pyramid as seen above the ground, the actual design challenge laid underground, in offering visitors a successful underground space. Later, Pei transferred his language to multiple other museum projects, where light was always a key factor in defining museum experiences. In a year of celebratory events such as “Rethinking Pei: A Centenary Symposium,” which was organized at Harvard Graduate School of Design, an examination of Pei’s use of light in museums can contribute an important cultural emphasis.


Cubism to clarity. In: Lighting – Illumination in Architecture. London, 2017, Vol 49 (6), p.18-41.

Glass pyramid entrance at Louvre, Paris
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca

Dark Sky: Less light is more

Darkness can have an abundance of light qualities every bit as interesting as those of light-flooded rooms.

Lighting in open spaces has signicantly changed in recent years. Its worldwide increase impacts humans and the natural environment. In order to minimise the negative effects of articial light in outdoor spaces, astronomers, environmental associations and manufacturers have begun to cooperate for a new awareness of darkness. They have announced a new approach to designing and planning the use of artifcial light called “Dark Sky”. Their addressees are architects designing the nocturnal illumination of facades, urban planners and landscape architects.

Topos. Munich 2018 No.102, p.36-43. Callwey.


Dark sky – Less light is more. In: Topos. Munich 2018 No.102, p.36-43. Callwey.
Available at Topos magazine

Tadao Ando: The Nature of Concrete

Tadao Ando’s buildings are elemental. They embrace natural forces, the manmade meeting sunlight and wind

Tadao Ando’s buildings are elemental. They embrace natural forces, the manmade meeting sunlight and wind. If there is any consistent factor in his work, says Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando, then it is the pursuit of light. Ando’s complex choreography of light fascinates most when the viewer experiences the sensitive transitions within his architecture. Sometimes walls wait calmly for the moment to reveal striking shadow patterns, and at other times water reflections animate unobstrusively solid surfaces.

The nature of concrete. In: Lighting – Illumination in Architecture. London, 2018. P 16-41


The nature of concrete. In: Lighting – Illumination in Architecture. London, 2018. P 16-41

Vitra Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando

Light for Brand Communication: When Lighting becomes Part of CI

All over the globe, brands are looking to achieve a striking visual appearance within the urban space. Local and international companies have started to link light planning for retail spaces with the CI for a holistic brand appearance. Media façades have therefore been turned into a fascinating tool for creating an architectural landmark on the nocturnal cityscape. At night, the brand stories are told by shining messages that range from the conventional light boxes and illuminated advertisements to dynamically lit architecture. The colourful and dynamic appearance of façades and stores inside will trigger a debate about the importance of LED for brand communication, the limits of architectural lighting for CI and the way sustainability impacts marketing strategies.

IALD Enlighten Europe, Berlin. Photos copyright:
IALD International Association of Lighting Designers


IALD Enlighten Europe. Berlin, 2014

Keynote: Streetscapes at Night – Lighting between Identity, Transformation and Safety

Lighting is an essential element to perceive the environment at night. Diverse ideas like transformation and branding, safety requirements and technological progress have led to different nocturnal streetscapes. Street lighting has been widely installed with the argument to improve safety. With the emergence of powerful and adaptive headlights in the automotive industry and highly reflective textiles for pedestrians, the role and effectiveness of conventional street lighting is questionable. From a technological point of view, energy efficiency and low maintenance have dominated the public debate and contributed to the immense growth of LED lighting in cities, but additional developments have accelerated this trend. The miniaturization of the light source and sophisticated control technologies have paved the way for new applications. On the one hand, wearable textiles and gadgets allow pedestrians to communicate and present themselves as luminous objects in streets in a small scale. On the other hand, global and local brands have turned facades into dynamic displays to send corporate messages in a large scale. Political activists have recognised the nocturnal communication possibilities and started to use light for raising awareness regarding social and political issues. A comprehensive semiotic analysis provides the framework to identify lighting as a sign to communicate messages within the city at night. International permanent and temporary projects illustrate how the role of lighting has changed and will influence our streets in urban areas.


3rd City Street Conference, 2018. Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon