Lighting as an Element of Landscaping

By: John Billington

Implementing an outdoor lighting scheme serves purposes beyond the functional aspects of illuminating a path for night time navigation and providing a level of security for homeowners. Lighting continues to establish itself as an artistic element that can be incorporated into the aesthetics of a home's design, and outdoor landscaping is no exception. While functionality remains a major objective of outdoor lighting, many homeowners also seek to present an elegant and uniform image through the incorporation of decorative and creatively planned lighting into the landscape design of their homes.

Factors such as the homeowner's intentions and preferences, existing home architecture, desired brightness of lighting as well as community enforced lighting restrictions must be taken into account at the inception of any outdoor lighting design project. Modern lighting techniques are becoming increasingly prevalent in landscaping as homeowners realize the benefits of taking advantage of outdoor space, day and night.

Uplighting and downlighting are popular, modern lighting techniques that present alternatives to the traditional sidewalk runway lighting common in the past. Uplighting is a method of emphasizing a landscape design feature such as a tree, bush, interesting architectural element or statue by illuminating the structure from beneath. Strategically implemented uplighting adds an element of texture, depth and definition to visually pleasing features of a landscape, enhancing the artistic quality of the landscape as a whole. Similarly, downlighting is created by a suspended light which highlights an interesting feature below, with the similar effect of emphasizing prominent artistic features of the landscape. Downlighting serves the additional purpose of providing extra security lighting for the home.

Shadowing is another lighting technique that is becoming increasingly common for use in landscape design. Shadowing is the illumination of an object or feature by a spot light or flood light at ground level, with the shadow of the object projected onto another surface, such as an exterior wall, for the artistic visual appeal of the contrast between the lighting and the shadow.

Homeowners are driven by different objectives in landscape lighting design. Some incorporate intricate lighting patterns into their landscape strictly for the artistic ambience, while others simply seek traditional, functional lighting for night time visibility. Designers in general are aiming away from traditional runway style lighting in favor of more aesthetically pleasing, natural looking illumination. Outdoor lighting now serves a dual purpose, offering endless design options while upholding its traditional lighting function.

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