In November 1966 Danish homestyle magazine Bo Bedre published a feature by Kirsten Bundgaard in which Poul Henningsen offered his thoughts on lighting in the home. We have translated these pearls of wisdom from their original Danish (below).
About the colour
It is a misconception that artificial light must be an imitation of daytime sunlight, for it is not intended that day and night should be the same. We do not thrive on it.
Admittedly, we have lights at night – we humans are frightened by total darkness. But when our forefathers huddled around the bonfire in the evening, it was for the heat, including the visually-perceived warmth of the fire flames, which provided security and protection against the darkness around it.
Warm light changes the surroundings – the “cold” bluish colours are not as prominent. Man thrives better.
The fluorescent tube is still, in its present form, a misunderstanding. Certainly it is strong: it casts bright light uniformly across the room. But it changes the surroundings in an erratic manner.
Girls are not pretty in fluorescent lighting. However, they are lovely in the glow of an incandescent lamp or candles.
Is there anything worse than coming into a house where the rooms are lit nicely, but a numbing light shock emanates from a pair of unforgiving fluorescent lights whenever the kitchen door opens? This is not a nice scenario for a family home!
On the distribution of lamps
Proper lighting is simply having as much (or as little) light as you need and feel comfortable with – and having it in the right places.
You have to have many lights in a house, and you should feel a new lighting experience with each lamp. Lamps should be exciting.
Light in a work area can obviously be brighter than elsewhere – but the rest of the room should not lie in the dark. There must still be small bright islands around, but with slightly more subdued areas in between.
About as little light as possible
The ugliness in the world is an over-lit space. Man cannot thrive in a sea of light, yet we are increasing the light-barbarism from day to day.
This is probably because of the old fallacy that you see more and better in a room that is bright and dazzlingly illuminated. This is not, however, the case, due to the human eye’s ability to adapt. The eye automatically reduces its retinal sensitivity when exposed to strong light, whereas it becomes more sensitive in a subdued light.
Sight does not improve because the illumination is increased – you just guard against the intense light by reducing the eye’s sensitivity. Think of the products that ancient craftsmen were able to make – small, meticulous things like filigree work – just by the glow of a candle…
See next week’s post for part 2 of this feature.