by Lone Stidsen, Aalborg University, Denmark.

Design Parameters of Pleasurable Light Atmosphere (PHD – Thesis)

At the moment, the future of hospital design is a subject of interest and thereby also a subject of discussion. It is a fact that new hospitals have an increased focus on user perspectives and an interest for improving the physical environment in such a way it supports the user needs and preferences and thereby the experience of an admission to the hospital. Recent literature such as “Hospitals of the senses” and “Healing Architecture” presents research and design solutions focused on senses and experience of the design. The Danish Regions ask for Evidence Based Design to future prove the hospitals by research base the design of the buildings. The present PhD project expands the existing knowledge of lighting research by focussing on the experienced light atmosphere. The project uses multi strategies of methodology based on a flexible design to elaborate on the socio-cultural aspect of light and the sensory impact of light. To frame the work, the “Model of Light Atmosphere” is created and improved throughout the study, first as an abstract model and then it is exposed for detailed study. The detailed study first of all creates a theoretical and visual context. Then explorative studies seek to investigate unknown or tacit knowledge on how light is used in a Danish context, preferences for light in different situations and investigating the hospital ward as frame for a lighting concept. The concept is installed in a hospital ward at Odense University Hospital as a “real world” study and evaluated by the patients in the ward.

The project is based on the Danish Regulation for light in hospitals (DS703), which is a supplement to the regulation of artificial lighting in workplaces (DS700). The kick-off to the project was reading the DS703, second paragraph, chapter 2 about general requirements for lighting.

Lone Stidsen_illustration

“For the rest of the lighting, the light color should be chosen on the basis of the patients’ needs for a pleasant and “home like” feeling. This will in most cases mean a color temperature that is higher than 3000 K and a reasonably good color rendering of Ra> 80 (DS703)”

In general, measurable parameters such as the amount of Lux, the composition of CRI and degree of Kelvin is described precisely in a way so the designer can handle the requirements. But what does it mean to create a “home-like” and “pleasant or appealing” light in this context?  Does the composition of CRI and degree of Kelvin tell it all? Is it enough information to provide an illumination, which the patient can experience as homely and pleasant?

This project seeks to highlight the design process of lighting a hospital ward and articulate visual as well as written what a homely and pleasant light atmosphere could be in a Danish context. Therefore, the study investigates the socio-cultural understanding and the geographical impact of the understanding of light atmosphere. “Model of Light Atmosphere” Ill: 12 describes four key aspects of light atmosphere and displays what is important when a light atmosphere is qualified. The four key aspects are: “Light”, “Space”, “Users” and “Time”.

The “Light” aspect describes, as shown in the figure below, the character of the light, light information and light effect i.e. function, aesthetics or symbolism.  The “Space” aspect looks into the dimension of the space, geographical orientation, interior design, composition of the space, materials, surfaces and objects. The parameter “Time” elaborates on the time one is present in the space, the season and time of day. The “Users” aspect is split up into categories such as characteristics exploring the user group’s preferences and needs. The user group has quite diverse needs and preferences, while the staff needs task lighting and the patient a space experienced as homely and pleasant.

Light Atmosphere

“Model of Light Atmosphere”

Categories such as “pleasure” and “activities” are also a part of the user aspect. The space is divided into subcategories as ”location of the space” and “geographical orientation”. The interior design, surface and spatial composition of the space are also parameters of importance.

The model “Light Atmosphere” is the focal point of the project through iterative process and also developed through the study. First the model frames the study and later serves as a design tool for creating light atmosphere in hospital wards.

The project is performed through four cycles of iterations. The first cycle describes the “State of the art” in the research field “Atmosphere”. Here the study find its theoretical foundation based on Gernot Böhmes’ concept of atmosphere. It also finds its visual understanding by studying the architects’ way to design atmosphere. The second cycle explores the users’ preferences and trends of light atmosphere in four exploratory studies. First presented is a study of light preferences in Danish homes. Then, the trends of light atmosphere in Denmark are investigated and light zones at the hospital ward defined in order to optimize the illumination. Lastly, an observation of ward atmosphere is presented. The third cycle of iteration is an experimental study testing a lighting concept developed and grounded in the knowledge gained through the first and second cycle. The fourth cycle evaluates the effect of the light atmosphere at the ward. Here the patients are admitted to two similar wards not including the artificial illumination. The evaluation uses Semantic Environmental Description developed by environmental psychiatrist Rikard Küller, in order to evaluate the light atmosphere.

The thesis can be downloaded from

Further information at


New PostDoc project ‘Light and Mental Healtcare – artificial daylight design and sleep quality’ 

Light affects people in many ways, and light can be used to create a certain atmosphere in a particular situation. The postdoc project ‘Light and Psychiatric Healthcare’ is based on knowledge gained through the Ph.D. project ‘Light atmosphere in hospitals wards’. So, the postdoc project is based on a practical design research tradition, working on a cross-disciplinary research approach where several research traditions are used to bring diverse research knowledge together in a holistic ‘Real world’ approach.

At present, the future of hospital design is a subject of great interest and, therefore, a subject of discussion. Billions of Danish kroner are invested in hospitals with a focus on healing environments for patients and staff. In the context of psychiatric healthcare, light is seen as essential for the patients’ healing process. The effect of light can be evaluated in many ways. It has been proven that light has an effect on the circadian rhythm, sleeping quality, seasonal affective disorder and, in a hospital ward setting, the quality of daylight has an impact on the patients’ hospital stay. Right now the trend is to adapt the important knowledge from daylight research into artificial light installations, and the lighting design business provides intelligent light systems that support the wellbeing of patients and staff with artificial illumination based on a daylight rhythm. Terms like “intelligent lighting”, “daylight illumination”, “dynamic light”, or “colour effect of lighting” are, therefore, of interest as they are a result of new technologies and, as such, have yet to be well defined. Intelligent light is a topic for discussion, and there is a need to sort out terms, explore supportive intelligent lighting solutions and, of course, test concepts and technologies in real world settings since the technologies are new and of innovational character.

The goal of the postdoc project ‘Light and Psychiatric Healthcare’ is to discuss, explore and define the relevance of using artificial light as a part of the treatment options on mental hospitals. The focus will be on psychiatric patients’ sleep quality and preferences for light in a hospital ward, and will be to find the potential of using intelligent artificial illumination that provides daylight rhythm. Finally, the goal is to define how using an intelligent lighting installation can be optimized with a well-designed lighting control.

The real world studies are carried out at psychiatric hospitals in Middelfart and Esbjerg (Denmark) in corporation with the local clinical research teams.