Architectural lighting design is a fascinating profession. A lighting designer must be capable of creatively solving lighting problems using electrical instruments to produce both practical illumination and aesthetic effects. The complexity of today's architecture, as well as the demands of technology, sustainability, and interfacing with numerous software programs, makes lighting design even more challenging.
Educational Standards To gain the necessary specialist knowledge to practice architectural lighting design, a growing number of academic institutions worldwide now offer degrees in lighting design. Traditionally, lighting designers have emerged from associated professions such as architecture, interior design, theater, and electrical engineering. More recently, the profession has attracted individuals with diverse backgrounds such as environmental design, physics, mechanical and civil engineering, graphic design, and photography. As a result, students of lighting design are graduating with a knowledge base and skill level that varies wildly. This has caused growing concern, particularly among practitioners employing new graduates, and has prompted two key questions: What is being taught? And should there be curriculum consistency between academic programs to ensure all graduates of lighting design have the necessary basic lighting knowledge and are better prepared to enter the workplace?
Universities and lighting organizations such as the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and the Professional Lighting Designer's Association (PLDA), as well as other lighting interest groups and committees, have been looking into these questions for at least the past 10 years. In 2007, the PLDA decided to re-examine this issue and take action. An international work group of educators representing France, Germany, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and other countries was formed with the aim to develop and agree to a benchmark of fundamental skills—called the Architectural Lighting Fundamentals (ALF)—to unify basic lighting knowledge among students worldwide. The goal is that no matter where someone receives their lighting education, students are equipped with a similar set of core lighting design skills expected by the professional lighting design industry.
Lighting fundamentals are nothing new. In fact, the IES has been offering basic introductory and advanced level courses in lighting design with the ED-100 and ED-150 lighting classes for more than 20 years. These courses currently are being re-evaluated and updated, and also will allow online participation when completed. While the courses offered by the IES generally are considered to be excellent, and a much-needed resource for those professionals new to the field of light and lighting design, the ALF is specifically aimed at unifying a baseline of “fundamental” lighting skills for students worldwide.
Curriculum Foundations The ALF is envisioned as a core program consisting of 13 basic elements, which are sequenced from beginner to advanced level of study and include the following: