Space for Learning

The learning space at the South London Gallery utilises a skylight and additional celling-mounted lights. Photo Zoë Tynan-Campbell


Good lighting is a basic requirement. In the majority of spaces this is daylight from windows or top-lit roof glass.

Lighting can be used to change the nature of spaces without having to change any other element – e.g. lunch room to performance area to evening lecture space. Different levels and types of lighting best enable different types of learning. Natural light is important for concentration. Low lux levels of light are helpful for reflection and developing ideas creatively. Bright light is best for collaboration and planning.

Sometimes learning rooms have unavoidably low levels of light (as in basements, attic spaces or where windows are very small or too few or even lacking completely). If this is the case, the situation must be addressed with a lighting plan. 

A lighting plan needs to replicate north light as far as is possible, and the lighting should be capable of change for different uses and at different times of the day.

For example, the room may need to be blacked out at the touch of a switch, or be used for a social/fundraising event, or a launch to celebrate exhibited education work. In each case a different ambience will be needed. This is mostly enabled by up- or down-lighters. In some sophisticated lighting systems the main lights can be adjusted to a range of different settings. Where learning spaces are used in the evenings, the lighting plan must provide sufficient good-quality lighting.

Adjustable task lighting, e.g. desk lights that can be moved, is needed for writing or making. Evening activity requires different lighting from daytime activity to achieve sufficient lux levels without shadows. Learning spaces need adjustable lighting including low, bright and task lighting. If you want to use a space flexibly it is also desirable to be able to change the lighting schemes. These could include being able to:

  • Spotlight two presenters (this is so a speaker and a signer can be lit simultaneously)
  • Create a performance space – this requires the ability to blackout a room
  • Change the colour, pattern and level of lighting to create different atmospheres, for example by using gels over spot lights and/or dimmer switches