Essay | Inspired by Candlelight

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Having influenced the experience of our daily lives for thousands of years, candlelight is profoundly linked in the human psyche to sensations of warmth, security, comfort, ritual and celebration. Its dancing, ever-changing light transfixes us, combining with the other senses of heat, smell and sound to reconnect us with the elemental forces of earth, wind and fire.

The first recorded use of candles dates from Rome in 500BC, making them one of the earliest 'self-contained' artificial light sources. When you consider that for over 99.9% of human history, the quality of artificial light in interior spaces has been both warm and responsive to its surroundings (fire, torches, oil lamps, candles, and gaslight), you begin to understand why the colder, flatter, steady-state light sources of recent decades can often feel unnatural. Even when this cool light is intended to emulate daylight's natural colour temperature shifts, we find something unsettling about its use in an interior space. Ironically, a warmer, more nuanced light just feels much more natural.

When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, Author

In a number of our projects, we have reflected on the essential nature of candlelight. By drawing out certain qualities and using these to inform the design, we create an experience that feels authentic and comfortable. 


This is light that speaks directly to the soul.

Pannonhalma Monastery, Hungary


Inspired by the original candlelit ambience, we crafted a softly nuanced interplay of light and shade that progressively reveals the form, mass, volume and detail of the architecture. Localised lighting at low level takes the form of a specially cast glass-shaded 'candle', using warm white light to focus attention down to the stalls for the liturgies that require it.

Sackler Crossing, Kew Gardens, London, UK


Appearing to hover above its reflection in the still waters of the lake, we revealed the sinuous form of the Crossing in a warm glow that emanates from below, evoking the ceremonial feel of a pathway lit by a thousand candles.



In Lumine Tuo, Utrecht, Netherlands


Our concept for this unique light installation centres on an abstract view of the iconic 14th Century Dom Church, Dom Tower and Dom Square as valued members of society within the context of the city. Using the dynamic, responsive and multi-tonal language of candlelight, we brought them life, allowing them to breathe and communicate their memories, both as an arresting visual image and as a mesmerising dynamic show.


Vajrasana Buddhist Centre, Suffolk, UK


By carefully bouncing light from the wall behind, we created the impression of a glowing aura surrounding the magnificent 3m statue of Buddha in the Shrine Room of the Centre. The soft golden light helps to mitigate shadows from the overhead spotlighting, creating a soft and natural sense of warmth and serenity that draws people in. 

Gasholders, London, UK


For this project, we punctuated the crisp contemporary architectural lighting with custom fixtures that are designed to bring sparkle and character. An entrance light featuring an internally frosted fluted diffuser brings warmth and depth at the door to each apartment, adding a homely touch. Our bespoke individual lanterns bring personal light at a relatable scale within the soft landscaping and on the roof terrace. Made from fluted glass and copper mesh with a very warm indirect light source, they create a cosy 'candlelit' atmosphere that encourages residents to congregate and socialise nearby.



Virgin Glitterball, T3 Heathrow, London, UK


Gravity defying sculpture by Freestate, appearing to levitate above a flame.

SKP-S, Beijing, China


Although we have to admit that it was not designed with candlelight in mind, we find that our design combines tones of warm light and soft animation on the textured surfaces in a way that recalls the mesmerising effect of looking into a candle – at once enriching and humanising the experience of the façade.