‘You can trace the skylight back to Ancient Rome and
beyond. Even the Egyptians used it when building the
pyramids,’ says Mindseye’s Doug James.
It’s little surprise this technique has such a history,
being the most effective way to get a decent amount of
daylight into an otherwise enclosed space.
So the treatment of the skylight is very much dependent
on how a building is being used. Galleries, like White
Cube in London, left, are likely to want a uniform light
that not only stays constant throughout the space but
also throughout the day.
Mindseye achieved this by installing luminaires on two
separate circuits: cool ‘daylight’ on one and a warmer
white light on the other controlled via dimmers and
sensors. The key to creating artificial daylight is to
blend the two colour temperatures appropriately.
‘The transition should take place over about an hour
so it’s practically unnoticeable,’ adds James, and this is
exactly the effect achieved on White Cube’s opening
night. ‘By the time the guests left, they were all shocked
to find it was dark outside – none of them had realised
that day had turned into night.’
At Young House, designed by Mike Tonkin, the
architect panelled over three windows that looked out
on to a neighbouring wall. The panels let in daylight,
and at night are illuminated from the bottom edge
rather than evoking a natural sense of daylight.
As always, there are caveats. Using clear glass in a
skylight can cause problems because the lighting
equipment is harder to conceal. If reflections are an
issue, it will obviously make it harder to introduce an
electric light source.
‘Lighting can be concealed or integrated into the
vertical surfaces of the skylight as long as the solution
is tidy enough,’ says James. ‘In the past, we’ve run linear
fittings around the edges or perimeter. But you’d need a
flushed linear fitting with a really good quality diffuser
to give an even flat line of light around all four sides.’
Even with a panel to conceal the equipment, it’s
important to consider how a skylight looks from the
‘If the room is overlooked from above,’ says James,
‘what will people be able to see?’
An obvious but critical aspect is maintenance. Extra
care will be needed if a skylight is at the top of a
stairwell, and diffuser panels must be removable in
order to access the equipment behind.
‘Although LEDs have an extremely long lifespan,
at the end of the day they are electronics and so
will eventually fail. So don’t forget to design in access,’
Above: Behind the skylights
at the White Cube Gallery in
London are two dimmable
circuits, one cool and one warm,
which are mixed to mimic and
Opposite: A typical arrangement