Even back in the early days of Ibiza’s first settlers, life was lived outdoors. The mild climate allows for it but the vernacular also architecture encouraged it with small windows (to keep in the warmth) and large porches for all kinds of work and rest. While these days we might not be using the waning light of dusk to get the last of our embroidery done, we are just as likely to spend the majority of our spring, summer and even autumn days and nights outside. A Blakstad design is always seeking to merge the interior with the exterior, extending the usefulness of outdoor spaces and essentially creating extra living spaces within the natural environment.
The relationship between architecture and light is one of the pillars of design. Good design will always seek the light. Blakstad architect and interior designer Alfredo Cirelli sees outdoor lighting as an essential aspect of not just garden design but the overall architecture of the house. “For me, each space is a unique organism with its own ambience,” he says. “And each space should speak to the design.” When approaching a design, Cirelli utilises the natural cycles of the day and the season to inform his choices, harnessing what nature gives us to provide ambience, mood and beauty.
According to Cirelli, the outdoor spaces of an Ibiza house should generate and invite life. These spaces, close to nature, should invite connection with each other and with oneself, providing a moment to cast the eye over organic shapes and volumes. The outdoors should nourish us just as much as interiors embrace comfort. Lighting is vital to building a bridge between the people inhabiting the space and the world around them.
When it comes to planning exterior illumination, Cirelli takes an organic approach. The details come together as the architecture and interiors are nearing completion. “For five or six months of the year, we are outside so these spaces are very important. Perhaps even more important than the interiors,” he says, preferring to let the landscape and architecture inform the lighting choices rather than imposing a design into a space that refuses to take it. “Of course, you have an idea of what you are going to do,” he explains. “But good design should always be a little bit organic.”
Cirelli is more interested in the quality of the light than the apparatus that delivers it. “Obviously, the requirement of a terrace and a garden are different,” he says. “A terrace is almost like an interior living space.” Terraces, porches and chill outs allow for bold fixtures plus room to play with pendant lighting, chandeliers and lamps according to the tastes of the owner but when it comes to the garden, Cirelli believes lighting should be indirect. “A garden has more focal points, there are views to be captured and volumes to be enjoyed. The lighting will give shape to these elements.”
The garden at night is a place of enchantment. Its shapes, colours and forms should ignite the imagination and contain mystery and magic. Gardens should be places where small children believe in fairies – ones that emit light, of course. New technologies have allowed outdoor lighting to become much more flexible than a string of fairy lights however. “LED technology has been so useful,” says Cirelli. “It permits you to use very small lamps that you can hide or submerge and they give you a lot of flexibility as a designer.” Along with the ecological and financial benefits of long-lasting bulbs, LED technology also helps reduce light pollution, which means the night sky becomes another feature of your outdoor lighting design.
Exterior lighting is not just about adding lights to the garden. It’s about creating an ambience that will travel through all aspects of the design. Views from windows, doors and even from your terrace or porch should inform your design choices. There will be corners of the garden that will be enhanced by shadows or spotlighting and others that benefit from a sense of depth, allowing the eye to travel down romantic pathways towards an area that is beautifully lit. Ambient lighting, washes and floods can promote drama, build contours and highlight architectural features.
Entrances are an area where focused lighting is used not only for the purpose of safety and guidance, but also to incite a mood and show-off the beauty of the house. An archway lit from below can throw shadows in just the right spot and hidden lights under steps cast a welcoming glow. A gathering of friends might benefit from something brighter while a romantic summer evening calls for softness where a dreamlike quality lends voluptuousness to the green spaces.
It’s a mistake to think that the garden is a separate entity to the architecture. As eminent architect Richard Meier said: “Architecture which enters into a symbiosis with light does not merely create form in light, by day and at night, but allows light to become form.” Exterior spaces are the blank canvas on which designers can give form to light. With a lot of room for experimentation and playfulness the garden, porch, terrace or courtyard should build on and further the design of the house, allowing the style and personality of the owners to step out the door and into the lushness of their garden at night.