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Let There Be Light

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Victor Gruen invented the 20th century shopping mall. What he envisioned is not how the malls developed. Gruen's original idea was what Walt Disney later had in mind for Epcot. Disney died before Epcot was completed and Epcot also changed into something entirely different. But back to the malls. Malls became hulking, dark, poorly located, noisy, tiring, inconvenient places to shop. When the economy took a downturn in the 21st century, many malls became ghost towns. Many of us, and I mean millions of us, prefer to shop online and avoid going to a mall at all. Gruen was furious to have a shopping experience meant to be well located, convenient, calm and pleasant degraded into the modern mall. He said his idea was "bastardized."

Robert Propst invented the office cubicle. Its purpose was to create a space for both privacy and interaction. The cubicle was meant to be large and include multiple people and work surfaces. The tiny box that it became was in Propst's opinion "dehumanizing."

How is this related to the title of this article? What does it have to do with light?

Shopping malls and cubicles have something in common: fluorescent light. Yes, some stores and offices are replacing those lights and some malls have natural light areas; but overall, malls and cubicles are light challenged, stressful places. Gruen and Propst had good intentions. We must live with the reality of those spaces - no we don't!

What is the solution? As far as shopping is concerned, consumers are taking control by flocking to open space shopping areas and are transforming how developers think about the big, dark ugly mall. Choose the natural light over the fluorescent! But what about the cubicle? It can be controlled (though probably not grow larger.) Disconnect the fluorescent lights above your head and put a small lamp or light strip that casts a glow of your liking at your work space. Work outside? Great! But for those that have just that small cubicle for 8, 9 or 10 hours a day, a 30 minute walk outside during a lunch break is not enough.

To be calm/zen, the quality of the light around you is an important. Candles, small task lights, windows large and small, and "mood lighting" really do affect how you feel. Companies still reward some employees with a corner office with a window. On some level, employers know that this is an important perk. Other employers have open spaces with windows for all to enjoy.

Your home can receive the same attention and it doesn't need to include expensive rewiring or fancy light fixtures. Check the internet for lighting solutions beyond what is offered at home improvement stores and furniture stores. Think about lighting in new ways. Battery operated (safer!) candles throughout an apartment or house - even just one candle on a kitchen counter, can have a calming effect.

Be Calm, Be Zen.

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