ARE 04 - 07 - 2010

LET THERE BE LIGHT Natural Light Light is important to us. Of course there is the need to see but the allocation of light may also suggest the importance or focus of a space. There are different qualities of light, however. Dramatic lighting used to highlight or accent features, task lighting for practical illuminatation, and no light, which is often foreboding or used to impair a person. The Jubilee Church and Yungang Grottos use natural light to highlight certain features. The Jubilee Church by Richard Mier in Italy (top image to the right) has different apertures by which light fills the room from behind an image of Jesus on the cross. The dynamic lighting on the starch white surfaces glaring behind the silhouette of Jesus creates a very bold scene. The Yungang Grottos in China (bottom images) is composed of more than 30 caves each filled with many images of Buddha. The giant Buddhas were carved from top to bottom beginning with a large opening at the Buddha's head. The carvers shape the head and the many statues and reliefs in the walls as they dig deeper into the mountain, working their way down. The window that remains highlights the Buddha's head and allows light to fill the cave. Before there was electricity buildings were narrow to allow natural light to as much of the interior spaces as possible. In S. Petersburg, Russia we saw several palaces that were built before electricity. Palaces are large to flaunt their wealth and power. To allow light into the building the rooms are narrow with large windows. Large courtyards in the center of the palace often allows light into more spaces and maintains the illusion of size. Light is important to our lives and comfort. In Poland we visited Auschwitz and saw some of the conditions people were subjected to. As punishment and torture people were held in starvation cells, standing cells, and darkness cells. Just as people need food and rest, the people administering punishments in Auschwitz also recognized the importance of light. People were kept in dark rooms with little ventilation for several days. The Holocaust Museum in Berlin, Germany, by Daniel Liebeskin uses rooms of cold concrete and restricted light to create uncomfortable spaces for visitors to experience. The lack of lighting, or the way a space is lit, can make a person uncomfortable and uneasy. No light can be used as a punishment, lack of light to create uncomfortable spaces, lots of glazing and shallow rooms for adequate/task lighting, and concentrated light for dramatic effect. Light is essential and architecture cannot exist without consideration of how light will affect the spaces in and around it.

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