Theory
ZGW 02 - 08 - 2010

The idea of natural light is one of the oldest forms of sustainable design principles in architecture. Before the electric alternative it was easiest and most efficient method to illuminate a space. Its use is adaptive to need. The Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (bottom image) utilizes natural light in a way not often seen in contemporary architecture. Instead of allowing uncontrolled amounts through a shear wall of glass, it carefully places each beam to achieve maximum effect. The religious space under the heavens of the dome is given immediate drama and religious symbolism through the careful articulation of light. Different spaces within the structure have varying amounts of light and shadow to dictate function along a level of public versus private. The openings left in the wall for the light provide their own version of structural capabilities. The immense weight of the dome is perceived as less due to the narrow supports it receives. Light used like this transcends the effects of time. The Haghia Sophia stands against the modern technology and performs consistently through the centuries. No energy consumed, no waste produced. The contemporary library at Alexandria, Egypt uses natural light in a similar but distinct way. It does not filter in a manner to produce an effect, the goal of the library was even distribution of light for reading. Given the harsh sun of Egypt the potential for solar gain was large. Thus the library had to take an innovative approach to daylight. Contrary to the typical solution of a window wall which limits the amount of natural light received along the extreme edges or center, the library was oriented towards the sun and the roof was turned into a series of skylights. In order to maximize daylight and minimize solar heat gain, a unique baffling system was developed. Glossy materials could still direct natural light in and downward into the library space without the accompanying solar radiation. A unique situation created an innovative solution to a common problem faced by architects. Although largely different than the Haghia Sophia, the library at Alexandria still uses the basic fundamentals of natural lighting to produce an effective interior space.

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