Transcendental Light

3 June 2018

"If we do not see a thing well enough we simply demand more light.  And very often we find that it does not help because the quantity of light is not nearly as important as it's quality."

Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Architect and Writer

Daylight, sunlight, the sky, the earth and the clouds are perpetually moving.  This movement continually transforms and refines the quality and quantity of light we see and experience in our daily lives.  Daylight cannot be controlled, only predicted and remodeled.  It changes from day to night, morning to evening both in intensity and colour.  Daylight is a precious and precarious material for us Architects and one I will never fully understand.  Nevertheless, it is always in the forefront of my thoughts, when designing spaces for humans.  Without enough light, you cannot experience Architecture.  Architects are trained to know about latitude and longitude, east and west light, passive and man made filtering system for light, light from the zenith.  How does orientation and coloured glass change the incoming light?  Anyone who has visited Saudi's absolute masterpiece Sagrada Familia can testify.

When allowing light to enter a space, I try to imagine the perspective of a person entering.  So, they enter the door of a square room and there is a window in front of them, facing the equator with sunlight entering.  It stops them from seeing clearly and casts shadows on the floor.  In another scenario, if you entered the room and the same window was in front of you, but the equator facing wall was to the right, with entering light controlled by a high level small opening at the top of the room, then the result would be a dramatic shard of light falling across the elevation in front of you, whilst framing a view that you can see.  The texture of a wall, the colour of a wall or the material on the wall, or the height of the wall, or of course the time of day, are all variables that effect the viewers experience of light in that room.  The control over light Architects have is so powerful and boundless and sadly so misconceived.  All of the timeless Architecture I have ever visited had masterly control of light.

The quality of light is the important thing, not it's quantity.