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God saw how good the light was. Genesis 1:1-5.
The visual and psychological impact of architectural space can be perceptually altered through the integration of artificial (electric) lighting within the built environment. Artificial light has had a tremendous impact on the way in which architecture has been redefined and expressed. Its ability to define, manipulate, distort and create architectural space is the focus of this thesis. By drawing upon historical as well as contemporary examples this thesis demonstrates how artificial light - through its ethereal quality - visually and psychologically affects the tangible qualities of architectural form. The objective of the project is to combine artificial light with structural materials in such a way that the more traditional architectural elements take on a subservient role, allowing the light to become the essence and focal point of the space. The intent is to juxtapose the ephemeral qualities of light with the tangible materials of the site and structures, thus bringing the duality into one experience. Specifically the challenge of this project is to manipulate light so that the ethereal qualities of the light have as much presence and visual weight as the structural elements used within the building. The design intent is to create a Community Action Resource Center on the south lawn of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on the Cincinnati riverfront which works in conjunction with the Freedom Center and its values. By manipulating artificial light the project goal is to create a structure that becomes a literal and symbolic beacon as the Action Resource Center, for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the overall Greater Cincinnati community.
Chapter one will briefly touch upon prehistoric references to artificial light and suggest that prehistoric man’s ability to manipulate fire enabled him to penetrate deep within the crevices of the earth, thus establishing one of the earliest accounts of defining and manipulating space. This chapter will also refer to the Lighthouse of Alexandria on the ancient Island of Pharos in order to demonstrate one of the first truly integrated examples of artificial light within architecture. The reference shows the presence of artificial light giving meaning to the architecture. In closing, chapter one will recall an account of the festive illumination of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during the late 18th Century in order to address the notion that artificial light can perceptually alter the presence of architecture and architectural form by effectively reducing the structure to a “mere scaffolding” for the lights. Chapter two will analyze the visual and psychological dematerialization of architectural elements and architectural space through the varying techniques of incorporating artificial light into the built environment. The primary focus of this chapter is to demonstrate the ways in which the ephemeral qualities of light affect the more tangible properties of traditional architectural elements and materials. This chapter will show how the technique of outlining the edge of architecture and architectural elements will visually reduce the surface and mass of the architecture itself. In addition this chapter will address the physical dematerialization of architectural ornamentation due to the distortion created by floodlighting skyscrapers from below. Finally, this chapter will discuss the full integration of artificial lighting within the form of buildings in order to emphasize the early twentieth century utopian ideals as expressed through modernism and crystal light architecture. Through analysis and photographic examples, chapter three will focus on the phenomenon of architectural duality – architecture of the day and architecture of the night – as well as architecture of the material and architecture of the immaterial. The intent of this chapter is to reinforce the notion that architecture not only has visual presence during the day, but since the integration of artificial lighting within the fabric of the built environment, it has an equal if not a more dynamic presence during the night. In addition, this chapter will begin to question the possibility that architecture can cross from the realm of the material into the realm of immaterial, ephemeral light architecture. Chapter four of this thesis will posit that artificial light can at least theoretically be regarded as architecture and architectural space. By juxtaposing tangible building elements and materials with more ephemeral and temporal qualities of light, chapter four will question whether lighting, either a single, solitary beam of light controlled in a very definitive manner or a multitude of lights flooding an area, can hold the same distinction as a wall, a column or, perhaps in an extreme scenario, architectural space. Chapter four raises the possibility that artificial lighting can generate a form that will ultimately be accepted as architecture. And if true, is it something that can be actualized today or is it limited not by our imagination but by our current technological capabilities? Finally, chapter five will address the design proposal which is intended to substantiate the notion that the physical structure can take on a more subservient role to that of the lighting technique. The goal of the design is to generate a form that will allow artificial light to create, define and give meaning to a physical tangible architectural space by juxtaposing the ephemeral qualities of light with the tangible materials of the site and structures, thus unifying the dual nature of architecture into one experience. In effect, the role of light within this context extends beyond its scientific definitions and electromagnetic properties, alluding to the inner 2
Historically, all buildings were designed with a single source of light in mind – the sun. The beauty and splendor of the space was determined largely by the skill with which natural light was used within the space. The significance and symbolic power of light as it is incorporated within architecture has always been venerated for its ability to penetrate darkness and to create visual space, rhythm, and order. Eventually, the integration of artificial light 1 with architectural spaces began to take on an equally vital role within the overall fabric of the built environment. In this regard, light – whether naturally produced by the sun or artificially generated by man – defines the way in which humans relate to their surroundings and ultimately to architecture and architectural spaces. According to Dietrich Neumann in Architecture of the Night, “No other artistic medium of the twentieth century has crossed the boundaries between art and commerce, technological display and utopian vision, easy entertainment and demagogic politics as effortlessly as this.”2 In effect, light – in particular artificial light – has had a tremendous impact in the way in which architecture and architectural spaces have been redefined and reinterpreted, thus perceptually altering the meaning of architecture. Keeping this in mind, this thesis will demonstrate how the visual and psychological meaning of architecture and architectural space can be perceptually altered through the integration of artificial light within the built environment. By drawing upon historical as well as contemporary examples this thesis will demonstrate how artificial light, through its ethereal quality, perceptually affects and redefines the substantial, tangible qualities of architecture and architectural form.
The city prospered and Ptolemy realized that the city needed a symbolic structure as well as an effective way to safely guide ships into its busy harbor. which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe witnessed and later recalled in his (1786-1788) Italian Journey memoirs. Ptolemy Soter became the new ruler. though feeble and short-lived. be it a single focused beam of artificial light or the powerful display of natural light against the surfaces. To see the beautiful form of the church and its dome as a fiery elevation is a view both grand and charming. 8 St Peter’s Basilica was not initially built to incorporate the lights that encircled the massive dome. I would like to create a space where the role of light. it is an early example of how. scientists agree that prehistoric man began to use fire as a source of warmth and light. “To see the colonnade. the Lighthouse of Alexandria is perhaps one of the first truly integrated examples of artificial light within architecture. Prehistoric Man and Artificial Lighting Light is a powerful icon of spiritual enlightenment in the human psyche.”2 According to the legend. The significance of this discovery is that the light generated from the flame enabled prehistoric man to seek shelter from the elements deeper within the crevices of the earth where sunlight could not penetrate. Northern Spain. The association between the name and the function of the structure was so strong that the word “Pharos” ultimately became the root word of “lighthouse” in several languages. It was during the reign of Alexander the Great that a new city approximately twenty miles west of the Nile delta was formed. 4 A lift was constructed within the interior of the structure in order to transport the fuel needed to generate the light. International Expositions and World’s 4 . architecture. the primary. mirror was used to project a beam of light from the source out to sea. function and purpose of this structure was to house the light so that others could find comfort and sanctuary with its illumination.000-9. Prometheus.C to build a lighthouse on the ancient island of Pharos. In addition. within the built environment can be symbolic of the “Power of One”: the power of one thought. thus affording modern man the opportunity to reflect upon his own history. at this moment. gas light and in later installations bright electric arc lights) were assembled in order to display the awe-inspiring capabilities of current technologies to illuminate prominent architecture and architectural spaces. Keeping this in mind. According to legend. the church and the mass. One such example was the festive illumination of St. thus linking artificial lighting to the earliest examples of “architecture”. but they did not compare with the illuminations of the church… It seemed entirely like a scene from a fairy tale. Light gives meaning to darkness and elevates the human spirit to a higher realm. We often define our essence. by fastening lighting fixtures onto the façade and structure of the building. each built on top of the other. The Greek myth of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man is but one legend of how man acquired fire. as artificial light was utilized as an ornamental feature in architectural designs. Peter’s Basilica in Rome In later centuries. essence and soul of an individual. reflective. When one thinks that. the whole enormous building is a mere scaffolding for the lights. if not sole. the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the overall community of the Greater Cincinnati area. provisions were made in 1547 to permanently attach candleholders around the dome to facilitate future festivals of illumination. the light that was thrown off the tower at night could be detected up to one hundred miles away.power. The Festival of St. Its relationship to us is deeply rooted and primal. 5 Eventually the name Pharos was given to the new structure. a lighthouse has no “real meaning” and no “intrinsic value” without the presence of light. Ptolemy commissioned Sostrates of Knidos around 270 B. The transformation of the surfaces and textures of the building by the reflection and refraction of light. Prometheus. believed to have been painted sometime between 16. is symbolic of the transformations we go through when we choose to exercise our voice. is a unique and glorious experience. whether fur or feathers or strength or swiftness. curved. our power. whose name means “forethought”. Goethe writes. Shortly after the death of Alexander. And now. The ability to harness light through artificial means has been revered as one of the most powerful endeavors undertaken by mankind. candles. the festivals and exhibitions of the nineteenth century were designed to display tremendous technical advancements in the field of artificial lighting. one voice. and in the case of St Peter’s. and the knowledge to make fire in due course afforded him a great degree of autonomy over his own environment. one act. ARTIFICIAL LIGHT + DEMATERIALIZATION Outlining: Reduction of Mass and Surface Unlike the festive illumination of St Peter’s Basilica. Although the mythology of Prometheus has been widely recorded. Therefore I am proposing to design an Action Resource Center on the south lawn of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center which works in conjunction with the Freedom Center and its values. Mankind has flaming fire and therefore learns many crafts. Regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. our presence. in particular artificial light. in effect. fire was not only used to generate heat and to cook with but to illuminate the interior of caves so that life deep within the caves would be possible and such paintings could be magnificently produced.000 BC. one realizes that nothing like it could be seen anywhere else in the world… The fireworks were beautiful because of the setting. through the gift of fire — artificial light — bestowed upon man the wisdom of the arts and sciences and. one person. however. In addition. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. the integration of artificial lighting within these structures became a necessity. our soul and our understanding of our place in the universe through the representation of light. 6 This architecture was intentionally designed to act as a beacon of light whereby ships could safely navigate during the night. a large. which was purely decorative in nature. light was successfully integrated within architecture. The Lighthouse of Alexandria 3 As man moved out of the caves and began to create his own dwellings. a protection to men far better than anything else. and was constructed of marble blocks and lead mortar. it became evident that this integration of lighting perceptually enhanced and altered the architectural form. a story which is retold in one form or another throughout history. the fact that artificial light made it possible for prehistoric man to see within the caves indirectly helped preserve the paintings from the elements for many thousands of years.” 7 Many of these festivals were held regularly. Perhaps more than any other type of formal architectural space. Evidence of prehistoric man using artificial light (fire) to control his environment can be seen in the astonishing paintings found within the caves at Altamira. took pity on man and “went to heaven. to the sun. Therefore. had three distinct stages. 3 In this example. Moreover the design will be a structure that becomes a literal and symbolic beacon for the Action Resource Center. the structure was approximately 450 to 600 feet tall. According to historic accounts. Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries many festivals (incorporating fireworks. where he lit a torch and brought down fire.
” which surrounded large reflecting pools. “Edison.2 Edison’s Tower of Light. the 1882. While the results were effective. it wasn’t until the first part of the twentieth century that those lighting techniques were cohesively integrated within the fabric of major industrialized cities. Dubbed the “White City. architects. particularly when links of incandescent lamps were used to accentuate the shape of the building by tracing the outline of the structures. This simple act of outlining buildings drew the spectators’ attention to the perimeter of the form. architecture could no longer be created solely for its physical. The style. the depiction of the Beaux-Arts Classicism which was manifested in the many domes. writes in Raymond Hood. However. the first electric sign simply spelled out a single word.”6 This led to tension between the artistic uses of lighting and the commercial application of lighting and perpetuated the lack of communication between architects and lighting engineers. Another event that had a tremendous impact on American urban planning with regard to artificial lighting was the 1893 Columbian Exposition. artificial lighting was for some time strictly used within the context of World Fairs. now was beginning to have visual presence and impact during the night. but he also outlined the main architectural features with over 130. such as the 1881 International Electricity Exposition in Paris. Although this may not have been the intent of the architects and designers. Expositions. As mentioned above. Architect: Form 5 Through Function in the American Skyscraper. but rather was introduced through commercialization as a means to illuminate advertisements and billboards. was completely decorated with multicolored lamps that were sequenced to flash on and off in tune with music. visual and psychological presence during the day. thus visually and perceptually dematerializing the mass and form of the building. Although the intention was to create a utopian urban environment through the “City Beautiful” movement idealized in the United States. arches. Although the technology was available to artificially illuminate many industrialized cities throughout the world. At the time. Aptly. expositions and festivals. sometimes cooperating with built architecture. engineers and the like to create an ideal model city.000 incandescent lamps.”3 Architecture. created a homogeneous environment in which the utopian vision of an ideal urban setting could be displayed. In other words. which had historically been designed to manipulate and be manipulated by natural daylight.Fairs have often provided testing grounds for new and innovative approaches and technologies in the world of architecture and design. a crystal-capped column which stood eighty-two feet tall. This vision was perhaps best seen during the night when the lighting scheme greatly enhanced and magnified the purity of the utopian city. Another technique used in the 1893 Columbian Exposition was to utilize searchlights with color filters in order to wash the facades of the buildings in green. Luther Stieringer. perhaps the first structure designed specifically for its illuminated appearance at night.where the lighting literally devised its own grand public space and filled it with its own monumental forms. Kentucky in 1883. Here was an unprecedented collaboration between artists. Floodlighting: Architecture and Advertising The turn of the century opened up a new world of industrialization. festival and exposition lighting did not make a rapid shift into the general fabric of the urban environment. it is important to acknowledge the fact that architecture during the early twentieth century was beginning to take on an equally prominent and powerful role during the night as it once did only during the day.4 “It is in the exhibitions of the 1880’s that complexly manipulated light becomes programmed to constitute what was very nearly a second architectural presence… . many critics viewed the overwhelming display of brightly lit signs and billboards (in many instances anchored to the facades of buildings) as chaotic and visually over-stimulating. harmony. Walter H Kilham Jr. particularly in the world of electricity and artificial lighting. the whole country was awakened to the possibilities of the new medium that had made a fairyland of the Fair at night. these venues provided a spectacular environment to show off the potential of artificial illumination. For the first time a lighting engineer. The integration and combined use of gas lights. pushed the limits of artificial lighting and dazzled the spectators in a show of lights and architecture.a ‘veritable architecture of the night’ .” The result was that illuminated signs and billboards were ubiquitously placed throughout major cities and ultimately were redefining the cities’ visual character and quality. And during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when artificial lighting was taking on a new role within the context of architectural spaces. and consequently the main body and façade of the buildings receded into the black of the night. thereby visually accentuating the edges and ultimately minimizing the mass of the structure. Not only did he utilize arc lamps in order to light the streets and pathways. the architecture did take on a secondary role and became the “scaffolding” on which the lighting fixtures could be anchored. fairs and festivals during the nineteenth century demonstrated fantastic displays of lighting in conjunction with architectural forms. Although these festivals provided a fantasy — an escape from one’s daily life — they also began to draw attention to the new phenomena of architecture for the night and the newly realized dualism of architecture. This was particularly evident in the United States. and its design potential at night was just beginning to be understood. social and historical sites and events. the effect of outlining the structure with lights created glare around the edges. In effect. Many companies and advertisers realized the economic potential brought about through artificial lighting and capitalized on the opportunity to brightly illuminate their advertisements. scarlet. blue. the lighting scheme transformed the “White City” into a surrealistic and illusive composition of lights. “…although a city skyline seen from the distance was an impressive sight. In describing the effects of the artificial lighting used in the 1893 Columbian Exposition. and arcades. Kentucky. The structures became the canvas on which the new technology and desire to create such spectacles could be expressed. color and fantasy. a great deal of emphasis was placed on the nocturnal appearance of the buildings and structures at World’s Fairs and International Expositions. Edison’s 1879 “invention” of the incandescent lamp within the structures at the festivals.” the underlying theme of the fair was unity and utopia. This was because the lighting festivals and displays were temporary as well as revolutionary. worked in collaboration with architects at the Southern Exposition in Louisville. One of the main attractions was the Electric Building (Edison’s Tower of Light). Initially. “With the Chicago Fair of 1893. the primary function of artificial lighting was to create visual and psychological drama to celebrate and emphasize significant political. Stieringer’s solution to incorporating artificial lighting within the built environment was to trace the form of the building with strings of incandescent bulbs. Luther Stieringer was once again commissioned to create the lighting design. at closer range the electric signs had become an element in the tug of war between signs and buildings that had characterized the main streets of American towns since the 1840s. arc lights and Thomas A. color and scale of the “White City. In effect. And because of the technological advancements in the field of artificial lighting. sometimes not. 1 Similar events. The festival celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America and demonstrated to the world America’s cultural and economic growth within the larger global context. artificial illumination as it was utilized at the public festivals provided an opportunity to appreciate and understand the dualism of architecture: architecture of the day and architecture of the night. provided artificial lighting that became a catalyst through which contemporary man could view his built environment. According to American Studies Professor David Nye. International Electricity Exposition in Munich and the Southern Exposition in Louisville. and it was during that time when tremendous advances were made. ironically reflected strong European cultural ideals. Although this notion will be addressed in greater depth later within the thesis.”5 Architecture in these festivals now had significant presence and power at night. the observer’s eye was inevitably drawn to the edge of the form. where architects were rather suspicious of lighting 6 . particularly at night. In essence.
taking into account methods of effectively incorporating lighting design and lighting fixtures as a direct response to the building itself.engineers’ objectives. The art of incandescent outlining…could probably not be improved upon. gradually disappearing into the night. In 1916. This thought is expressed in David Nye’s American Technological Sublime: “As more skyscrapers were built which realized the possibilities of dramatic lighting.13 This new ordinance provided an opportunity for architects such as Wallace Harrison. illumination literally directed the consumer’s eyes away from poor areas toward commercial zones. and Mount Rushmore. and furthermore. Old Faithful. Artificial lighting was used to manipulate the urban setting. For example.”16 A shift had been made from the previous practice of attaching lights to the façades and edges of buildings. architects were now able to design for the appropriate type and use of artificial lighting in conjunction with the overall architectural intent. “It is not so much a skyline as it is a new city of light and color rising above an old one…The illuminated towers of Manhattan are fast multiplying and the application of floodlights to their summits has brought about a fascinating aspect of 8 . the incorporation of artificial lighting indirectly supported a shift from a more classical architectural expression towards a more modern esthetic. In response to the growing antagonism between architects and lighting engineers. the suppression or complete obliteration of architectural features.’ ” In addition. created laboratories to demonstrate the effects and proper use of lighting technology. use of ornamentation and material colors when designing buildings for illumination. different lighting strategies were recommended by lighting engineers to accentuate particular aspects of the architecture. concrete and glass. 1925 New York Times article titled New York’s Crown of Light.8 One of the more controversial topics in Walker’s lecture was the popular practice of outlining the perimeter of buildings with strings of incandescent lamps. and would consequently. and demonstrated the effects of color rendering on such materials. As a result. General Electric recommended uniformly floodlighting simple buildings to emphasize their mass. wrote. the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America was founded in 1906 in the hopes of creating collaborative works with architects to incorporate permanent architectural lighting within the fabric of conventional industrialized cities. As a result. this method of outlining the structure unintentionally resulted in the dematerialization of the building elements and materials. as the fading out of lights from the bottom to the top exaggerates the perspective. According to Walker. In a February 8. the Natural Bridge. once artificial lighting became technologically advanced enough to successfully illuminate a structure. Its principle disadvantages were the diminution of artistic effectiveness at close range. In addition. By the 1920’s.’ ”15 In effect. By highlighting some portions of the city and leaving other areas as unimportant blanks.14 since the distortion created by the projection of light from below would alter the sense of proportion fundamental to classicism. the Capitol Building.”11 As a result. textures. Government applied the same principles to public monuments. This shift in the direction of the light source greatly distorted the buildings’ ornamentation by casting awkward shadows that were not initially intended in the design of the buildings. “ ‘vertical lighting from below adds the element of mystery. in Architecture of the Night: The Illuminated Building. the technique of outlining main buildings for the festivals was eventually curtailed. this form of lighting had… become commonplace…. “Electric light was considered a potential new building material that could bring about conceptual changes as profound as those caused by the arrival of steel and plate glass in the nineteenth century and justify visions of a future luminous architecture. because this artificial lighting was directed from below. in which he addressed the potential of architectural lighting and its overall effect on architectural form. architect Raymond Hood suggested that illuminating classical architecture must be altogether avoided. For the most part commercial interests decided which objects were to be visible in this new landscape. because of the required setbacks. Harvey Wiley Corbett and Raymond Hood to take advantage of the required setbacks in order to hide the lighting fixtures that were used to floodlight their structures. “The buildings of previous expositions had in the main been used as a background upon which to display lamps. technology in the field of artificial lighting had improved significantly and a shift had been made from outlining buildings and surface lighting signs and billboards to floodlighting the façades of buildings. the glare from so many exposed sources when assembled on white or light-colored buildings caused severe eye strain. during the mid 1920s. began research on the effects of lighting on different building materials such as brick. According to Neumann. requiring setbacks for all newly constructed skyscrapers. Lighting engineers capitalized on this opportunity and began to promote the use of floodlighting to corporations and city officials as a means to reduce the overexposure of visual advertising and to promote a more refined approach to marketing. the idea of a city’s night skyline became a commonplace… .”17 This simple statement by Dietrich Neumann in Architecture of the Night captures perhaps one of the most significant and noteworthy ideas regarding a shift in architectural styles towards a more “modern” and unadorned esthetic. the city of New York passed a new Zoning Ordinance.”10 In addition. The use of color-changing floodlights to draw attention to the architecture also provided a new visual allure at night. But according to Dietrich Neumann. and the setbacks and terraces provide ideal places for the operation of the lights. D’Arcy Ryan.7 In 1907 architectural professor C. the author.” In it. According to Walker. hoping to educate and encourage architects to design with artificial lighting. “a great simplification of architectural features was recommended. Walker felt that architectural lighting should be deliberately thought out and that carefully planned floodlighting of the façade should be reserved for significant buildings that deserved special attention though illumination. similarity in effects from different viewpoints. However. and other national and local symbols. They are merely set pieces of permanent fireworks.”12 This innovative technique of illuminating the façades of buildings was predominantly seen throughout the United States and became more popular amongst critics. article entitled “Illumination of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In addition. wrote. and seeing the building disappear up into the night gives it increasing height. and the economic necessity of extensive untreated surfaces. by simplifying the ornamental façade of such buildings to reduce the distortion. strength and stability. Architects and designers had for centuries designed their buildings to receive light from above. Furthermore. a theory for and architecture of the night. Special attention had to be given to lighting architectural ornamentation. fearing that the lighting scheme would conflict with the design intention of the architectural form. since it may be distorted by the inappropriate angling of a light source.” 9 In effect. For example. in describing the Manhattan skyline. “The lamps might as well be erected as a framework in the air. emphasizing certain parts of the city and simultaneously suppressing less desirable parts of the city. Lighting engineers. The numerous suggestions resulting from General Electric’s research helped to promote architectural modernity and began to form a framework of rules. This notion was once again reiterated in a May 4. General Electric. controlled lighting was used in order to honor historical events and promote civic pride within the context of the city. and a more cohesive integration of architecture and architectural lighting was becoming a reality. “… reduce the mass. detailing and ornamentation had to be reexamined. The intention was to illuminate the buildings without leaving any visible traces of the light source attached to the buildings. this type of lighting design would create a visual void out of the architectural mass. Lighting engineers wanted architects to take into consideration the selection of building materials. surface and details of the architecture it adorned. façade and structure. the Chief of Illumination for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and General Electric’s chief lighting designer. 1916. architects and lighting designers who were beginning to discuss the intrinsic value of designing architecture for its appeal at night. Hood found that modern skyscrapers with intentional setbacks were “ ‘most easy to illuminate successfully …as the lights can be arranged to stream up the vertical forms of the building. finishes. the White House. lighting up the Statue of Liberty. including Niagara Falls. Eventually this was extended to natural landmarks. This new approach to “architecture of the night” significantly changed 7 the way buildings were designed. Howard Walker gave a lecture entitled “Electric Light as Related to Architecture” to the architectural and lighting engineering community.
”25 Architecture made of glass. illuminated. Paul Scheerbart. wrote a great deal about the power created by the use of glass in illuminated architecture. designed by Raymond Hood and Andre Fouilhoux. 1909) As the geometrical sublime was intensified. While architects in cities such as Paris. New York.”18 One example to which the article refers is the American Radiator Building. towers. without direction. According to Harrison. an observer noted that. Perhaps one of the clearest accounts of the growing understanding of the role of artificial lighting in conjunction with architecture is a statement made by Wallace Harrison. The power that was shaping modern politics and modern civilization was manifest in these great technological developments. twenty-one stories above the street.’ (London Times. “Yet far more impressive to most of the citizenry was the man-made aurora borealis that proclaimed the arrival of the city as a supreme artificial construction. with plenty of brass…Its receding pinnacles and piers. The association between the utopian vision of purity. scholars and designers reacted to the floodlighting 10 . or opaque. surmounted by a circular crown-like edifice. stand out in glittering gold.”19 According to David Nye. “with a glass surface to his right. then the glass structure will appear opaque. which afforded the urban planners. depending on the position of the observer and the position of the light source in relationship to the observer. Because of the reflective quality of glass. a thing that works twentyfour hours a day. “…an aggressive individual. This rather gloomy building of black terra-cotta thrusts through the traffic below like a great stalagmite struggling to reach the sky and at last. Moreover. after nightfall. And it was Peter Behrens who greatly influenced and set the tone for many architects such as Walter Gropius. But now the ability to control the source becomes the key. pinnacles turrets and minarets that even now rise above the city streets. and Philadelphia had to work within the existing fabric of the city and were forced to deal with issues of illuminating what was already present within the cityscape. “Up to a few years ago. In addition. spirituality and light is ever present. the novice visitor advanced blindly. the incorporation of lighting within the built environment forever changed the appearance of city skylines during the night.”23 The significance of Behrens becoming the artistic consultant for AEG is that he became a direct link between the architectural community and the lighting engineering community. Germany in particular began to take advantage of illuminating its streets. The allure of American industrialization eventually led Germany to view America as a model for the much anticipated modernization of Germany. October 4. Backlighting: New Architectural Façade During this time.architectural art. Bruno Taut presented his Glass Pavilion at the Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne. the visual and psychological dematerialization of architectural elements can be seen through the interaction of glass and light. The author describes the Radiator Building as. an unashamed and genuine show-off. Thus it can be argued that the rise of modernism and the modern movement was in some ways linked to the incorporation of artificial lighting into architectural forms. Ultimately. Seen on a misty night. The same principle would hold true in reverse at night with artificial light. completed in 1924. architect Peter Behrens became the artistic consultant for the Allgemeine Elektricitats-Gesellschaft (AEG) the German equivalent of General Electric. In 1914. the buildings ceased to exist… For centuries the architect has done nothing but study buildings in the daytime. If the practice continues the glory of the cloud-hung castles of Camelot will pale before the reality of the illuminated citadels. steaming and smoking against low-hung clouds. the city temporarily dissolved into a shimmering artificial pattern. In 1907.”20 This article suggested that the effect artificial lighting had on the appearance of the individual buildings as well as the overall energy it brought to the city skyline far surpassed the appearance of such buildings during the day. Germany had long been fascinated with American technology.had become a reality. public squares and buildings in order to put forward an impression of its intent to become a new world power.22 According to Stanford Anderson in his Peter Behrens and a New Architecture for the Twentieth Century. architecture and in particular the American metropolis. among translucent. an observer located on the inside of the glass enclosure would be able to see through the structure and the glass would take on a transparent quality. who in due course set into motion what has become known as the architectural Modern Movement. its glowing summit leaves an indelible impression. can appear as transparent. Germany wished to create the vision of a “new” capital in Berlin. The electrical sublime had turned New York into a unified work of art that dazzled the public imagination….24 When describing The Glass Pavilion.”21 The dualism of architecture – architecture for the day and architecture for the night . but by night under the electrician’s skill they were shown to be capable of transformations which suggested rather palaces and dreams than the sober realities of the modern Land of the Dollar. given the same conditions. The observer who is on the darker side of the glass structure would be able to see through the glass structure. [It was the responsibility of the lighting engineers to] bring their knowledge to the attention of the architects… You have given us a new architecture. “…Behrens received the AEG position that also provided him with the stimulus for a compelling zeitgeist. German critics. The glass reflects images of the surrounding environment such as the sky or other buildings. On the other hand. Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. translucent. of industry and of electricity was apparent. The Neo-Gothic style of the building with its black bricks conveyed a distinguished and imposing appearance and its “crown” was adorned with gilded ornamentation at the peaks of the setbacks. The London Times noted: ‘Skyscrapers are not by day remarkable for grace or beauty of line. an early 20th century utopian writer. For example. the display announced engineering’s supremacy over the Beaux Arts tradition. underfoot and overhead. an architect who worked with Howells and Corber on the design of the Pennsylvania Power Plant and who later would be the prime architect for the United Nations Complex. The modernity of the machine. The Glass Pavilion was illuminated from the inside out to make the building “glow like a lantern. Thus. like a pagan temple. and dematerialized effects. engineers and architects the opportunity to design an illuminated city with greater understanding of the potentials of artificial lighting. Berlin was a relatively young city in comparison to more established cities such as Paris and New York. and the strongest source of light is coming from the outside (the sun). In other words. if an individual is positioned on the outside of a glass structure during the day. watching over the theatrical glare of Broadway to the west. Prior to World War II. who himself was influenced by the illumination schemes at festivals of the nineteenth century. it was these visionaries who were able to realize the new wave of modernist utopian ideals through their designs of luminous glowing architecture and architectural space. Germans perceived the surface-lit signs and billboards anchored to the buildings in the United States as esthetically distracting and chaotic. even new attractions such as Palisades Park along the Hudson River received far less attention than the newly animated and radiant skyline of New York City. the angle of light can either visually solidify or visually dematerializes the glass surfaces. left. but the individual on the illuminated side of the glass structure would see the mirrored image of the space around him. His ideological and utopian vision to create ambiguous spatial definitions through the incorporation of artificial light and transparent glass were actualized through many of Bruno Taut’s designs and were eventually reflected in the architecture of Berlin during the 1920s. Although the emergence of illuminated architecture and illuminated advertising tied directly with modernity. and has worked only on that basis… we are really starting an entirely new art in architecture with modern lighting. 9 Another factor that contributed to the architecture in Berlin was the fact that German lighting designers had a more collaborative relationship with the leading architects of the time. it bursts into a defiant glare of golden light. architects and lighting engineers in Berlin could more easily integrate artificial lighting within the design of the new architecture. An architecture of the “sublime” in effect belonged to architecture of the night.” a phrase used by Scheerbart.
and the thing gains its presence. Mendelsohn and his contemporaries illuminated their architecture and signs both from the interior as well as from the interstitial cavities built into their façades. This new design technique strongly reflected the utopian ideas of Scheerbart and began to evolve into “crystalline architecture. “…like a glowing curtain hanging down from the sky. In order to create backlight signs. architects. limiting its function to a particular period of the day would rob it of its full potential. Mendelsohn was able to visually remove the obstacle that existed between the potential customer and the merchandise. His travels to America in 1924 afforded Mendelsohn the opportunity to see the impact lighting billboards and buildings had on human perception regarding the consumer benefits of industrialization and modernization. The white curtains which hung within the windows provided a surface off which the light could reflect into the street. but also a composition of sentiment and experience.” 30 In his design.. But it also proves that in the continuum of an urban street. “The new lighting technology seemed to provide the means to overcome traditional structure. “Instead of billboards in front of the windows as in America. Consequently. design problems in the nocturnal city. In addition to being among the more prominent designers of his generation. in which extremes come into direct contact — light meets shadow and material meets immaterial — is where the true essence of the impact of light upon architecture lies. 12 . so that it can be treated independently. inspirational as well as fundamentally intuitive.. where you sell an entire façade and work behind it in artificial light. “… the sense of the store’s bulk. and bold Lichtreklame. One of Mendelsohn’s design intentions was to combine transparent glass with light in order to blur the boundary between the inside and the outside of the department store. an architect in Berlin (1926).32 According to Alfred Gellhorn. others argued that the lighting techniques in conjunction with the new glass facades made it possible to visually penetrate the space. particularly in Berlin.of architecture in the United States with apprehension and skepticism. By illuminating the sidewalk from within. The application of light address challenges associated with designing spaces that are evocative. Berlin was a new city. and lettering and luminous panels. Erich Mendelsohn had been exposed to the architectural styles and architectural lighting techniques that had been used in modern industrial cities such as New York. One without the other would not be possible. Walter Riezler wrote. it is equally as important to maintain the integrity of the structure’s presence during the day as it is during the night. come into being. pre-fabricated illuminated panels were invented with artificial lighting built into them to give the illusion that the light was coming from the inside. When the sun strikes a thing. and the nocturnal city was envisioned as the stage for the final. Since the end on the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.1 This inseparable connection is clearly expressed through the words of Christian NorbergSchultz: “Light and things belong together. and his desire to fuse architecture and advertising as a means to convey modernity was realized in the 1928 design of the Petersdorff department store. however. The rest are windows. Light can only be defined in relation to darkness.’ ”29 Mendelsohn’s philosophy was manifest throughout his career. It is a fact that commercial buildings don’t have an architectural façade anymore. the façade has become distinct from the structure behind it.Industry…is the starting point and bearer of the development that leads from the decay of civilization to a new creative culture. It seems to contradict all principles of sound architecture. The acceptance of “Architecture of the Night”1 had become a reality. the collusion between artificial lighting and glass began to dematerialize the architecture and in particular the façade.28 In 1928. light becomes aware of itself.”35 By the same token. They saw no sense of unity and harmony between the architecture and the signs.”36 According to Neumann. Mendelsohn used large spans of clear glass ribbon windows that ran the length of one façade. along with the incorporation of the artificial lighting. the effect caused by illuminating the windows from within was.” architecture that literally glowed from the inside out. liberating act in the project of Modern Architecture. This duality. or illuminated advertisements. it inevitably created the necessary means and places of production…. As seen in these examples. the cohesive nature of the relationship between artists. Thus day and night. “…one of the most remarkable and least known architectural debates of the Weimar Republic…went beyond luminous advertising to include the role of artificial light as a new building material. symbolic.. commercialization and artificial lighting were perceived during the 1920s and 30s. and lighting engineers led to a more comprehensive approach to design. This merging of light and architectural elements was a true integration of artificial lighting within the architecture itself. earth and sky. the understanding and appreciation of architecture during the night became of paramount concern due to the advent of electric lighting. their skin is 11 merely the scaffolding for advertising signs. This design solution. The new architectural and urban designs in Berlin demonstrated how architecture and architectural lighting had become interdependent. And darkness can only be defined as the absence of light. In Germany. added to old and new buildings alike. “ ‘Industrial construction is thus leading the way to the new architecture. revealing the structure and occupants within. visually reduced. different approaches in Germany and America. we can design facades that fulfill their spatial purpose. and finally utopian visions of an immaterial.”27 Erich Mendelsohn was one of the leading architects who greatly influenced the way in which architecture. Erich Mendelsohn argued that. As industry discovered the new materials or caused their discovery. In addition. advertisements and signs in Berlin were quickly incorporated and built into the framework of new buildings in an effort to “…raise the esthetic standards of modern industry and commerce…”26 This shift in values sparked a new approach to design in which. The sun was the constant in the sky and its effects on the built environment dictated the way design and lighting in particular was approached. In addition. one must also accept and recognize the power of darkness. ephemeral architecture as the ultimate fulfillment of modernity.”33 acting as the surface on which to incorporate the advertisement and also becoming the façade of the buildings. and we comprehend the meaning of the first words: ‘Let there be light!’” 2 One of the interesting outcomes of assimilating light into architecture is that it is not only a play on allusion and illusion. Although the intensity and power of artificial light is more dramatic when it is in contrast to darkness. Mendelsohn cantilevered the curvilinear corner of the structure four and a half meters beyond the final column line of the structure. “Advertising is about to replace the architecture. Architectural detailing and articulation addressed the fundamental understanding that light would strike the surfaces and penetrate into a space from above. According to Mendelsohn.”31 Unlike the Americans who primarily focused on floodlighting the façades of their structures. particularly at night. which enabled its architects to create structures that worked within the immediate goals of the city’s philosophy. “The fact that the redesign of facades has become a serious architectural task is not without fundamental implications. For thousands of years architecture was designed for and was primarily revered for its presence during the day. thus dematerializing the façade with artificial light. In 1927. translucent glass panels were situated above the windows in order to house the lighting fixtures. This reinforced the utopian ideals of the German Modern Movement which emphasized the need to break down the boundary between the exterior and the interior. architect Hugo Haring stated that. Architecture now had visual weight and presence both during the day and the night. “Prewar facades were refaced in new architectural styles.”37 ARTIFICIAL LIGHT + ARCHITECTURAL DUALITY Architecture of the Day / Architecture of the Night To fully understand the power of light. According to Dietrich Neumann in his book Architecture of the Night.”34 Although there were many concerns regarding the evolution of architecture and architectural lighting during the 1920s and 1930s.
One example of this is the dynamic architectural lighting technique of the Tower of Winds. Of these three aspects of non-being. During the 1970s when Europe and the United States saw a dramatic decrease in the advancement of lighting technologies because of the energy crises of 1973. the thousand lights dancing within it…. they treated it as a stage. In other words. In a 1960 article in The New Yorker. and because of the way in which light reflects off and emanates out of the architecture and architectural space. In this regard. In many ways architecture of the day and architecture of the night can be likened to comparing photographic images. and so it is ephemeral. We have to ask if our traditional understanding of form. could create a dynamic environment and could perceptually alter the physical qualities of the structure. Form magazine published an article in 1929 stating. The tower reflects its circumstances. Through his architectural designs. The first approach to understanding this dichotomy between the two extremes is to analyse and evaluate the visual impact a particular structure has during the day versus the visual impact the same structure has at night. the Tower of Winds is perhaps one of the best examples of how architecture and architectural space can be both static and dynamic at the same time. stability. According to Riichi Miyake.’ ”9 Initially. “‘Light provides us with a new formal element devoid of materials firmness. however. Cerver continues by stating.creating ephemeral architectures of light… 6 In addition to the fact that the Tower of Winds expresses the duality of architecture of the day and architecture of the night. more comprehensive notion…’ One year later. rags and wastepaper vanishes. neon tube lighting. mirrors. “5 During the day. illusory material — light — as building material is a significant shift from architecture of the material to architecture of the immaterial and ultimately to the concept of light as architecture. Creative forgetfulness and spiritual being are mentioned because only through the integration of the three does knowledge acquire its significance. who creates contrast by combining stark white enamel panels juxtaposed against large spans of transparent glass. color and materiality to create. The Blur Building by Diller + Scofidio is an example of a non14 .As mentioned previously. which is like an enormous rubbish dump made up of rusty metalware. lighting designers and lighting engineers came from the world of theater. Wechsberg wrote. “In the photographic camera we have the most reliable aid to a beginning of objective vision. Japan. But if light is for him one of the plastic architectural elements.”10 This recognition of ephemeral. and another city. Under its spell.”4 Within this statement. was a collaborative work between the architecture team of Toyo Ito and Associates and Kaoru Mende + Lighting Planners Associates. the appeal and esthetics of the structure becomes dependent on the way in which it will be rendered at night using artificial lighting as the primary design element. “It is a very brief moment at dusk when the two phases of the city of Tokyo overlap. what they reflect of our ever-changing consumer society. The Tower of Winds. or piles light beams on top of one another. define and perceptually alter his architecture. The structure literally transforms and responds to the environment around it. Meier effectively uses light. What once seems solid seems void. What was once light becomes dark and what was once dark becomes light. the building undergoes a transformation. the realm that each man must find and conquer for himself. Therefore as they began to design lighting for the illumination of architecture. now took on an equally profound and dominant position within the skyline of the cities during the night. 1986. “Mende’s lighting design is like magic powder sprinkled on a building. Japanese cities such as Tokyo began lighting public buildings at night in order to accentuate the skyline. so that they have visual context at night. based as it is on material and measurable values. as light. Cerver’s statement regarding the illuminated character of the structure reiterates the notion that the duality of architecture can also exist as architecture of the material and architecture of the immaterial. exists not only in the realm of the material but also in the realm of intangibility. For example. and organic definition. creative forgetfulness gives life-quality to life itself. instead of artificially illuminating buildings and structures as an afterthought. the magazine Bauwlt summarized: ‘It would be difficult to find any construction or new building material offering as many artistic possibilities. In addition. meaning it is not material. a city of phenomenon. When looking at photographic images of buildings taken during the day and then comparing them to images of the same structure taken at night. The second approach to understanding the dual nature of architecture is to acknowledge the fact that the intention of creating architecture and architectural space began to shift toward creating architecture for its visual and psychological impact during the night. through the manipulation of artificial lighting. the structure has a rather somber static appearance. emerges in the faint evening light. when illuminated. It seemingly stands in great contrast to the formal elements of our time. “What is important is what they show us. He picks up a light and places it elsewhere. In this way. The tower is never the same. and thus challenges. This contrast exaggerates the perception of positive and negative space. Richard Meier addresses issues of opacity. Our two contradictions are resolved by a metaphor. Joseph Wechsberg wrote about the lighting designer Abe Feder. as if they were bricks. “Behind the cover. who wrote the introduction for Designing with Light and Shadow. completed in November. 8 Amos Ih Tiao Chang According to Dietrich Neumann. there are two ways to approach the notion of the duality of architecture of the day and architecture of the night. Francisco Asensio Cerver writes. Japanese-born architect Toyo Ito clearly describes how the perceived meaning and value of architecture on an individual level and on an urban scale can be perceptually altered merely through the integration of artificial lighting. who designed the lighting scheme for many prominent buildings such as the United Nations Headquarters and Rockerfeller Center. Keeping this in mind. In the book World of Environmental Design Elements of Landscape. concrete or wood. at night. incandescent lamps and floodlighting to 13 transform data received from differing wind conditions and speeds into electromagnetic impulses that in turn altered the appearance of the tower. The design intent was to create an architectural form that. it takes on a dynamic vibrant role within its setting. becoming more radiant and nuanced. The city. According to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. the latter takes on ghostly qualities and begins to read like a photographic negative of a picture taken of the building during the day. might not have to be replaced with a new. like those on a merry-go-round. like the life-quality of humanity itself. The life-quality of architecture. it is by far the worthiest of the lot. Everyone will be compelled to see that which is optically true…. the visual presence and splendour of architecture at night became more pronounced with the advancement of artificial lighting techniques. where they had a better understanding of the potential as well as the limitations of this medium. intangible content in architectonic form is the subject of this investigation. transparency and reflectivity as seen through light. The designers of the Tower of Winds renovated a deteriorating ventilation and water supply tower for the coach terminal of Yokohama station in Kanagawa.”7 Architecture of the Material / Architecture of the Immaterial Intangible content gives life-quality to architectonic form. the original structure disappears beneath a covering of acrylic mirrors that reflect. the dynamics of architectural duality is visually clear.”3 This notion of architectural duality is particularly prevalent in the works of Richard Meier. architecture is designed and intended to have allure and to be experienced primarily at night. “Feder has used light as if it were a building material –plaster. and what once seems void seems solid. By encircling the elliptical form with die-punched aluminum the designers were able to hide the lighting system within the cavity of the structure. Architecture that once held value and was highly revered during the day. a city of light. Ito and Mende used computer sensors. a backdrop where people and art (objects) within the building become the performers.
traditional architectural space that uses the ephemeral qualities of water and light to define its form. its forms and ornaments…but also addressed the ‘space-shaping power of light’ itself…which alone could justify the concept of ‘light architecture’: ‘Both architecture and the lamps. hundreds of thousands of Nazis assembled in open fields where Speer created and defined the setting with over a hundred searchlights pointing vertically into the night sky. The Cathedral — the most immaterial and temporal of Speer’s designs — survived longer than all he had done or planned before and after. and to create something which is like a building just by light was in this time really something new. in particular the light emanating from its source. The work exceeded its time. and its author. its purpose. the team of Diller + Scofidio was able to challenge the visitor’s experience of the Blur building on multiple levels. smell. one can pose the question. were an abstract representation of the columns found in classical architecture. used the power and mysticism so deeply rooted in one’s understanding of light in order to generate propaganda for the Nazi political party during the rallies at Neremberg. yet its impact can be palpable and visually arresting. its presence instantaneously materializes once the particles of light reflect off of the surfaces of tangible objects. “ ‘…architectural light can lead to light architecture…if with it and only with it. sound. The concept of the Blur building was to create “formless” architecture that became as much an experience as a physical building. were illusionary interior spaces. could exist at night: one could in and above the existing city of Berlin. the steel structure housed thousands of spray nozzles that sprayed tiny water droplets into the air. creating ethereal architectural space and form. an approach to design that Dietrich Neumann says was inspired by Paul Scheerbart’s 1906 notion of Lichtarchitektur. the rays of the sun or the rays of high-powered spot lights are in reality the result of invisible electromagnetic radiation reflecting off the physical. which soared several miles up. “…I used 130 or so searchlights which I was distributing in always the same distances around this rally field. it was the light reflecting from the surface — the mist — that gave the Blur building its character. that one must speak of a light architecture. In other words. One of the most influential designers in the field of lighting design was Joachim Teichmuller.’… which would complement the space. There is no question that these columns of light defined the form. carefully separated from the luminous city centers nearby. “light architecture. in which the author states. Albert Speer described the vision he created for the night time Neremberg rallies. The intent behind the Blur building was to create a structure that allowed the user to interact with the built environment and at the same time to be enveloped within its formless form. the central power of the Third Reich. form and function. This mist created the “formless. The Nazi regime understood the power of 15 Lichtarchitektur.” 14 Searchlights used by Albert Speer created spatial as well as formal configurations. and used it to their advantage to actively spread their physically and psychologically aggressive rhetoric. and taste. whether solid. control and edit the city. touch. specific architectural effects are produced. Albert Speer. “What has not yet developed is an architecture that has honestly been devised and built for a decent daytime existence and will at night find its essential fulfillment by its metamorphosis into sheer luminosity…Designs that have never found their realization. created the illusion that hundreds of columns were pointing into the sky.” to refer to the ethereal role of lighting within the tangible qualities of architecture. The rectangular space conjured above Nuremberg’s Zeppelin field and the oval form above the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Above the factual city. The Blur building challenges the conventional notion of architectural. which translated into an ephemeral architectural space. In this instance. The rhythm and deliberate spacing of the lights created a spectacular space that evoked mysticism. In 1933 the Nationalist Socialist Party was elected into power in Germany. This reliance on the other senses is what helped break down the conventional way of understanding. so intimate and inseparable. The effect was chilling. light particles? In order to address this concern. awe and reverence. Hitler’s regime was able to manipulate. are fused into an artistic unity. Light is illusive in nature. (Refer to the Appendix for more detail). defining and experiencing the building.’”11 According to Teichmuller. This gave the structure stability and supported the platforms on which Expo visitors could walk. create one out of light and luminous relationships. Neumann writes. which appear and disappear simultaneously with the light.”13 The columns of light were not intended to visually enhance or support an already existing architecture but rather. In essence. These slender streaks of light. purged of color and movement and striving for a technologically infused modernity supposedly closer to Gothic Cathedrals than contemporary entertainment. gas — or for the sake of this thesis. Through theatrics and a strong grasp of artificial lighting. He used similar lighting techniques for the closing ceremonies of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Although the Blur building did have a discernible shape hidden behind its illusive form. Lighting drew attention to specific buildings to emphasize the visual as well as political significance and power of those structures. liquid. a tactical city would be built. In August of each year. the edge. A “dream city Berlin” above the old one. “Speer’s lighting cathedrals were meant less as a spectacle to be viewed. Speer used searchlights for many applications for his architectural and urban designs. who was Adolph Hitler’s chief architect. The result became a dialogue for further understanding the boundaries and the expectations of architecture and space on a macro level. pollution and moisture. the Blur building is an architecture of the material as well as architecture of the immaterial. to rely on other senses. 1934. Teichmuller was not only cognizant of the “’design of the light source. and will not during daytime. Two articles were published in the 1934 Deutsche Bauzeitung titled Lichtarchitektur and Licht und Bau (Light and Building). The design consisted of a steel structural frame that was anchored into the lake bed through concrete footings. one that is not graspable. giving the illusion that physical tangible beams of light are penetrating into and ultimately creating space. The power and mysticism of light were popularly used as a means to create propaganda and to spread the message of the party. one must first understand the way in which light is perceived. Diller + Scofidio used mist and fog to literally “blur” the boundaries of their structure.”16 Reflecting on Albert Speer’s creation of an architectural space through the sole use of artificial lighting. than as an interior space of unfathomable size to be experienced by participants whose strictly choreographed positions were an important part of the arrangement. edge. “Speer himself sensed ‘that if anything it will finally be only these dramatics I will be remembered for’. its essence and its form. and proliferate its own agenda.” “unstructured. producing a fine mist above the structural frame of the building. In addition to supporting the platforms. and the architectural space.” 15 In describing Albert Speer’s artificial lighting displays.” “liquid” architecture. and poses the question as to whether architecture can extend beyond its tangible boundaries to include the essence and the experience of the form. boundary and form has tremendous power in visually and psychologically altering perception. In a 1979 BBC audio interview. Another design intent for the Blur building was to drastically reduce the users’ dependency on vision. can such displays can in and of themselves be considered architecture? 16 . does architecture define itself through the physical make-up of its components. Although we cannot see the physical components of light. Teichmuller used the term Lichtarchitektur.’ ”12 The ability to control artificial light in order to define space. Diller + Scofidio achieved this in a temporary structure on a lake for the 2002 Swiss Expo. creating a visual dome above the stadium. its context. The impression I had when we were trying it was surpassing everything I was thinking because it turned out that there was a creation of a kind of a huge hall just by lights. Thus. but palpable and unfathomable… A light Space Architecture …An entirely new Berlin. By manipulating the way one senses the built environment. On September 7. tangible particles in the air such as dust. consequently giving light meaning and form by reflecting off a physical medium.
whether it truly constitutes space and if so. scrim.” However.. which gives form to permanent values and consolidates an urban morphology. The light of “Tribute” is used in a built environment. at least according to the traditional notion. meaning — if architecture is form. Henri Focillon argues that “Architecture. and light is form — then for the sake of this argument. the desire to create ephemeral space already exists. we can feel them even though they’re not there anymore. these point upward. however. ‘We’re not trying to make a memorial. My material is light. the lights honored the memory of the individuals who lost their lives. the 96 Annual New York Society of Architects awarded the designers of the Tribute of Lights. Light not only illuminates the internal mass. Rather. architectural debates have postulated the existence of cyberspace. In this way. independent of all other physical elements. Computer generated “architectural” space is readily used within the normal functions of architectural firms. Focillon writes. or paint. the two vertical shafts of light became the visual place markers for what once occupied a physical tangible presence in the Manhattan skyline. 2001. On the New York skyline. architectural competitions that require nothing more than computer generated virtual space have become the norm within the industry. In short. And in essence.” 6 During the evenings of March 11 until April 13. There is no question that light creates ambience. and to that degree I was interested in using light — not light in glass. light not only defining but taking on the characteristics of architectural elements and architectural space has become a reality. in itself. Although the question as to whether light defines architecture or architecture defines light has not been resolved. In The Life of Forms In Art. this is a rebuilding of our city’s skyline. it is no more unusual to use it than to use stone.” In addition. the art of architecture exerts itself in a true space. for they are symbolic beacons…. can be defined as architecture. Its two columns are actual lighthouses.. Content or meaning arises from whatever light is trained on. streaming forth at predetermined points. we look to skyscrapers. Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda. In addition. On the one hand. architects can potentially engage the cybernetic conditions which have redefined the essence of our contemporary urban fields. Light is form…” 2 If Focillon’s notions are accurate. it is a combination of secondary masses and principal masses…” In addition. This gesture was deeply rooted in the emotional need to connect with the very space where the towers once stood. visually..” 5 Architects John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi also responded to the tragic events of September 11 by proposing to fill the void in their city’s skyline with high-powered lights. This notion is reinforced in the words of Michael Iorio. “… In essence and by destination.. attenuated or stretched in order to pick out the variously unified and accented member of the building. 88 Xenon searchlights mounted at Battery Park City. Shortly after the destruction of the two World Trade Center towers. the he argues that “light is treated not so much as an inert factor as a living element. These vertical columns of light are continuously referred to as architecture and perhaps this symbiotic reference to architecture is the link that can bridge the gap between the theory of light architecture and the reality of light architecture.’ said one of the architects. directly west of the World Trade Center created two beacons of light that were directed vertically up into the sky. we tried to respond to public needs with architecture. “After all. Two artists. independent of traditional architectural elements. Do these two beacons of lights belong in the realm of architecture? In short.” th 7 In addition. But instead of casting beams outward. “Since we can’t save lives. or Plexiglas. what are the responsibilities of the architectural community towards conveying that idea to the general public. this thesis posits the possibility that light itself can be architecture. proposed using two beacons of light called Phantom Towers as a way of “sculpting the plumes of dust” 4 in order to represent the two towers that had dominated the skyline.1 James Turrell It is important to understand that the concept of artificial light as architecture is a subtle yet significant distinction between the understanding and belief that artificial light can visually and psychologically manipulate architectural space and architectural elements. the New York Times issued an invitation to come up with some form of resolution in response to the void created by the fallen towers. that is. houses of light. are compressed. “Light is used as a primary architectural ordering mechanism to transform the virtual into the palpable and to suspend and distort time. the most receptive to ideas that wood or metal or stone might resist. since its rays. of its spirit. Symbolically. one in which we walk and which the activity of our bodies occupies. 17 18 . The intent was to symbolically recreate the form and image of the two fallen towers. So where ancestors literally looked to lighthouses to guide them. clay. “It is an emotional response more than anything…the towers are like ghost limbs. designed light. but light in the space itself and the qualities of space —making that light without traditional physical form. the Distinguished Service Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Architecture. moreover is rarely a single mass. a Montreal architect who experimented with the properties of light — both visible and invisible electromagnetic radiation — in an attempt to articulate and define architectural spatial sequences. can they be considered architecture in and of themselves? According to Bennett. versus the notion that artificial light. George Lucas’s Star Wars sagas require of us a suspension of disbelief in the some way that the 1927 Fritz Lang’s Metropolis challenged its audience.. parallel to earth and water. but to give credit to the notion that controlled. but collaborates with the architecture to give it its needed form. According to Iorio. mood and gives character to any given space. light is the most open. the medium of light is. for the purpose either of tranquilizing it or of giving it vivacity. 2002.” 3 Light Architecture The Tribute in Lights was an emotional response to the tragic events that took place on September 11th. in an extreme scenario. Artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin define space in terms of light and time. fully capable of entering into and of assisting the cycle of metamorphoses. steel. And to define artificial light not only in terms of architectural elements. a building? To accept this theory one must first characterize architecture and architectural form. Focillon continues by stating that. but can light — whether a single solitary beam of light controlled in a very definitive manner or a multitude of lights flooding an area — perform as a wall. on November 20. The question then becomes. must be considered a way of making architecture is to push the boundary of what we can perceive today into the potential of what can be achieved tomorrow. the two beacons of light became the form that replaced the form. Light itself is form. “They believed that this reconstruction would also fill the void in the city’s identity and help in the healing process. from dusk until midnight. “A building. to the heavens... And New York is a port city. the lights represented the physical structure and form. is a stable structure. “Tribute” replaces buildings. By pushing architecture to embrace the realm of electromagnetic frequencies . Each in its own way calls out across the water. There are materials that you honor..ARTIFICIAL LIGHT + THE FUTURE Architecture and Form One of the difficulties of using light is that there isn’t yet a tradition of using it in out culture. a column or perhaps. In fact. The film industry and digital design studios have already crossed over into the realm of virtual reality space. neutral. Of all the media that could be used to create a memorial.
This act of placing a light in the window will be reflected in the design of the Community Action Resource Center –a “lantern” beckoning visitors to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. both from the inside and the outside. In this regard. not only for visual acuity but also for visual impact.That shift is like the one that occurred when the most famous lighthouse of antiquity. literally and figuratively. Consequently. provisional lighting techniques. tangible properties of the structure must be minimized in order to express and capture the symbolic meaning intended in the design through light. the exterior artificial lights will not be illuminated during the day. Finally. natural light and artificial light must be considered. gave its form to other buildings. one act. Since the building will incorporate more traditional 19 architectural elements such as opaque. the choice of materials used within this structure is a major concern for the design intent. Where the Pharos led travelers home the minaret called pilgrims to prayer. to guide individuals to the Freedom Center. the lights will be switched on so that as night approaches the lights begin to glow and appear as though they have always been present and become more and more intense as the surrounding area becomes visibly darker. be it a single focused beam of (artificial) light or the powerful display of natural light against the surfaces. in particular artificial light. Consequently. when looking at the site from across the river. The hope is that the mist or fog floating off the surface of the pools will create enough “surfaces” within the air to accentuate the visual presence of light as well as reflect the light thus amplifying. The challenge of this project is to manipulate light so that the ethereal qualities of the light have as much presence and visual weight as the structural elements used within the building. artificial light has the potential to visually dematerialize the façade of the building and to give the illusion that physical tangible elements can give way to more ephemeral.” 8 DESIGN PROPOSAL Introduction to Project The objective of this project is to combine artificial light with structural materials in such a way that the more traditional architectural elements take on a subservient role. This cannot be overlooked and must be reflected in the final design. many abolitionists placed candles and lanterns in their windows. the intent of the design is to appear as though it is a long thin sliver of light carved into the earth. The physical. just before dusk. creating the illusion that the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is floating above a horizontal band of light. shallow reflective pools adjacent to the structure will be incorporated within the design. As mentioned in chapter two. one person. it will complement and make historical references to the Underground Railroad. our presence. The selection of materials. within the built environment can be symbolic of the “Power of One”. I would like to create a space where the role of light. To achieve this. the Community Action Resource Center will be artificially lit. In essence. the impact of the light. to indicate that they provided a safe house for slaves who were in search of freedom. 20 . In this regard. The intent is to juxtapose the ephemeral qualities of light with the tangible materials of the site and structures. the power of one thought. In order to create visual drama. for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the overall community of the Greater Cincinnati area. The Pharos was a wonder of the world. It is important to understand the impact of light pollution on the environment and ecosystem as well as to select materials and finishes that are sustainable and environmentally responsible. Design Intent Artificial light played an interesting role in the history of the Underground Railroad because it was the medium through which abolitionists could communicate with the runaway slaves. two of the main concerns about creating space using artificial light are the environmental impact. the design takes on the role of a contemporary lighthouse which is meant. Therefore I am proposing to design a Community Action Resource Center on the south lawn of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center which will function in conjunction with the Freedom Center and its values. translucent and transparent materials as well as intangible. thus bringing the duality into one experience. inspiring other structures radically different in purpose. Moreover to create a structure that becomes a literal and symbolic beacon as the Action Resource Center. instead. the relationship between the built form. illusory elements. For example. there must be substantial particles within the air from which the light will reflect. our power. Keeping this in mind. It is important to note that in order to perceive visible rays of light (in effect to see a shaft of light penetrate a space). “Tribute” does both at once. the physical impact on the site and the ecological impact due to the nature of the project will all have to be carefully examined. One was the slender tower attached to mosques. can be a metaphore for the transformations we go through when we choose to exercise our voice. one voice. the Pharos of Alexandria. The transformation of the surfaces and textures of the building by the reflection and refraction of light. and the economic implications the design may pose. allowing the light to become the essence and focal point of the space. the Community Action Resource Center becomes the light in the window and instead of competing with the Freedom Center. the minaret. The pools will also be symbolic of ones journey through transformation and growth and represent the act of traveling from one state of consciousness to another.
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