Thomas Schielke

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Solar Decathlon Europe: Sustainable Lighting Combines Engineering and Design

The motto of the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 was to convert and expand rather than to demolish and reconstruct. Recycling windows, using biodegradable materials for luminaires and connecting light with sensors represented just some innovative examples of the international university-level student competition in Wuppertal, Germany. For the first time, the competition presented an award for sustainable architectural lighting. This was a question of quality as much as quantity, and that applies equally to daylight and artificial light.

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Dark matters: A Call for Less Light

Dark matters: A Call for Less Light - Featured Image
Train station, Lisbon / Portugal . Image © Nina Papiorek Photography

With buildings glazed on all sides and very brightly as well as monotonously lit rooms, it's no surprise that we long for indoor and outdoor retreats that are less bright. Places with shade from glaring sun, dimmed rooms and exciting contrasts act on the eyes like a welcome oasis. High energy consumption and globally increasing light pollution show how acute the problem of too much light is and the alarming rate of contribution toward climate change. For a better future, it is imperative to explore ways in which we can design and focus on using darkness.

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Media Scapes in China: How Culture and Politics is Shaping Connected Media Facades

Outside of China, media facades usually appear as proud individualists vying for attention at night. In China, however, you can find large groups of media facades with a common message in numerous metropolitan areas. These media facades visually merge multiple skyscrapers into a panoramic entity. But what are the reasons that this phenomenon is unique to China? And how did it start? The Media Architecture Biennale linked culture and politics to provide an answer to the emergence of media scapes in China.

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When Architecture Shows Solidarity with China Combating Coronavirus

Buildings show normally slow responses to current social issues. However, in the case of the Coronavirus, dynamic media facades have started to send messages of empathy to the citizens of Wuhan. At first, the Chinese government used screens covering complete buildings to create powerful images of hope and solidarity. Later, some countries like the United Arab Emirates joined this effort while a majority of countries has not followed so far.

How Apple Strives for the Perfect Sky and Revives Cities

At first glance, it seems that Apple's strong retail design has derived from consistent design. But since Steve Jobs opened the first Apple Store in 2001, the brand has changed its store and lighting design concept five times. Thereby change appears as a central factor when a brand grows and expands internationally. For each period Apple developed sophisticated details and has strived for the perfect sky in their store - a smart strategy to enhance naturalness and sustainability.

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Progress with Female Ambassadors in Lighting Design

Light Collective, founders of the project "Women in Lighting", conclude that although female designers seem to make up possibly half of the lighting design profession, their profile appears much lower than men when looking at judges in awards and speakers at major conferences. Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton started a project with interviews of female lighting designers and contacted conference organizers to enhance their visibility. 

When Sunlight Meets Tadao Ando’s Concrete

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If there is any consistent factor in his work, says Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando, then it is the pursuit of light. Ando’s complex choreography of light fascinates most when the viewer experiences the sensitive transitions within his architecture. Sometimes walls wait calmly for the moment to reveal striking shadow patterns, and other times water reflections animate unobtrusively solid surfaces. His combination of traditional Japanese architecture with a vocabulary of modernism has contributed greatly to critical regionalism. While he is concerned with individual solutions that have a respect for local sites and contexts Ando’s famous buildings – such as the Church of the Light, Koshino House or the Water Temple – link the notion of regional identity with a modern imagining of space, material and light. Shoji walls with diffuse light are reinterpreted in the context of another culture, for instance, filtered through the lens of Rome’s ancient Pantheon, where daylight floods through an oculus. Ando’s masterly imagination culminates in planning spatial sequences of light and dark like he envisioned for the Fondation d’Art Contemporain François Pinault in Paris.

Why Norman Foster Scoops Daylight into his Buildings

While many architects consider windows for brightening interior spaces, Norman Foster is intrigued by natural light from above. The British star architect has long held Louis Kahn and Alvar Aalto in high esteem for how they handled daylight - especially with regard to the roof. In particular large public buildings benefit from this strategy creating enjoyable spaces. Therefore, Foster regards daylight from above as indispensable when he develops megastructures for airports on the ground or tall skyscrapers for work. But daylight from above is much more than an aesthetic dimension, remarks Foster: "Quite apart from the humanistic and poetic qualities of natural light there are also energy implications."

How Luis Barragán Used Light to Make Us See Color

In Luis Barragán’s poetic imagination color plays as significant a role as dimension or space. Rough textures and water reflections heighten the impact of bright sunlight in his colorful buildings. But where does such vibrancy come from and how is it heightened by the architecture itself?

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How Satellite Images of the Earth at Night Help Us Understand Our World and Make Better Cities

Satellite images of Earth at night make for fascinating, beautiful pictures. But they also confront us with a growing form of pollution. Why do we waste so much energy to light outer space when we only need light on the ground? High-resolution satellite data can now deliver detailed insights into how humans have shaped the night, and these earth observation systems are about to reform our urban planning. They can become an integral part of project development and control, as many strange ecological, political and social phenomena become apparent with a closer look at the night-time imagery of our planet.

How to Celebrate New Architecture: Shaping Identity with Spectacular Opening Ceremonies

After finishing a building, the client is faced with an important question: How do they celebrate the new architecture? This moment offers an essential opportunity to inform the public about the existence and mission of the building. Therefore, the designs of opening ceremonies are often loaded with symbolic imagery to construct a new identity. Fireworks and light shows are an especially common part of the powerful repertoire used to magnify the aura of architecture. This luminous storytelling can underline the client’s uniqueness and superiority on both a local level and an international stage. I spoke with two leading designers to get their insights on how opening ceremonies have changed in recent years: Christophe Berthonneau, Creative Director at Groupe F, who introduced the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Fred Thompson, Creative Director at Laservision Mega Media, who worked on the opening of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

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The Evolution of Light in IM Pei’s Museums, from Dark Concrete Voids to Luminous Glass Pyramids

Although the Louvre pyramid, often recognized as his masterwork, created a luminous icon for presenting culture, IM Pei’s early museums were characterized by the harsh shadows of brutalism. Project by project, the Chinese-American master developed a sophisticated, open architectural language. Pei’s holistic approach for welcoming museum visitors comprises powerful symbols which utilize sunlight to its fullest during the daytime, while employing the magical glow of illumination in the evening.

Whereas most assessments of the Louvre have praised the achievements of the luminous pyramid as seen above the ground, the actual design challenge laid underground, in offering visitors a successful underground space. Later, Pei transferred his language to multiple other museum projects, where light was always a key factor in defining museum experiences. In a year of celebratory events such as “Rethinking Pei: A Centenary Symposium,” which begins tomorrow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, an examination of Pei’s use of light in museums can contribute an important cultural emphasis.

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How New Technologies Are Turning Awkward Elevator Rides into a Thing of the Past

Elevator rides may offer an uplifting experience in the literal sense, but while they are indispensable in modern buildings, users face extremely compact spaces which are designed to fit effectively into buildings. Awkward looks at the floor or past other people’s faces reveal our discomfort with the elevator’s crowded anonymity. Couldn’t a more spatial experience lead to a more exciting journey? Flat screens and projections are starting to be included in elevators, but these are just the beginning of a revolution in the atmospheres created during vertical transportation.

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How Zurich's Understated Night Lighting Strategy Enhances Local Identity

While many cities strive for a spectacular appearance at night, Zurich follows a modest strategy for nocturnal illumination. Numerous urban centers in the world are oversaturated in the evening, with individual buildings calling for attention through bright light, harsh contrasts, or colorful façade lighting. In contrast, the Zurich master plan for lighting has focused on an overall image of sensitive light levels with white light. But this nocturnal presence far from simple design, and is instead based on detailed urban studies and precise, customized projections, where technology is discretely hidden in favor of authentic culture.

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Fluid Luminosity: The Architectural Lighting of Zaha Hadid

Fluid Luminosity: The Architectural Lighting of Zaha Hadid - Featured Image
Leeza SOHO, construction 2017, Beijing / China. Image © MIR

Zaha Hadid's projects are remarkable not only for her innovative way of handling tangible materials but also for her imagination regarding the medium of light. Her theories of fragmentation and fluidity are now well-known design techniques which enabled her form-finding. However, her advances in using light to render her architecture have often been neglected—even though they became an essential element in revealing and interpreting her architecture. The three-decade transition from minimal light lines at her early Vitra Fire Station to the world's tallest atrium at the Leeza SOHO skyscraper, which collects an abundance of daylight, shows the remarkable development of Zaha Hadid’s luminous legacy.

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