The General Motors Technical Center fascinates with architecture filled with an abundance of light. Interior offices and showrooms evoke the impression of a calm overcast sky for a human environment and beauty. The campus designed by Eero Saarinen represents an influential icon of midcentury design. Susan Skarsgard's book "Where Today Meets Tomorrow" opens intriguing perspectives to the origin of the American landmark.
Light Matters: The Latest Architecture and News
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flagship stores excite both fashion shoppers and designers alike due to their role as visionary laboratories for the latest trends and stimulating retail experiences. Architects have developed various ways to dress haute couture stores, from distinctive icons in the day to seductive night-time images. The images accompanying this article, created by the Portuguese architect and illustrator André Chiote, help to explore the graphic potential of famous brands like Dior, Prada and Tod's. The illustrations clearly reveal the various techniques of playing with diaphanous layers, intimate views inside or the contrast of light and shadow.
Even as modernism promoted the transparency of glass architecture, many within the movement were conscious of the monotony of large glass facades, with even Mies van der Rohe using elements such as his trademark mullions to break up his facades. But in the years since, countless uniform structural glazing skyscrapers have emerged and bored urban citizens. In response to this, unconventional reinterpretations of facades have gained interest.
Accompanied by the belief that light and brilliance could help in creating iconic architecture and a better human world, glass and metal have been innovatively transformed to create crystalline images. As a result, the locus of meaning in architecture has shifted from the internal space-form towards the external surface.
Throughout the past century, architecture's relationship with water has developed along a variety of different paths. With his “Fallingwater” house, for example, the American master Frank Lloyd Wright confronted the dramatic flow of water with strong horizontal lines to heighten the experience of nature. Since then, architecture's use of water has become more varied and complex. A space made almost purely of water emerged with Isamu Noguchi's design at the Osaka World Expo: glistening water appeared to fall from nowhere and glowed in the dark. Later with digitalization and fluid forms as design parameters, the focus shifted towards liquid architecture made of water and light. The interpretations have ranged from architectural forms modeled after literal drops of water, like Bernhard Franken´s visionary “Bubble” for BMW, to spectacular walk-in installations made of lines of water, transformed into pixels by light.
Three decades ago the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Headquarters by Norman Foster emerged onto the architectural seen as an exemplary product of industrial design. The open layout with its exposed steel structure generated a powerful corporate identity for the bank. But the restrained atmosphere of white architectural lighting and the lack of distinctive façade lighting has lost its attractiveness after sunset. Now the colorful and dynamic relighting presents a remarkable example of how an architectural icon has shifted from a productivist ideology towards a scenographic image. To the western observer the multicolored light language may give off a playful impression, but to the local culture the transformation evokes grandiosity.
Sunlight has proven to be an excellent formgiver, with which architecture can create dynamic environments. The lighting design pioneer William M.C. Lam (1924-2012) emphasized in his book “Sunlighting as Formgiver” that the consideration of daylight is about much more than energy efficiency. Architects have now found numerous ways of implementing sunlight and the questions arises whether a coherent daylight typology could be a valuable target during the design process. However, many daylight analyses focus mainly on energy consumption.
Siobhan Rockcastle and Marilyne Andersen, though, have developed a thrilling qualitative approach at EPFL in Lausanne. Their interest was driven by the spatial and temporal diversity of daylight, introducing a matrix with 10 shades of daylight.