Light Revealing Experience
Every human’s first experience is an experience involving light. Light can shape a space into an experience and an experience into a moment you will never forget. Light is the absence of darkness and the presence of all colors; it comes in many different forms, and allows us to perceive everything that we see. Light, as we know it, has deep relationships with place, nature, climate, time, and tasks, as discussed in Marietta Millet’s book Light Revealing Architecture.
Place, as defined by the dictionary, is a particular point in space, and that space is defined by its light and the relationship between them. In the reading, Millet wrote about how a place can be defined by the particular sets of changes that take place within it over time to create distinct patterns. I know this to be true because in my parent’s house, there is a small disco ball in the living room on the mantel, and every day in the spring, just as the sun is setting, the sun hits the ball just right and fills the entire room with glimmers of light. It transforms the room from a plain living room, to the place where you are showered in light and all of your problems go away for those few moments. This strong feeling is from the place’s genius loci, which is the spirit of the place. This phenomenon relates to the patterns of light made in nature.
Some patterns from light that nature makes is the pattern of moving water, a starry sky, or the silhouette of leaves shining down onto the forest floor. In the Solar Decathlon Canopy House last year, one of my design proposes was to create a patterned ceiling, similar to the one at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh. They were circular shapes, that when light from the sun shone down onto it, the silhouette of the circular shapes, which mimicked how light would look shining through trees in a forest. Humans tend to take precedents from nature and light, and replicate it in architecture or design.
Another reason why people try to harness nature is to combat nature. When the climate of a place is towards the extreme heat, then designers try to make it feel cool, and when the climate is freezing, we try to make it feel warm, and we accomplish that through materials and light. For example, when its winter and people are bundled up in layers of clothes, after they just fought people to buy holiday gifts at the mall, while it has snowed or rained all day, nothing would lift their spirits like walking into their dim house to see a bright, warm Christmas tree. The Christmas tree washes away their thoughts of how cold it is outside and melts their heart because if it’s warm colors and warm glows. It works almost as well as a fire in a fireplace would. It is easy to tell by the climate what season it is, but it could be even easier to know what time of the day it is by the light and shadow that it casts.
Time is measured in hours, minutes, and seconds, but what if you don’t have a clock to tell you the exact time? Before clocks, people used other methods, as seen in the Pyramids, Stonehenge, and sundials. An easy way for me to be able to understand the relationship between light and time is by looking up at the skylights in my parent’s house. Just by looking at where the sun is in the sky or by looking at the angle of the shadows they cast, I am able to instinctively know around what time it is or what time of day it is. Humans are naturally sensitive to light, the way it moves, and the way it shines. This sometimes could be a bad thing, rather than a good thing.
Humans are most aware of light when there is too much or too little, or even when its too dim, too bright, or too harsh. A great example of this is in the Gatewood Studio Arts Building in the second floor lounge. The multiple bright yellow lights are too intense to concentrate on the task that you are trying to accomplish. I avoid this room because every time I enter, my eye hurt and I get a headache because the lamp shade does nothing to cover or conceal the lamp/light bulb. This room also has shadows that go onto the surface tops from different angles that make it hard to clearly see what you are working on or writing.
Overall, light is probably the most important aspect of design because without it, we would have no reason to design. Light plays a huge role with its relationships with place, nature, climate, time, and tasks. These relationships make it possible for humans to do their daily activities, and also allow it to be enjoyable if the relationship is right.