Falling in love with light

Exterior view of the Lakewood Mausoleum

Last semester my studio took a field trip to the Lakewood Mausoleum in Minneapolis. From the moment I stepped inside, I fell in love. I was taken back by the luminescent light that gently filled the hall. My curiosity sparked and I could not wait to find out what each room looked like once I turned each corner.

View down the hall of the mausoleum

It was like every room was a different experience. Light, material and view were captured in the most beautiful way all in-sync together. The skylights appeared edge-less just as the James Turrell skyscape filling the room with glowing light and appearing as if the sky were part of the building. If a skylight was not given, a framed view of the landscape was as light flooded into the space. Every path of light led my eye to either the marble floors, the granite walls or the landscape outside. Light connected every part of this building.

Interior view of one of the rooms

The Lakewood Mausoleum brought my understanding of light within space and form to a whole new level. To be honest, I never looked in to how the skylights gave that illusion or luminescence until today. I am even in Mary’s studio this semester. I cannot believe it myself that it took me so long to do but I looked up plans and sections of the mausoleum and finally understood the architectural secrets of the building.

Longitudinal and Transverse Section

The smallest moves create the biggest experiences. Sometimes we think that our design project has to have complicated ideas or structure or something of that sort, but generally simplicity is all we need and what we always forget. The mausoleum reminds us of that. Those small moves are not complicated but simple and they make the biggest result. A student can learn about light over and over again, modeling it physically and digitally but until s/he experiences the architecture of light in person, that is a whole different story.

Interior View of one of the rooms






One comment

  1. lask0062

    I just visited this site last weekend and was truly amazed. I went with two other architecture students to share the joys and wonders created in this space. We planned on touring around the entire cemetery, but ended up spending over two hours just in HGA’s mausoleum. I fell in love with the way they were able to direct the light so perfectly in each of the open rooms. The slight method of creating such a small hole in the ceiling creates such a mystical feeling that only natural light could create. I think it is also important to notice the lack and discreetness of electrical light. This helps emphasize the importance of the natural light.

    When I first started learning about the use and manipulation of light, it interested me a bit, but mostly all I know of it was striking contrasted images of interiors of buildings. Last semester when I was abroad, I truly understood the art of using light. I studied in Denmark, but traveled to other parts of Scandinavia including Sweden and Finland. We visited many churches in Sweden, and buildings in Finland by Alvar Aalto. Lighting is something that one needs to experience to truly understand it. There is something very otherworldly about the power of light. When we visited a mausoleum in Sweden, you could see from the actions of the other students as soon as they entered the space. There was a quiet that swept over everyone as we moved through the space. It helped draw us into the space and created this mystical feeling that electrical light could not create.

    I agree with your last sentence about how a student can analyze light as much as technology allows, but the true feeling is not found until one experiences a place. As I said earlier, I had only had an understanding of light from what we learned in school and from pictures. But pictures do no justice of the effect of reflection, the detail of how light hits and bounces off certain surfaces, or how the mood is created depending on the time of day and the type of lighting coming in. These are all things that need to be experienced in person and the ever changing quality of light that keeps you returning and returning to have a holistic understanding.

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