Mind, Body, and Light

Mary Guzowski’s lecture on Lights as Material: The Orchestration of Light in Time brought this relatively simple idea of using as light as more than just a light source, she implies light as the actual building material.  A great example she mentioned in her lecture that spoke to me as a great explanation of light as a material source to ensure a much greater experience of space is the Thermal Baths in Switzerland by Peter Zumthor.  Zumthor incorporates light and the construction of light into a way that rewards people with a full body experience that would not have been created without his specific technologies of light.

“The meander, as we call it, is a designed negative space between the blocks, a space that connects everything as it flows throughout the entire building, creating a peacefully pulsating rhythm. Moving around this space means making discoveries. You are walking as if in the woods. Everyone there is looking for a path of their own.”  This statement by Zumthor gives precedent to his ideals of creating a virtual experience within this structure. This bath is much more than just a place where people go to swim around and relax, he creates an experience by his uses of space and light. The play of these negative dark spaces against the highly controlled light sources embodies something much greater than just a space. This I believe is done by using light as an actual method of material rather than just a form allowing light to enter in the building. The image below illustrates his use of light as much more than simply a light source. In this room he utilizes light and the lack of light to create an experience. The usage of dark materials, and the one sided light source are what gives this room the dark and mysterious yet relaxing space.

Zumthor achieved a place in space that has the ability to change a person’s perspective through a given experience. This is achieved by his usage of light as an actual material in the construction of the complex. An article from Arch Daily states this total mind and body experience that Zumthor creates perfectly, The stone rooms were designed not to compete with the body, but to flatter the human form (young or old) and give it space…room in which to be. The building is created to work with the body not against it to create the experience of the space.




Mary Guzowski, Light as Material: The Orchestration of Light in Time, Lecture, 11/20/12


One comment

  1. kinde050

    I definitely agree that Peter Zumthor uses light not only as a source to brighten his spaces but also as a very important material itself. He creates an experience of spaces at a human scale, where light has a large presence and carries the visitor through the building. Lee Tonghoon “Tactility and Architecture” discusses how light creates intimacy and movement in the “textured box-like envelopes” in the Thermal Baths project. The interior, hollowed-out spaces create a sort of cave experience. Zumthor describes, “A continuous internal space, like a geometric cave system, meanders through the bath’s structure of large stone blocks, growing its size as it moves away from the narrow caverns by the mountain towards the daylight at the front.” In addition to light, Zumthor also uses water as a material. The water creates static planes much like the walls or ceiling. The combination of brighter lights and water create dynamic spaces in the larger bath spaces, while the more private spaces have a lower level of light.

    Mary Guzowski’s mentioned that the combination of layered materials and light can create a sense of depth and time in a structure. I think Zumthor’s progression of spaces and different light qualities exemplify this and pull the visitor through the building. Light not only illuminates the different materials, but becomes a “character” itself.

    Tonghoon, Lee. “Tactility and Architecture.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology. N.p., 2002. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.

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