New Perspective on Light

I just sat through an amazing lecture today titled Light as Material by Mary Guzowski who is a professor at the University of Minnesota.  As you can guess from the title, the lecture was about how light is used as an architectural material and how it related itself to time.  Not knowing where this was going at first I became intrigued.  She asked one of the attendees to this lecture how did they view time on a daily basis and in short, his answer was that time regulates where it is that they need to be.  That is typical for most people in today’s world but, she brought a new outlook to how time is perceived and architecture demonstrates that.  Her concept was that with the manipulation of light in architecture one is able to experience and understand the progression of time without even realizing it.

She mentioned several architects and their works to support her argument such as James Turrell’s Skyspace, James Goldstein’s Skyspace, Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Bath and more.  She expressed how these architects forced people to slow down to experience how the site changed over time.  I definitely agree with everything that she and, the first person I thought about that would best support her argument is Louis Kahn.  After all, the focus for Louis Kahn in all of his works was the manipulation of natural lighting.  A quote from Louis Kahn is that “architects in planning rooms today have forgotten their faith in natural light.  Depending on the touch of a finger to a switch, they are satisfied with static light and forgot the endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room in every second of the day.”

He expresses this in his Exeter Library just as the examples that Mary Guzowski presented but, what makes this a better exploration is that he is not forcing an experience.  Unlike all of the examples presented in her lecture, every side of this building is the same on where light is illuminating from.  It is identical on all sides to give that natural feel of time progression instead of directing where the focus should be over time.  Louis Kahn fully understands what it means to use light as a material. Because of Mary Guzowski’s lecture today, I’m excited to start exploring with time progression through light manipulation and hopefully, I will be able to understand it as well as Louis Kahn.


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