Posts Tagged ‘Indirect Lighting’

AD1: Dark Light – Model Photographs

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Advanced Design 1, MArch(Prof) Semester 1, 2010

Transparency: Layering & Passing Through

Photos of AD1 Conceptual Light Study Models by Tash Bell, 2010

Photos of AD1 Sectional Model by Liz Tjahjana, 2010

Transparency is a condition of passing or seeing through. Transparency is connection and continuity; it is a dialectic between revealing and concealing, as well as between seeing and reading. A transparent medium, substance, or matter allows, permits, and invites light, air, and sight to penetrate through. Transparency relates to diaphaneity, translucency, and layering. Translucency can be defined as the condition existing within the continuum between opacity and transparency, between the two polarities of obscurity and clarity, between solid and void. Translucency is where light sifts, filters and penetrates through the successive additive effects of layered, stacked, overlapped or superimposed planes, glazed surfaces, films, or veils. The filtering and penetrating effect of light through translucency achieves a layered glow, where natural light passes through, slows down, softens, bleeds and diffuses from one space to the next, from exterior to the interior, and through different layers of the interior, creating a superimposed overlapping penetrative effect, bringing daylight further and deeper into the space.

Rowe and Slutzky makes a distinction between two types, modes, or conditions of transparency in their seminal essay on Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal. A literal transparency,  that is, an actual or real transparency that is seen, is a quality inherent to substance or matter, such as in mesh screens, translucent walls, and a phenomenal transparency, that is, an implied or seeming mode of transparency that is read, is a quality inherent in the spatial or volumetric organization (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

Two or more transparent figures overlapping each other produces a contradiction or ambiguity of spatial dimensions; simultaneously seeming to advance or recede, appearing closer or further, where space continuously fluctuates and oscillates. These transparent planes, objects, or surfaces interpenetrate each other. Transparency permits a simultaneous perception or conception of various spatial locations (Gyorgy Kepes in Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

Transparency is the layering of planes and/or the layering of spaces, the layering of surfaces and/or the layering of volumes, producing spatial contiguity and continuity between successive or sequential advancing-receding series of strata or spaces.


Perforous Screens: Filtering & Dematerialization

Photos of AD1 Physical Model by Moe Kheir, 2010

Filtering and diffusing light through perforous patterned screens or facades, creating a myriad of patterned shadow effects as the sun changes its position during the course of a day. Henry Plummer describes Atomization as the sifting or filtering of light through a porous screen (Plummer, 2009). Dematerialization is the dissolution of matter through or by light, where thick, heavy, and massive, construction or cladding appears to be dissolved, eaten, or consumed by light itself.

Mesh screens or other finely patterned porous facades have the capability to disintegrate objects into light and air. Screens could be more porous or less porous according to the desired or necessary amount of solar exposure. The control of certain parameters, such as the proportion of solid to void, the relationship between the opaque surface and the porous openings or holes can achieve a seemingly gauzy and mysterious, yet luminous and brilliant, experience of the screen.  Atomized illumination through the fine screens of wood lattice, metal mesh, or other porous surface makes the view outside less clear, less solid, and instead more disintegrative, more vaporous. One only gets a glimpse of the outside through the perforated mesh of fine dots.

The filtered light gets splintered and scattered across the surface of a moiré patterned screen of holes. Light corrodes and dissolves the solidity of mass. Physical mass seems to be pulverized in an intricate interplay of perforation size, surface finish and lighting levels to achieve a condition of lightness and ambiguity in the balance between light and shadow, transparency and opacity of the façade, as well as materiality and ethereality.

The perforous screen like the diaphanous veil or the layered transparent planes simultaneously reveals and conceals, connects and divides in a mode of contiguous discontinuity. Plummer in his description of pulverized light mentions,

“Light becomes caught in screens, sometimes fleetingly…the screens seem to intermittently turn solid, translucent, or transparent, and the next moment dematerialize into nothing. The real wall and building mass appear to fade away, leaving behind a mesmerizing sensation of energy that seems to vibrate….boundaries slip out of focus, at one moment coming into shape and the next moment empty yet loaded with energy” (Plummer, 2009).


Indirect Daylighting: Canalization & Formlessness

Photos of AD1 Sectional Model by Cat Doo, 2010

Indirect daylighting explores the articulation of the formlessness of light. There is no clear boundary between what is lit and not lit; the distinction between light and non-light is undecidable, indeterminate, and ambiguous. The boundary is blurred. Light can be explored to enhance form, make form more pronounced, or alternatively, light can be manipulated to dematerialize form, eat away at the geometry, and make form less distinct. Light is captured by the indirect lighting mechanisms, whether they are carved voids, fingers of light, or channeled networks, and is transported yet transformed as the illumination gets redelivered into the interior space.

Plummer refers to the Canalization of light as being the channeling of light through hollow mass, where artificial routes, labyrinths, and tunnels are carved out for natural forces to penetrate the inner depths of a building. Formless light is given a memorable character whereby the radiation and energy from the sky is collected and sculpted. The flow of light is conducted through daylit voids, cavities, and porous masses, while distributing yet moulding the illumination as it hits the surface (Plummer, 2009).

Washes of natural light arrives from the ‘spaces between,’ from the interstitial spaces formed between the detached wall and the wall proper, in the case of indirect side lighting, or the detached ceiling panel and its adjoining ceiling, in the case of indirect top or zenithal lighting. The inner linings of these detached screens or baffles can be made reflective or coloured, which in turn will have an effect on the redirected light. In the various modes of indirect lighting, such as slots, tubes, conduits, light shafts, light funnels and scoops or some other labyrinthine configuration, the incident light arrives mysteriously as it is reflected or redirected from the inner surfaces of the light baffle, concealing the window or opening. Hence, a ‘sourceless’ light, a light of no apparent or clear origin. (Plummer, 2009).

The opening of light is concealed and hidden away from view, the channel or shaft forces the light to bend, to reflect, and to become more diffused while entering the space. These concealed light sources and hidden apertures can help choreograph or direct a journey, a promenade architecturale, whereby the indirect sources of light are points of command leading one further and deeper into a building.



  • Meyers, V., Designing with light, 1st ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006) 
  • Plummer, H., The Architecture of Natural Light (London: Thames & Hudson, 2009) 
  • Rowe, C. & R. Slutzky, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1982)