The use of light and darkness and their coexistence.
The use of light and darkness and their coexistence. By Alexia Tiberi Pasqualoni student number: 1011028
Research Thesis BA Hons Interior Architecture and Design 26/02/2013
Supervisor : Simon Bliss
Table of Content
Prologue Introduction Chapter 1 The symbolic meaning of light and shadow Chapter 2 Contrast Chapter 3 Materiality Chapter 4 Case studies I. emphisizing darkness II.emphisizing light and transparency III. Achieving balance between light and shadows Conclusion Bibliography
1 2 3 6 10 12
PROLOGUE I have been questioning all my life about my fears . Why I have them , how can I be strong and mature to beat them , and live peacefully with everything. But sometimes, strength is not enough, you need to rationalize it, to think and analyse them and then maybe find an answer to be able to get rid of worries from your existence. I am scared of the darkness, I have always been . I used to have a small lamp beside my bed when I was little, then it became a bigger one , then was the corridor one , then my pc brightness open all night. I cannot stand opening my eyes and feel I cannot relate myself into space; and because of that I start getting anxious , and imagine things around me I cannot see but I can perceive. Of course it is only a tricky game of our brains, as soon as I switch on the light, I feel relief. I have always been trying to stay calm , and use my logic and absorb the peaceful sensation of being lost into nothing but obscurity, but it’s like something deeper inside is pushing me to think negatively, it is something I cannot control. I believe something unconscious happens. We always relate dark to something scary , negative, secret, furtive, mysterious or horrific. This is only because in darkness we cannot see, one of our senses is blocked; but it doesn’t mean something bad is actually going to happen. It is all imagination. And it is all unreal. Can you imagine yourself in a room full of people, your hearing is stimulated, you feel part of the world, you exist ; but in the same way you still feel you are present and real in a quiet space, in silence ,you feel different ,you experience space in a completely different way but you are not immediately scared something is moving, or someone is there quiet and mysterious . Why is this happening then when we are in dark? We should be able to control that instinct of negative thought, and be rational . Why is this then so difficult? What other reasons are hidden into us, deeply inside our history , our culture and our perception. I felt I needed to find out, and move on from my fear. That’s when I decided I should research the subject, and find answers to my questions.
INTRODUCTION In Bright spaces one sees better, in dark spaces one hears better. Using this quote to highlight the importance both light and black spaces have in our lives, in our perception of things, as senses are to the body. Light and Darkness for once not excluding one the other. Often in history these two have been divided as if being of separate worlds. When in reality with the suppression of one of the two the other will not exist. The balance our eyes perceive is all thanks to the contrast these 2 ‘essence’ create. Imagine a world with no contrast. You can’t . It becomes of such importance because the meaningful essence of anything existing on this planet it is defined by its properties, or quality relative to something else. In total light for example the human being won’t even recognise its own body, its own volume. The three dimensional form we are won’t have an explanation to our eyes with no black shadow projected on our surrounding. We truly understand our body by seeing it moving around , interacting with the object close to us, and creating shadows and reflections. This won’t be possible in a world of total brightness. On the other hand , on the same way light needs shadows and darkness, darkness needs light to find meaning. The character of a body would be lost to the darkness,” the edges blurred so that its identity becomes a part of the Dark Space “ ( Vidler , 1999, pg 167-177)), where you could be removed of your own characteristics and you own subjectivity. Many try to discuss which of the two could exist on it s own, which one has a stronger impact on our existence. Ranging from the comparison of different cultures an their approach to lighting, and the way the percieve it and the meaning it has been given according to their past history, to the definiiton various characters in literature and in the past have given to shadow and light as an important way to represent certain beliefs , to then end with the analytical approach of some case studies. My Research thesis will try to emphysize these two features on their own as individually important and as an inseparable coexistence.Trying to achieve a good understanding of the subject and its essence, being able to explain how they are at the root of almost everything we need to accomplish with design. Fig.1
THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF LIGHT AND SHADOW Chapter 1 Light has been always associated with truth, positivity, faith, virtue, knowledge and divinity. Not only but Light is part of the figurative language and always impersonalise God and power. It is for sure influenced by the theory of perception from philosophers like Plato in the early Christianity who states light is beyond reality and is more powerful. In the Middle Ages era, people believed they only could understand something if in that something they could see God, Light then became not only a source of radiation, but became a symbol of transcendence. This ideology then found its sequence into been represented in Western painting and stained glass into churches and sacred places to create an immaterial and vibrant effect. In the 16th century then the symbolic meaning of light became a visual metaphor for reincarnation and miracles, for the same reason appearance of God into the sky were always described as a radiant light stream direct down to the earth. In the 17th and 18th century then light was explored by Artists as Caravaggio, which made paintings in where light was strongly highlighted and separated from shadows as to show the power of its grace. We can state that, Light symbolism, then was transformed into secular themes, where it personifies understanding, goodness, knowledge and rebirth. Society and people then perceive light both in a symbolic way , but also in reality as something that is good, positive which can bring you the strength to create, dynamism, as a spiritual vision and it is opposed to everything happening into darkness as something bad, evil, catastrophic, inactive and with spiritual blindness. All that happens into light is innocent, true, right opposing of course on what happens into obscurity that becomes automatically secret, furtive and negative. It becomes obvious how into this dayâ€™s society it became more and more difficult to find shadows and how interior spaces are exposed to as much as natural light as possible. Light symbolism in fact is extended to the concept of using illumination in the reality, not only abling natural light to enter our buildings and spaces, but as technology advances and improves , introducing artificial lighting too. We can see how lighting then , maintained pretty much the same meaning, and people have the same need of feeling protected by it, like in the past also into our present. Light as a way to chase the darkness, and used to extend daily light as always connected to giving a positive contribution to our life. 3
In contrast with Western culture ideology, of positive lighting as contrary of the negative darkness, dark in the East, precisely in Japan, is appreciated and almost praised. Japanese culture in fact sees into shadows a special beauty essential into all living spaces. Junichiro Tanizaki, one of the greatest Japanese novelists of his time, into his book “ In praise of shadows” describes the collision between the shadows of traditional Japanese interior and the dazzling light of modern age. He describes the depth of his culture as following: “The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty’s end. And so it has to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on a variation of shadows heavy shadows against light shadows - it has nothing else.”(Tanizaki, 2001, pg. 29) Japanese architecture regards light in a much more subtle fashion: light is seen as a liquid than can take different shapes and properties depending on the time of day and change seasons. Moreover, light and shadows are intrinsic to how their architecture and homes have evolved. They will always have pale colour as sand into their living room, all the best to highlight evenings fading light and the transition to darkness becomes as a ritual. In a traditional Japanese home eaves are extended and verandas are created so that the beam of sunlight barely contacting directly the interior space makes indirect light create a soft atmosphere. The use of materials, shapes is all linked to the way shadows and low lighting interacts with them, and on revealing its mystery. “ When we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the cross beam, around the flowers... we know perfectly is shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence, that here in the darkness immutable tranquillity holds sway.”(Tanizaki, 2001, p.32) The symbolic meaning of shadows and light in Chinese culture can be seen as similar to the one in Japanese culture but instead of perceiving shadows as almost the only way to achieve balance, Chinese belief is in finding coexistence between light and darkness and in focusing between their interplay and their harmonious correspondence. At the base of Chinese philosophy we find the theory of Feng Shui better described by A. T. Mann: “ The Chinese based their art and science of orienting and siting buildings upon working of mysterious earth forces known as Feng Shui- literally ‘ wind’ and ‘ water ‘..” (Mann, 1993, pg.77) 4
At the base of the theory, there is the balance between yin (passive force) and yang (negative force)[Fig.5]. Dark & Light. Hard & Soft. Loud & Quiet. The circle is not all white or all black. We have as much light as dark, and hopefully not too much of either one. ” There is light in darkness” and, “There is darkness in light.” In general the symbolic meaning of light and darkness, in not only represented with the contrast and the good balance between them in space, but also by the color scheme that is reflected by light. In a traditional house in fact, we could always find dim light with no transparent glass. On the other hand their architecture and interior is harmoniously light by the reflection of gold, used to create stability between light and obscurity. It is also a good way to emphasize the other colors, like blue and red very present into Chinese culture too.
CONTRAST Chapter 2
Design as an exercise in creating or suggesting contrast then, which is used to define hierarchy, manipulate certain widely understood relationships and exploit context to enhance or redefine those relationships, all in effort to convey meaning. Contrast is important because the meaningful essence of something is defined but what are its values, properties, quality related to something else[Fig.6]. Nothing in fact can have really meaning on its own. The function of contrast in defining meaning can be explained as we have already seen, by comparing opposites: dark/light, soft/ hard, fast/slow. This is necessary to create human perception of things, and so necessary in designing for humans. More important of all these contrast between elements is necessary to find balance and stability. With these in mind I would like to abandon the idea of contrasting elements separated and being 2 different identities, abandon the continuous duality given to light and dark which commenced from the beginning of time, surpass the first meaning of the word but beginning to analyse how these two co exist in a world where all that appears to be real is defined by both of them lying the one next to the other. As Tadao Ando mentions: â€œ I know two different kinds of light from my own experience. One is a space of light in darkness, into which dim light emerges, the other is a light that cuts sharply trough the darkness as if manifesting its existence in strong contrast with the darkness.â€?(Drew, 1996) Dark Spaces as dwelling within an environment of Light Spaces. They have always been defined as antithesis, but they are more connected by a co-dependent relationship in where reality is revealed. [Fig.8] It is easy to forget how much we need darkness and shadows, and how this can be benefit in our existence, in an era where with technology we can move away from the limitations imposed by creating solid walls with huge holes, translucent skins and artificial lighting. We have been so used to flood the space with natural and artificial light that we have been forgetting what are the immense qualities darkness can have. People that have been experiencing total black out, or being immersed into total darkness, have for sure noticed how that can have an absolute positive and unnerving quality. It is true that we become unable to see anything, blind and it is in that darkness, where we understand and notice the tiniest source of light, a medium readily taken for granted when it is not there. 6
Without light we cannot read our environment, our surrounding disappears and we cannot determine our position in space. These are probably some of the reasons we cannot find dark in the contemporary world anymore that easy to experience. Dark Spaces in its obscurity on the other hand, becomes kind of neutral, it can be shaped and shapes reality, quality that cannot be found in light spaces, where the need of remaining transparent makes it be a reflection of what is inhabiting it in that precise time and place. In this case then you can see how roles are inverted, how light and the need of transparency, which is introduced by modernity, are seen as a strong reflection of human activities instead of being a singular essence in space. Can perhaps be darkness in this precise case something, which has in its own mystery, a stronger independence? Callois states: “ the magical hold of night and obscurity, the fear of the dark, probably also has its roots in the peril in which it puts the opposition between the organism and its milieu (environment), darkness is not the mere absence of light; there is something positive about it... it touches the individual directly, envelops him, penetrates him, and even passes through him.” (Vidler, 1999) It seems as in the dark we are and can be our real self, we can’t escape and we don ‘t need to hide, we can be removed of our own subjectivity and sometimes instead of seeing it as a way of losing our self: finding the reality in what we are. The reality is that in this man - made environment, it is quite impossible to be without any kind of light. This is because in our culture both darkness and shadow are seen as something irrationally negative, beyond the fact that it deprive us of one of our senses, there is a more profound meaning to our aversion to its presence. The reason of this are rooted in some old mythologies where the gods of light are often represented by the light and their enemies as the dark side and negative one. Certainly the Christian world has always faced the “ light /dark “ allegory with the concept of duality, where dark was associated with death, bad, penitence and crime or loss. Duality is at the very beginning of the Bible too, in the creation of light from darkness: “And God said, let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” ”(Bible suit, 1984) “ Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”(Bible suit, 1984) Fig.9
From the very beginning Jesus, one of the most important personality of the time, identifies himself as the “ light of the world”, contrasting himself to what is everything in the darkness. Darkness, as polar to brightness, is understood to be an absence of visible light. In this case seen as evil, that unable the subject to see clearly in this world. Not only in the Bible we can find this theme of duality, but in art and history too. Pliny, in his Natural History states how painting was born the first time when the human shadows were delineated by lines. When it first emerged of course it was part of the theme of presence and absence in the human body, Shadow seen as a projection of what is real (body) and so as a negative thing for the human being, painting on its own being too, a representation only. The same Idea came from Plato’s theory of the Myth of the Cave[Fig.10]. He describes man as imprisoned in a cave, turning the back to the entrance and so facing only the darkness of the interior of the cave. He explains how man inside can only meet a fake reality of shadows of things projected from outside to the walls of the Cave, and that only by turning the back to the sun and the light man can face reality and truth, and gain knowledge. Both deals with the myth of origin, and centred on the motif of projection that is the shadow. Our value system then is of course strongly influenced by the idea that light is ‘positive’ and dark is ‘negative’. We need to analyse them to understand what a dark space really means in our sub consciousness. If we think about it all organisms on earth survive because the rotation of our world creates a balance between night and day, and because night maintain our circadian rhythms and therefore our survival, it should be normal for us to live with it and in it. Unfortunately the industrialization of our cities permits us to have a continues and nonstop use of light, our cities in fact and some of our spaces are lightened 20 hours a day all the week as if we need to state we have owned light. The problem now we need to be careful not to lose forever the natural qualities of darkness that should be preserved and not feared. Over the year in fact, the light pollution has become one of the issues that seems we are trying to eliminate or at least minimize. Cities are so flooded by light that we are not even able to see the sky at night, and appreciate its profundity, and its naturally ability to give as comfort contemplating the universe. Now that we have the ability to create light and use it wherever we need it we should see into darkness not fear something to escape from but quite the opposite: see it as our refuge. 8
It â€˜s just now that we can understand the full strength of both: darkness when it becomes something to be defined with light not to be lost, and Light finding its meaning only in contrast with darkness, that can define its outline. The same happens with Shadows, that is a common method to highlight architecture and design and that is different from darkness. Darkness seen as an opposite, shadow seen as a partner of light, invading the spaces in the same ways light is. Again though shadow too has negative connotations, As already said we can find them into our past, but still in our present like in the northern hemisphere where it is seen as something threatening, as covering entire months with total obscourity, and consequently the need of creating a uniform light is becoming more and more requested. Uniformity on the other hand, gives a space a gloomy and monotonous character. In my opinion an environment where no contrast is created can be only a disturbing one. Eyes and brains need to be stimulated and not fall into a low attention status, need contrast and the playing of texture and patterns that can be given only with shadows creating them. Most important of all, shades created on the surface, gives us the direction and intensity of light. It gives us information on climate and on the time of the day, we probably give this for granted but it is an essential role that plays in our daily life as making us part of the mechanism of the planet and its way of behaving to seasons, time of day and rotation into our galaxy. Shadows can also help to modify our perception of things, to make them scary, cosy, ecclesiastical, romantic. We can choose then what kind of lighting to introduce into our environments to change the space to our needs. It is then a positive thing to work with, we probably just realize its presence when really obvious contrast is created, as in the way it affects our mood in a sunny day and in a overcast one, or in the morning and in the late afternoon when long shadows cover our streets and our surrounding. Though light as said is most of times artificial one, then in this case itâ€™s up to us how we want to use it. Decisions must be made correctly. Many designers and architects approach the creation of their spaces in different ways for different activities. I will analyse some of the buildings that captured my attention during my research, and the reasons why light is used in that particular way to create certain shadows, which induce people exploring that particular architecture, to have different reactions. I will separate the case studies into different paragraphs, from the once where darkness is emphasized and why and vice versa,as to see the difference into their design methodology. Before though, an important aspect of designing with light and shadows needs to be analysed: materiality. 9
MATERIALITY Chapter 3
Light revealing texture
Steel : the pattern of light can be overlaid onto the physical texture of a surface to create a layered effect.
Fig.12 Marble: the effect of light and shade ilustrates how veining may be percieved in entirely different ways.
Fig.13 Stone: with the light depicting the surface we can understand the feeling of the material
The various ways surfaces are lightened by light makes them reveal they very first nature. The appearance is ruled by the direction, and angle of light but also from the nature of the surface. This appearance can be also called: texture. Every material has a predefined texture, with the help of light though it can be revealed, and amplified or also hidden. Light can show it smoothness, its grain, weave, consistency and coarseness. Materials can be transparent, refractive and reflective, and this can create a pattern to light even if we know light has no texture on its own. In other words, the capacity of light to be textured can be the way of creating an architecture made of light. This is one of the reasons why architects and designers must be very careful in what ways the can use both light and materials, to achieve a precise effect in the perception of the building they are idealizing, Shadows too, need to work quite simultaneously with light to be able to highlight and reveal the potential of each space. The way these works together infact can be a possibility to show its qualities. The ways surfaces are illuminated can add to composition a higher richness and variety. Materials are chosen with such criteria as strength, permeability, durability, and thermal performances. Though light can visually create a second understanding of the material and it manifests its qualities in a different way, which is why is extremely important during the creation phase. One of the buildings I find interesting for the choice of materiality related to light, it ‘s Carlo Scarpa renovation to Castelvecchio museum in Verona. The renovation and reinstallation of the museum is considered to be one of Scarpa’s most important works, and it demonstrates his ability to design some sophisticated work with a complicated historical building. An example of Scarpa’s brilliance with materials is shown in 2 different areas in the museum. One interesting adaption is the low concrete wall that stands nearby to the entry to the museum. The roughly textured appearance, and round aggregate utilized within the wall, imitates the character of historic walls from Castelvecchio and other locations within Verona, within which rounded stones are laid inconsistently within mortar beds. The details of the junctions in bronze[Fig.17], created for the restoration, with the use of light helps highlighting the textures created into the stones, it connect perfectly new to old, but with providing attention from the user to the Historical part to appreciate its texture[Fig.15]. Through a simple variation in levels and falls[Fig.14], Scarpa has created an acute felt separation of the elements, within an area in which many parts join. 10
The placing of a historic trough, spanning two of the steps, additionally contributes to the effect of this detail upon the surrounding spaces.
On the other hand, materiality is used very differently to suggest modernity and to address the visitor in the rethinking of the building[Fig.18], with the introduction of a particular staircase and its characteristics. A famous statue of Mastino II [Fig.19] had to be reintroduced into the building and many proposals had been made. One of which was to suspend the statue from the ceiling in the central void of the clock Tower, through a structure of beams embedded steel on three sides of the .In the next phase of the project though, additional factors led to restudy the approved solution: the suspension of the statue in the vacuum of the tower would, in fact, generated indirectly side effects of backlighting making it difficult to read the environment The total detachment from location of the interior walkways would, also complicated any future maintenance of the statue if not the cost of expensive scaffolding system. The final solution presupposes a courageous choice to propose a new plan within the Clock Tower, an integral part of the future exhibition that allows a new and tighter relationship between the visitor and the statue, ensuring, at the same time, readability and easy maintainability. The articulate evolution of the project was to use metal components in Corten steel, folded, cut and modelled in the service of the new structures. Highest expression in the realization connection with the above technical areas of the tower, a ladder in steel bands corten that lightened by meanings closely with functional connotes geometries suspended the new architecture the exhibition space of the equestrian statue. It becomes more evident here, the material compatibility of corten linked to changing its colour surface, that will continue its discrete transformation over time. Materiality then becomes of higher importance in this case, as a way to find its meaning revealed by daylight,Scarpa had in mind every single play the texture and shape could create, And its important interrelationship with the statue, and the shadows it creates on it. The lighting effect created in fact, are of crucial importance. The hours of the day, seasons and the changing mood of time itself would never permit the statue to be immersed twice in the same light.
Chapter 4 CASE STUDIES
Fig.22.23 Silent Office
Emphasizing darkness The first building that got my attention in my research is - Silent Office: in Tokyo- Japan where Takashi Yamaguchi & Associates uses a discussable source and criteria light is used. The Architecture is composed of the closed space to catch silence. Part of the building are composed of bright and work friendly area, on the third floor though a particular request was made to create an “ incubation office” where to have total focus. The client wanted not the typical office space but one where brain and ideas were activated. The space then is articulated with long dark corridors[Fig.23] and offices where the light in concentrated on some specific areas. The light conception was to create a discreet arrangement so light and sounds are maintained to the minimum. Though illumination program is programmed to show different forms at different times and places. For the designer this facilities, and the way they are designed get an immediate productivity and performance, but also to make the creativity of the person come out by making them interact with the space and with the people in it. From the photographs we can get the idea of a place that doesn’t remind of a working area at all. It becomes more of a religious almost spiritual space, maybe this is what they wanted to achieve. A place where the person can feel stimulated and find its peace. It can be discussed that maybe too much darkness can take focus away, and relax the brain too much instead of inducing it to produce stuff. Maybe this kind of Lighting experience could be more suitable for a Museum, or spaces where entertainment is involved. Something perhaps as the innovative creation of a subterranean space in the Tate modern: the Tanks. Even if the architect J. Herzog stated: “ our approach should not be seen as a fashion trend or an alternative to the white cube..” the Tanks in the Tate Modern are with their raw-concrete feel, a new contrasting experience for the public, from what is the common one we are used to. People are Lost in darkness to find themselves approaching things differently, they are not opposed to a white wall trying to understand the meaning of art, they are immerged in what art is, finding its meaning while experiencing it in its way. “ ..Imagine a classic painting hanging in the darkness of a round raw concrete.”(Tate. 2012.). That would be of a completely different impact in our minds, only for the fact that it is classical opposed to modernity. Only for the fact that it is like a protest to banality. Light in light does not create contrast. Light in darkness is contrast itself, having a strong impact in our perception. 12
Should then Museums all be in darkness? Should we create a stronger sense of awareness to facilitate understanding? Can we use this method that is already used in Most of Religious buildings to aware people of division between the spiritual and the secular, into what is something simpler like a painting in the darkness? Emphasizing light and transparency Transparency has always been studied as contradictory element, but in many occasions supported as being of extremely importance, in the psychological and physiological aspect of architecture. The German poet Paul Sheerbart (1863-1915) was one on the most famous visionary architecture writers interested into the Avant gard movement during the early nineteen’s. He published Glasarchitecktur in 1914 in Berlin, where he discussed the importance of glass into the new architecture world, as being the element that will open up spaces to a new approach in architecture. In the first chapter of his book, consisting of 111 very short chapters, he states how we are actually spending most of our living into enclosed spaces and it is in those spaces that make our environment that our culture grows. “ Our culture is in a sense a product of our architecture. If we wish to raise our culture to a higher level, we are forced for better or for worse to transform our architecture. And this will be possible only if we remove the enclosed quality from the spaces within which we live. This can be done only trough the introduction of glass architecture that lets the sunlight and the light of the moon and stars into our rooms...” (Frampton, 1992)with this new form of environment then, a new culture will be created. The writers main goal is to try and create a better society, civilization needs to be improved, all by introducing a total translucency into our city landscape and environment. With glass comes new technology of course, of steel and iron construction, which will help its creativity in new design. According to his theory, the creation of building must become kind of spiritual, glass however won’t be totally transparent, but will have coloured shades, which will create an angelic, holy atmosphere wherever light reflects on it. The idea is to permit daylight to pass trough it and filtering the colours originates a translucent impression, but not completely transparent one. Either from the outside, or the inside, people can get an inkling of forms taking shape without breaking the division between interior and exterior, and without invading the other privacy. Man is no more enclosed and shut by brick architecture, but in glass, coloured glass, can find its own proper space to contemplate the outside world. 13
With the help of Bruno Taut, an architect of those days, his ideas became reality. They mixed their opinions to create A Glass House at the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition. The purpose of the project was to create pure beauty; the building is all created with mosaic, and coloured glass and reflection in the water from light coming from every single part of the design. [Fig.28] Paul Scheerbart, on his part, observed the different aspects of light, and its alteration so to say powered by glass material. Scheerbart promoted translucency by means of color, allowing light to pass through areas of glass, though not to the degree of total transparency. As we have seen, this opacity, gives refuge from being observed. Instead it opens up towards the outdoor and it makes room for peace and contemplation.Built in glass, concrete and iron Scheerbart’s glass architecture is transparent in the literal sense of the word. The constructed Glass House is in possession of a transparency of meaning “experiencing the luminousness of the thing in itself” (Sontag 1996 pg.13). Paul Scheerbart’s notion of transparency is also allegorical, as an utopia of a new society.
Fig.28 Glass House
The conventional wisdom of modern urbanism then is clearly to flood dark space with light and open up all spaces to vision and occupation. After Foucault architects and historians with politics have largely concentrated their attention to the transparency of space. Transparency was thought to eliminate tyranny too, and the irrational. Building where trying to maintain open spaces, where light and air could circulate, where things were visible.
On the other hand, during wartime we have a lot of examples of building that uses this idea only as a theory, only as an advertising of its truth. I want to analyse a building by Terragni : La Casa del Fascio a Como. During my second year, while researching about powerful tools in media and into the power of inducing illusion into people’s mind to obtain something, I have come across this building that embrace the exact same theory. In fact, the structure served as a space for organising propaganda and for social and politic meeting of public fascists at that time. Terragni wanted to create a building, which was supposed to be the desire of all fascists, with pure and modern lines. The idea of le Case Del Fascio built in Italy were to try and eliminate any break in continuity between indoors and outdoors spaces, so that the leader could speak to his followers. On the other hand if we analysing in detail the plans and sections of the entire site, we can notice how the relationship between interior and exterior is only an illusion. Big opening into the facade not always were windows, most of the times they are only fake holes, darkness was visible from the inside but not from the outside[Fig.30]. Into people’s mind the message was of a glasshouse into where there were no obstacles, nothing in between il Duce and his people. The structure of the interior though was clearly obvious, a big courtyard surrounded by offices ready for inspection, yes people felt free but they were under supervision all the time, and they were not visible from the outside. This shows how the idea of transparency is strongly distorted and can be discussed. Transparency as a method of transmitting into people’s mind freedom, truth and loyalty. but being used as to achieve the opposite: control. supervision, and secrecy. The preoccupation with light spaces in fact is that its constant transparency and the way it needs to reveal everything it touches, can be seen as desire to control the things that would be otherwise lost in darkness, we need to reveal ourselves to control our environment.
Fig.29.30 Casa Del Fascio di Como
I want to mention an example supporting the statement just made. For my design project I have been asked to have a site visit to the central area of London, the one in Queen Street where most of the office buildings are concentrated. While walking around the area, I have noticed that all buildings, or most of them, are created with the theory of transparency in mind. Office area and computers with personal information are totally exposed to the public. [Fig.33] 15
The problem are not the big windows facing the streets, but the idea of the need to show to everyone what is happening in the inside, as a desire to have no secret to the world. I have been thinking on how this can be really unhealthy for both sides, on the one people working into the office are constantly under pressure, not only everyone passing by can see what is on their screen and if they are actually working the way they are supposed to, but they are nearly forced to be continuously on attention, carefully not exposing they personal things on the tables, or hiding themselves and their actions. In a way this total opening can be seen as a positive thing, a way of saying to people: “ we have nothing to hide, everything in here is legal and correct” but on the other hand it is a full control of the person living on the inside, deprived of his privacy. Is this healthy? Isn’t this an intrusion in people’s personal life? We can discuss that in this way people working doesn’t feel really comfortable on been exposed all week to others eyes, have no privacy and no personal time to relax and to have a 5 minute break as they would be under supervision constantly. They would need a space where they can feel protected, with some kind of dark room where to relax and to have a coffee away from continuous control. Despite more than a century of clean and white modernism people are still attracted and in need of those moments in a cosy pub or in front of a chimney and fire or just contemplating the obscurity.
The perfect contrast to this real and cozy image that is now in our head is the glass and clear Farnsworth house. The structure is one of the most significant of Mies van der Rohe’s works. As we all know it is one of a series of glass and steel work Mies had completed from 1920, being nominated as one of the main leaders of the modern movement and the Avant gard. The building is what we call the culmination at the peak of his career. The house was meant to be a country retreat for his client Dr . Farnsworth. Immersed into the nature this white-beamed house raises 5 feet and 3 inches above the ground, as a glass box. The goal of Mies was the one to be able to find a direct relationship between exterior and interior, to let the nature penetrate into the privacy of the so called “ house” and to let the owner meet the essence of the flora, he in fact states: “ Before you live in a glass house you do not know how colorful nature is. We should attempt to bring nature, house and human being together in a higher unity”. (Becker, L.B., 2003)
In a way he is trying to abolish the traditional rooms, walls, doors, windows and even physical possessions and privacy. It can be discussed then if in such ambience a person could actually benefit of what the place is offering him. With no doubt, Mies work had a very specific direction, but is all of that exposing really inhabitable? Glass in this case seems as the only thing that keeps it into the very first description of a house, as a space with 4 walls and a roof, without it, it would have been perhaps only a pavilion? It’s the only thing that enfolds the space, still gives the owner a sense of protection from the agencies of the exterior. but it is totally transparent as falling into the exterior, when the nights falls down though, does the user still feels secure? Protected? When the surrounding is not visible, when there is no certainty of what there is around. Doesn’t a person need to feel he is not forced to meet the exterior continuously, but find its privacy and its relief into something that separates him from the rest of the world? I believe this is what we have been trying to do for all our existence, people from the Paleolithic searched for a cave in which to find relief, protection and discretion. I am thinking then if there is a time after all where anyone experiencing Farnsworth house feels no more free, but in a way forced to be exposed to light and to the public, and then needs to find its tranquility with some shadows and a wall to be surrounded by, and see transparency as no less limiting and confinable as complete dark room.
The house in reality has been criticized, for different reasons, from the client herself. Everything started when Dr Edith Farnsworth met Mies during a house dinner party, and she explained him her intention to built a weekend retreat in her already owned land in Illinois and as soon as the night ended they were talking about him taking on the project. She started appreciating Mies ideas, and wanted her house to become a symbol of what was architecture those days, so the project began. During the period they were together, is said that she started having feelings for the architect, and imagined the house for both of them. When this didn’t really happen and Mies was not a presence in her life anymore, she was quite disappointed, and brought her disappointment to court, ready to sue him of not being coherent with what she requested him to do. 16
The problems she encountered were a lot and various, first of all its high maintenance. Second of all the fact it was not livable, for some of the reason explained previously in the paragraph, as the little privacy offered by the design itself, as well as some more obvious ones, as the fact the house becomes a lantern for bugs and insects at night, because of its glass, and its steel columns rust and they frequently need sanding and painting. Some of the issues were resolved with the years and with its second owner, others till now seems to be irresolvable, and even if the building became a museum and was beautifully renovated, it needs constant caring and carefulness. Are these open and bright spaces inhabitable then? Are we comfortable with total bright? Donâ€˜t we need dark to feel safe? Is then Darkness safer than light? Or is it the balance between them to make us feel we can express ourselves in spaces? I have analysed some structures, buildings that for some precise reasons choose to create either total darkness, or total brightness. This analysis raised some questions, in which we can find an answer based to our own taste. On the other hand, this thesis is meant to clarify how specific use of light and shadows, together, can quite easily explain and gain importance into a space, without raising question but being clear and sharp, not only as a strong design statement but also as an important way to induce a specific reaction to peopleâ€™s experience.
Fig. 34.35.36 Farnsworth House
Achieving balance between light and shadow Someone that definitely needs to find a balance between contrasts in his architecture is Tadao Ando. Ando’s work springs from the subconscious and finds an affinity with Zen philosophy while being connected to the Japanese tradition. With his work, he expresses the dual nature of existence. At the intersection of light and silence we become aware of the “nothingness”, a void at the heart of things. He uses the light as the medium to clarify the emptiness in his architecture. That is his method. But he is aware that with no darkness, with no thick walls being an obstacle, light wouldn’t find its full meaning and wouldn’t be what he wants it to be.in the ‘ Church of light” light enters mainly from behind the altar from a cross cut in the concrete wall that extends vertically from floor to ceiling and horizontally from wall to wall. At this intersection of light and solid the occupant is meant to become aware of the deep vision between spiritual and secular. The density of his wall, with glass, registers the different qualities of light enchanting it. “Light is invited to play across the surface of the concrete constantly revealing as it moves the ever- changing interdependency of light climate and season across time” (Drew, P.D., 1996) He wants to give light the meaning of sacred, the thing that bring life to the obscurity, but he is well conscious of the importance of shadow and contrast in the space to achieve his goal. Darkness in this case is as necessary as light, it s the essence that gives the mystery and that guides you to the openings in the wall. With no darkness the big cross in the wall would loose its identity, its meaning If the walls were all glass, then the cross wouldn’t be the main point of focus, the only source of light, but it would have been lost into the transparency of the surrounding and the church would have lost its meaning, and the way it makes people react to it. On the same way people approach the Church of light, they can find a similar atmosphere into the Chapel in Ron champ designed by Le Corbusier. In 1950 he started building the Church, he wanted to focus on the purity of design and leave a part all the typical modern aesthetic. He tried to achieve a design of purity, where the whitewashed rendering is applied to the interior walls, and when the light filters from the cuttings into the thick exterior they create an ethereal atmosphere. The effect of the light is meant to unify certain experience and feeling parallel to the liturgical ceremony. They express some predefined and specific emotional qualities. Fig. 37.38.39 Church Of Light
Fig.40.41.42 Ronchamp Chapel
Most of the light is entering the building from the openings that create a kind of grille, yet the effect is the one of a diffuse light, to all the interior, no particular feature is highlighted as in the manner of a Baroque liturgical church. The curvilinear walls gives to the chapel its sculptural effect, the thick walls seems as they support the entire structure, and the huge rounded roof, but they actually donâ€™t serve as a support to that, as you can observe a 10 cm gap between roof and walls which allow a sliver of clerestory light. Even if the roof seems so massive and heavy, the light separating it to the rest help making it weightless and as itâ€™s floating on the top of everything. One of the most interesting aspect of the design, are actually the openings into the wall, that are all covered with different shapes of coloured glass, that give the place a celestial effect, as its glimmering from small stars in the universe. Each wall itâ€™s illuminated differently, and in conjunction with the white washed walls, create a more punctuated, intense light. These light effects are created to give the subject entering the building a religious image, and a transformative experience. Corbusier, decided to create a really imposing design on the outside, but as you enter the building you forget about the exterior and its imposing qualities, you are completely engaged with the lighting effect and the sensation they give to you and the way it manages to creates for each one a different experience. Light in this case plays an important role, not only on the significance of the shapes of it, but more onto the effect it creates into all the interior of the building. We can see how In Church of Light, the openings are trying to get the attention directly to it, when in Ron champ chapel, They are meant to create a diffuse effect as you enter the building you are lost in its atmosphere, not being attracted and directed to something in particular but to feel in a certain way. Shadows are created with attention to what need to be obscured, and to emphasize what needs awareness. 19
CONCLUSION The analysis made into culture, phylosophy , literature and architecture regarding the symbolism of light and darkness and their use as both individual essence, brought me to gain a good understanding of the subject. I think I proved my first point of discussion, which is the need to inlcude both light and shadows into our living spaces to be able to appreciate and to understand , and also live comfortably in them . The balance, and the coexistance of these two elements , present into our everyday life, is the perfect way to feel part of the planet, to live in the most efficient and healthy ambience for our needs. In an era where light seems to cover easily every surface of this earth, we need to remember the importance of darkness into our perception of things, and into our wellbeing. We need it, it is part of us. Dark Spaces exist near and behind our places of light, they exist as a way to differentiate background to foreground, to connect object to the ground and to give depth to them, to make it real. We should try and appreciate, not fear them, and include them into our life as a fundamental part of our understanding and perception of the world. As a friend of mine once told me: â€œ I prefer being merged into the darkness , with its misterious qualities looking into the known, rather than being in the visible light, staring to the unknown.â€?
Farnsworth House. org. 2008. Dr. Edith Farnsworth (1903-1978). [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/pdf/staff/Chapter%203C%20
-%20Biography%20of%20Farnsworth.pdf. [Accessed 28 January 13].
Drew, P.D., 1996. Church Of Light Church on the Water, Tadao Ando. 1st ed.
about.com Architecture. 2008. Mies van der Rohe Gets Sued. [ONLINE] Avail-
London: Phaidon Press LTD.
able at:http://architecture.about.com/od/houses/a/farnsworth.htm. [Accessed
Frampton, K.F., 1992. Modern Architecture a critical history. 3rd ed. London:
23 January 13].
Thames and Hudson LTD.
Becker, L.B., 2003. Glass House Struck by Gavel. Repeat, an archive of writ-
Major, Jonathan Speirs, Anthony Tischhauser, M.M. J. S. A. T., 2005. Made Of
ings on architecture in Chicago and the world., [Online]. 31, 1. Available at:
light, The Art of Light and Architecture. 1st ed. Switzerland: Birkhauser.
http://lynnbecker.com/repeat/Farnsworth/farnsworth.htm[Accessed 23 Janu-
Mann , A.T. ,Sacred Architecture, elements books Ltd, USA , 1993 , p.77
Millet, M.S.M., 1996. Light revealing architecture. 1st ed . USA :ITP.
Philip Smith. 2013. Museo di Castelvecchio. [ONLINE] Available at: http://
Stoichita, V. I. S., 1997. A Short hystory of The Shadow. 1st ed. Switzerland:
www.o2landscapes.com/pages/essay-2c.php. [Accessed 20 February 13].
Reaktion Books LTD.
Gertrud OLSSON. 2004. Paul Scheerbart’s utopia of coloured glass. [ON-
Tanizaki, J. T. , 2001. in praise of shadows. 1st ed. London: Vintage Classics.
LINE] Available at: http://www.fadu.uba.ar/sitios/sicyt/color/aic2004/194-197.
Vandenberg, M. V. , 2005. Made Of light, The Art of Light and Architecture.
pdf. [Accessed 20 February 13].
2nd ed. London: Phaidon Press LTD. Vidler, A. V. 1999. The Architectural uncanny. 5th ed. USA: MIT press. ONLINE RESOURCES:
Tate. 2012. Jacques Herzog reflects on the Tate Tanks. [ONLINE] Available
The architectural Review, ALL 2011/2012 Editions
at: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/jacques-herzog-reflects-ontate-tanks. [Accessed 11 January 13].
http://bible.cc/. 1984. Bible suite. [ONLINE] Available at: http://niv.scripture-
Pict.1 , Canterbury, Alexia Tiberi
text.com/genesis/1.htm. [Accessed 10 January 13].
All others, www.google.com/images
James Stirling, J. S. , 2011. 1956 MARCH: LE CORBUSIER’S CHAPEL AND THE CRISIS OF RATIONALISM (RONCHAMP, FRANCE). The Architectural Review, [Online]. 28 March 2011, 1. Available at:http://www.architectural-review.com/archive/1956-march-le-corbusiers-chapel-and-the-crisis-of-rationalism-ronchamp-france/8613151.article# [Accessed 25 January 2013].
Published on May 22, 2013
My Year Three Final research thesis. Exploring the coexistance between light and shadow in architecture, literature and design.