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Shadows Within the Darkness

Shadows Within the Darkness




Introduction Part I: Experimentation Part II: Precedent Studies Thierry Cohen Todd Hido Craig Kalpakijan Anish Kapoor Lenka Novakova







The goal of this project is to study the representation of darkness in interior spaces. Part one of the project focuses on the exploration and investigation of darkness through model-making and photography of the built models. Part two of the project engages in a broader discussion of the influences behind this investigation and which artists' works are a precedent for the work. The discussion is themed around the definition of darkness and how artists represent it within their distinct works and mediums. One of the initial influences of the project was the writing of Junichiro Tanizaki in his book, In Praise of Shadows. Tanizaki wrote, "And so it has come to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on a variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows-it has nothing else."1 Tanizaki's work also influenced Japanese cinematography of that era. Daisuke Miyao writes, "In Praise of Shadows has been one of the most influential writings that explain Japanese aesthetics. In 1940, quoting Tanizaki's discussion extensively, Midorikawa Michio, the head of the Nipponese Society for Cinematographers, stated, 'We should observe the beauty of shadows, which appears gracefully in the harmony of [Japanese] architecture and lights.' Midorikawa urged cinematographers in Japan to use lighting that would achieve 'the beauty of shadows.'"2 In Praise of Shadows has influenced the creative work of artists, cinematographers, and designers since its conception. The project seeks to reclaim shadows within interior spaces through developing a method of representation. The question posed in the representation of darkness is how to create something more than a dark tone on a sheet of paper. Darkness has nuance and depth and both the conception of a dark space as well as the experience of darkness need to be represented.

1. Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island, 1977, Print, 18. 2. Daisuke Miyao, The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema, Durham and London: Duke UP, 2013, Print, 2.


The space has a silent light, an unreflected light. The space allows the man to interact with the purity of the light and sense the physicality of it, feeling as if the light is enveloping him or as if he could reach out with his hand and hold onto it. He can sense the light slowly moving towards him. The space is static, there is no sound except his feet as he carefully moves them across the surface of the floor. The only thing that changes in this room is the light as it slowly transforms with the time of day. As the sun sets the room is completely lit, but only for a moment and then there is only darkness.


Part I: Experimentation

Light comes from a large opening near the ceiling that spans nearly halfway down the wall to the floor. Dark voids are chiseled out of the wall in no specific order, but at two distinct scales connecting the scale of the man with the scale of the opening through which light enters the space. The man walks silently across the floor and the wooden planks deflect slightly with each step he takes. There is just enough light to see the form of the voids creating a deeper darkness beyond.

Part I: Experimentation

The opening through which light enters the space is very long and begins just above eye level. The ceiling appears as a void above the man until his eyes adapt to the darkness and he is able to see the texture of the ceiling. A reflective surface is revealed deep within the shadows and darkness of a large void cut into the wall. The man slowly walks toward the darkness of the door to the right of the void.

Part I: Experimentation

Light streams into the room through three openings. The ceiling and wall are sliced open parallel to the openings in a rhythmic pattern. Voids are created in the cuts and a reflection is revealed deep within their shadows when viewed orthogonally. The floor has been treated in a similar manner. The wooden planks have been laid parallel to the openings. Every surface in the space catches the small amount of light as it enters the space.


Part I: Experimentation

Part I: Experimentation

The light comes from above and interacts with the tiled floor to create a softly lit atmosphere. The contrast between the darkness of the ceiling’ s surface and the brightness of the light coming through the openings cut into the ceiling creates an extreme sense of depth and darkness above. Voids cut into the walls bridge the scale of the man to the scale of the space and hint at something beyond which can’ t be fully understood while inhabiting the space.

Void, 19893

A Flower, A Dream Like Death, 19863 14

Part II: Precedent Studies

Darkness has depth, it has nuance. Through darkness, forms are given a sense of depth, transforming the corner of a room into something with no end and no beginning, lacking all spatial definitions. Many artists have explored various ideas about darkness through their work, and several have influenced the work explored in this project. Anish Kapoor's early work investigates darkness through the medium of sculpture using techniques such as creating voids and using dark, matte powders. Void plays an important role in darkness because it is one of the spatial tools (non-material) that can be used to create darkness.

3. Anish Kapoor, Anish Kapoor, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.

White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers, 19823 15

Stair, 20005 16

Part II: Precedent Studies

Another level of depth can be added to darkness through the subtle use of reflection in the depths of shadows. The reflections add a level of intrigue that there is something else beyond, and heightens the sense of darkness in a space. Craig Kalpakijan explores this through his photographs of dark hallways with a mirror in the upper corner. Kalpakijan's photographs are similar to what Tanizaki wrote about in how the Japanese lacquerware responded to candlelight in a dark room. He wrote, "But in the still dimmer light of the candlestand, as I gazed at the trays and bowls standing in the shadows cast by that flickering point of flame, I discovered in the gloss of this lacquerware a depth and richness like that of a still, dark pond, a beauty I had not seen before."4

4. Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, New Haven, CT: Leeteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island, 1977, Print, 13. 5. Craig Kalpakijan, Craig Kalpakijan, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.

D.S., 20025 17

In Between the Light and Darkness, 20136 18

Part II: Precedent Studies

Lenka Novakova looks at the nuances of darkness in a series of photographs taken of an abandoned hospital in the Czech Republic. In the image to the left, she has photographed a white room, filled with sculptures, at night. The sculptures are much darker than the walls and become silhouettes in the photograph, while the walls come to the foreground. The entire focus of the photograph is reversed with the darkness because normally the attention would be on the form and detail of the sculptures, but the darkness of the room allows other qualities such as the grid of the glass panes in the windows to be perceived. The darkness reveals different aspects of the space.

6. Lenka Novakova, Lenka Novakova, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.


Dark Hall 2, 20007 20

Part II: Precedent Studies

The physical qualities of materials are amplified in darkness because visual perceptions have been minimized. A person may have to feel their way around spaces when they are in the dark. As a person moves around a dark room, they reach out and touch the surfaces around them to guide themselves through the room. They reach out and feel the rough surface of the concrete wall because it assures them spatially. The image to the left is a photograph taken by Craig Kalpakijan, and if someone was trying to move through a space with that amount of darkness, they would have no choice but to interact with the materials around them. The sense of touch plays a much larger role in people's spatial experience in darkness.

7. Craig Kalpakijan, Craig Kalpakijan, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.


Darkness requires the observation of space in more than just a visual manner. Identical spaces and materials can be experienced in a completely new way through the medium of darkness because the nonvisual senses are forced to become more in tune with the space. Andrew Juniper, in his book, Wabi Sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence, writes, "It (wabi sabi) requires that one should observe, with the utmost attention, the details and nuances that are offered to the keen eye. For it is in these almost imperceptible details that one can find the visual treasures that lie at the heart of wabi sabi, and it is through them that one might be able to catch a glimpse of the serene melancholy that they suggest."8 Through darkness, the details and nuances of a space are revealed. An active role in observing a space must be taken when there is shadow and darkness.

8. Andrew Juniper, Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence, Tokyo [etc.: Tuttle, 2010, Print, 105. 9. Craig Kalpakijan, Craig Kalpakijan, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.

Corridor 2, 19989 22

Part II: Precedent Studies

Dark Hall, 20009 23

Beam of Light (In Between the Light and Darkness), 201110 24

Part II: Precedent Studies

When spaces are truly observed, subtleties within the spaces are revealed. Raw, organic materials such as wood and stone have the ability to enhance spaces more than plastic materials because darkness and shadow reveal the imperfections within those materials. The images to the left are a series of photographs taken by Lenka Novakova. The level of darkness within which the photographs were taken reveals the nuances and details of the ground plane.

10. Lenka Novakova, Lenka Novakova, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.



Part II: Precedent Studies

Darkness reveals the light which could not be seen before. Fire is often imperceptible during the day, but once darkness falls the hidden light within the fire is revealed. Not only does fire reveal its unique characteristics in darkness, but it also begins to reveal hidden characteristics of its context. The flickering light of a campfire reveals the silhouettes of the pine trees above and allows for an understanding of the shape and scale of a pine tree whereas the colors of a pine tree and the more visual aspects were more prominent during the day. Darkness frees observation from the visual senses and allows for a more complete experience of the environment.

11. Todd Hido, Todd Hido, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.

2423a11 27



Rio de Janeiro 22° 56’ 42’’ S 2011-06-04 Lst 12:34, 201113

San Francisco 37° 48’ 30’’ N 2010-10-9 Lst 20:58, 201013 28

Part II: Precedent Studies

Thierry Cohen, a French photographer, created a series of photographs showing how cities are missing out on a very beautiful type of light at night. He photographed major cities during the day and then traveled to secluded areas of the world with the same latitude and photographed the night sky from same direction and angle as the corresponding photographs taken of the cities. He combined the two photographs to show what each city would look like if all the lights were turned off at night. The photographs showed the light the cities were unable to see because of urban light pollution. Tanizaki wrote about the Westerner's reliance on electric light saying, "We will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty. But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light-his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow."12 12. Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, New Haven, CT: Leeteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island, 1977, Print, 31. 13. Thierry Cohen, Thierry Cohen Photography, Web, November 30th, 2013, <>.


LVMH Osaka, 200415 30

Part II: Precedent Studies

Buildings should reveal a new and deeper set of characteristics when they are experienced in darkness. Kengo Kuma's Louis Vuitton project allows for a deeper understanding of the materiality of granite when viewed at night. The granite facade is lit from behind and every little detail and nuance within the material is highlighted. Louis Kahn said, "I should like to say that even a room which must be dark must have at least a crack of light to know how dark it is."14 Darkness has the ability to reveal the nuances and details hidden within materials.

14. Louis I. Kahn, Louis Kahn: Essential Texts, Ed. Robert C. Twombly, New York: W.W. Norton, 2003, Print, 231. 15. Kengo Kuma, Kengo Kuma and Associates, Web, December 1st, 2013, <>.




Architects have the tendency to avoid representing space in darkness, especially interior space. The experimentation in part one of this project will hopefully push the thinking forward as to how darkness can be represented within interior space. Other methods of representation could study how people experience dark spaces and how they move around those spaces and physically engage with the texture of the materials within dark spaces. People are much more willing to physically touch the architecture in darkened environments than well-lit spaces. Ways in which the necessity of the sense of touch are represented could deepen the exploration of the experience of darkness in interior spaces.




Cohen, Thierry. Thierry Cohen Photography. Web. November 30th, 2013. <>. Hido, Todd. Todd Hido. Web. November 30th, 2013. <>. Juniper, Andrew. Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence. Tokyo [etc.: Tuttle, 2010. Print. Kahn, Louis I. Louis Kahn: Essential Texts. Ed. Robert C. Twombly. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. Print. Kalpakijan, Craig. Craig Kalpakijan. Web. November 30th, 2013. <>. Kapoor, Anish. Anish Kapoor. Web. November 30th, 2013. <>. Kuma, Kengo. Kengo Kuma and Associates. Web. December 1st, 2013. <>. Miyao, Daisuke. The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2013. Print. Novakova, Lenka. Lenka Novakova. Web. November 30th, 2013. <>. Tanizaki, Junichiro. In Praise of Shadows. New Haven, CT: Leete's Island, 1977. Print.


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