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caus europe travel study abroad august - november 2009 caitlin gibson contents

photographs sketches light as architecture: an analysis of kunsthaus bregenz


photographs notre dame du haut, ronchamp institut du monde arabe, paris vitra conference pavilion, weil am rhein castelveccio, verona holocaust memorial, berlin riem cemetery, munich neues museum, n端rnberg


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - photographs


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - photographs


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - photographs


sketches notre dame du haut, ronchamp law library, zurich five courtyards, munich villa savoye, poissy government building, berlin hangar 7, salzburg herz jesu, munich


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - sketches


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - sketches


caitlin gibson


caus europe travel study abroad - sketches


Light as Architecture - Peter Zumthor’s Kunsthaus Bregenz

“The structure... was to throw light inside by means of stacked reflection-plates surrounding it, tilted outward in layers...”

Many factors shape architecture, whether they are questions of form, material, environment. One of the slightly more subtle factors is light, and while it is one that is taken into consideration in nearly every architectural project, few have allowed it to pervade every aspect of design as Peter Zumthor chose to do with his Kunsthaus project, located in Bregenz, Austria.

caitlin gibson

The building was conceived of as being a ‘skeleton construction’, where the internal structure bears the load of the building with a self-supported glass facade superimposed over it. The internal structure, comprised of three vertical concrete slabs which are sunk 26 meters into the ground, not only bears the load of each floor and walls of the exhibition rooms, but due to the way the slabs are situated within the plan they also “structure the inner space and divide the vertical development of the building” by providing a space to ‘hide’ the circulation/egress systems behind them; this frees up “a great unsupported space for

exhibitions”. The non-load bearing walls that define the space of the exhibition rooms rise up to meet ceilings formed of glass tiles; the ceilings create a cavity under the floor of the level directly above which allows light from each side of the building to be captured and filtered into the exhibition spaces. This is the only source of external light, as there are no visible windows. The ground floor does not have these non-load bearing walls, which allows greater deal of light directly into the room; however it lacks the dropped glass-tiled ceiling, so the light is perhaps not diffused as evenly across the space. It does have “specially de-


section showing the penetration and diffusion of light through the three layers of glass

veloped pendulum lamps… that complement the daylight” if needed; they are suspended at a height equivalent to the ceiling in the second and third exhibition floors. The exterior skin, supported by a steel structure, is comprised of a dual layer of glass panels that are angled slightly, which gives the appearance of “slightly ruffled feathers or… a scaly structure”. Since the panels are angled, it enables the skin to be permeated by the elements, and also to both absorb and reflect light. It serves “as a weather skin, daylight modulator, sun shade and ther-

mal insulator”; this too frees space for exhibitions on the interior as these aspects of the program do not have to be incorporated inside. In addition, a 90-centimeter wide space was left in between the glass facade and the interior structure, which enables light to penetrate through to the first level of the basement. It also houses a secondary lighting system, comprised of blinds that can self-adjust based on the amount of light coming in, or can be manually adjusted if required for the specific purposes of an exhibition; there is also a lighting system that is used at night.

The use of glass and concrete as materials also address the theme of light. Etched glass is used throughout the building on the external and internal parts of the facade, as well as the ceilings in the exhibition halls. The glass refracts the light as it enters the building, therefore “it is always transmitted horizontally into the interior” through the second layer of insulated glass that seals the gap between successive floors. It then enters the cavity above each exhibition gallery and then is diffused down through the glass-tiled ceiling. The muted transparency of the glass allows the light entering the space to take on an allight as architecture


top left: section top right: section view with ceiling plan middle right: plan of floors 1-4 bottom right: diagram of light diffusion into exhibition room

most physical quality, one that is amorphous, much like a gas. This creates “different light zones”, successfully creating the feeling of natural lighting. “By means of its variable consistency, light remains a constituent element of the space.” The use of concrete almost seems to act as a foil to the light entering the space, as it “varies the orientation of the light, generates shadows and reflections. It tempers the mood of the light and gives depth to the room.” Special care was taken when casting the vertical structural slabs; the formwork was made up of “unstructured, completely caitlin gibson

even panels” so that when they were removed, no polishing was necessary. The walls have a matte finish as a result, and only require cleaning with soap and water. This matte finish echoes the “velvet gleam” of the glass ceiling. Conversely, the floors and stairs are made of cast terrazzo that is polished. Since ventilation slits were installed around the walls, expansion joints were unnecessary to control the tension in the floor; this allows for an unbroken surface to reflect light back up into the space. Light, together with form and material, then begins to work together to direct

how one moves through the building. The floors of the basement and first floor are dark grey, while the stairs and exhibition floors are light grey to compound the effects of the light and pull the visitor upward into the exhibition spaces toward the light. As one moves through the space, the placement of the vertical slabs and the variations in light resulting from them direct movement in a clockwise direction. The top exhibition floor has a higher ceiling than the two previous, thereby letting in more light and drawing the visitor further into the building.


“The constantly fluctuating light creates the impression that the building is breathing. Everything seems permeable, permeable to light, wind and weather…”

“Reduced to static essentials... the construction, material and visual form of the building constitute a unified whole.” This sets up a museum that is as much art as the displays it houses, but in such an understated way as to not compete with them. The lighting techniques set off the building as much as the exhibits. Since the external light is always changing from day to day, sometimes even in the span of a few minutes, and is dependent on the weather and other environmental factors – mist off the lake for one – to an extent, it makes for a very dynamic lighting scheme.

bibliography Zumthor, Peter. Peter Zumthor, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Ostfildern: Hatje, 1999. Zumthor, Peter, and Hèĺene Binet. Peter Zumthor Works: Buildings and Projects 1979-1997. Baden: Lars Müller, 1998. “Kunsthaus Bregenz - Architecture.” Kunsthaus Bregenz. Web. 20 Jan 2010. <http://www.kunsthausbregenz.at/ehtml/k_arch.htm>. “Kunsthaus Tour.” Bregenz, AT. 09 October 2009.

light as architecture

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