Monthly Archives: November 2013

Assignment #5: Desigining the Luminous Environment

In constructing two different rooms with respect to two very different programs for their interior lighting conditions I first looked at the type of experience I wanted to create in each space. The quality, rather than the quantity, of light took a roll of greatest importance.


The Band Practice-Room

band room render

Band Practice-room Lighting Conditions

In this room the focus was placed primarily on creating a well-lit environment throughout the day while limiting harsh shadows or glare which would make reading sheet music difficult. At the same time I wanted to create a space that would be inspiring and comfortable for those who would inhabit and utilize the room. A source of inspiration came from the Christ of Light Cathedral which exemplifies beautiful lighting conditions that pervade the interior. To achieve a similar phenomenon my band practice room is fitted with a ceiling of curved louvers which reflect and refract incoming southern light, directed towards the back wall but throughout the year will not fall directly on the floor space. In addition, I included a wall of louver elements of a similar geometry intended to capture afternoon light. Finally the second story window directs natural light to fill the interior.


Christ Of Light Cathedral

The Chapel of Light

This temporal chapel is intended to provide a non-denominational space of meditation and prayer suspended from the rest of the world outside. I primarily achieved this by providing a high contrast condition between the cave-like interior and the brilliantly lit light wells. These become an object in themselves as light bounces through a curved back wall and floods out over an empty alter which can be used to place any relics or religious artifacts or worship. In addition there are two light slits along the edges of the walls and ceiling bathing the walls in near-parallel, highly textured light. There is also a space above the chapel that could be vegetated and use as a meditation garden which would dapple the incoming light creating a truly inspiring, ephemeral space.

Chapel Lighting Conditions

Chapel Lighting Conditions

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Christ Of Light Cathedral:


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Lighting: the good the bad and the shadowy

Desire for lighting

Much of Sherman’s lecture an the Dahl reading focused on lighting in technical terms and practical applications of windows and artificial lighting in architecture. However, it was Lam’s excerpt on lighting on human perception and experience that really caught my attention. Dahl points out:

During the day, we generally expect bright interior conditions, with wall and ceilings cheerfully illuminated, since they take the place of the sky and sunlit surroundings. At night , we expect the environment to be less bright, and luminance levels in the same space can be far below those appropriate during the daytime without making the space feel dark or generating feelings of gloom or sensory deprivation. Our eyes adapt to gradually changing luminous conditions during the cycle of the day and night, so that at night a candlelit room may be perceived as being brightly illuminated. The apparent brightness is high, even though the measured brightness or luminance is very low. (Dahl)

He considers current lighting standard codes developed by lighting engineers as fix-all solutions as blind to the truth that lighting plays a crucial part in the way we perceive an environment. He argues, instead, for quality over quantity. Without this in mind, the indiscriminate implementation of light as an end in of itself leads all to often to uncomfortably over-lit artificial spaces (ie; a 70s office building or Campbell Hall). It’s important to remember that we can use light to our advantage, intentionally manipulating it in all its aspects to create an environment and sensorial experience architecture alone cannot achieve.

Theater stage lighting

Clever implementation of lighting may be used consciously to create an experience or mood. Nowhere is this better seen than in the case of movies and theater. Color, intensity, direction and spread of light produces in the audience feelings of danger, joy, sadness or mystery. More to the point, lights have the capacity to focus the viewers’ attention on particular elements over others. That’s why the theater seating is always dark–we are allowed to be completely absorbed by the performance, forgetting our place and moment as spectator.

Unintended side effects of modern lighting

A common thread in my developing thought process fostered by this class has been to look at consequences of our modern civilization in contrast to the biological animals, we as humans, have been developing from before the advent of technology (in this instance, as early as agriculture). In the case of lighting, I have wondered how a relatively recent saturation of lighting has affected thousands of years of evolutionary body physiology. One interesting change is that of a disturbance of our earlier circadian sleep patterns. As I found in reading “The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep” by Stephanie Hegarty, before the 17th century it was accepted fact that people slept in two segmented blocks; the first beginning about two hours after dawn followed by a two hour period of activity before a second sleep block. Virginia Tech historian Roger Ekirch found that during this period people often wrote, talked, contemplated dreams or had sex. So what happened to this delightful nocturnal reprise? “Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century… He attributes the initial shift to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses – which were sometimes open all night. As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.” (Hegarty)


New York at night

The irony of this modern ailment resonates strongly with me as I lie in bed typing this very sentence well after midnight. I know, however that I am not alone, as the pressures and stress of the modern life affect nearly all of us (especially in the academic realm). But fortunately as we learn more about things like the effects of lighting on perception and biology we are armed with the ability to use this to our advantage and protect ourselves from its possible negative consequences. For instance, I have turned off one of my lights and kept the other indirect and in the warm spectrum to intentionally create an atmosphere of comfort and prepare my wary mind for sleep. Still, I can only imagine the long-term effects that have began to arise from the ever-lit mega city and the lamentable dwindling of visible starlight around them. We have entered an uncertain age in which too many children of the new millennium will grow up never knowing true darkness. Light pollution from millions of cars and street lights paint a picture of absolute obsession with artificial light that can be seen from outer space. Is this necessarily such a bad thing? If so, is there anything that can be done about it? Are we perhaps, too far gone?


Hegarty, Stephanie. “The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep.” BBC News Magazine. 22 February 2012. Web.

Lam, William M. C. Perception and Lighting As Formgivers for Architecture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977.

Photo credits:

“New York at night”

“Theater stage lighting”

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Assignment #4: Design For Comfort

Dubai Crescent (Ergoform)

Curitiba Bus Stop in Brazil (Trendland)

To begin thinking about the design of the bus stop I did a simple internet search and came up with a handful of quite interesting and innovative bus stop precedents. The Dubai Crescent project shown to

the right installed a number of sealed glass and steel structures that use mechanical air conditioning to shelter waiting passengers from Dubai’s aggressive daytime heat. Given the relatively inconsequential environmental impact (especially compared to the city’s enormous malls and world’s largest indoor ski slope) I wouldn’t necessarily argue that the airconditioned

bus stops aren’t a practical and cheep solution to keep residents comfortable. But in the desert, which experiences huge daily temperature swings from hot days to cold nights, perhaps large heat sinks could have been utilized to smooth out the peaks.

In the case of the micro-climate around the Culbreth  Road bus stop extreme heat is not the primary obstacle to thermal comfort of temporary inhabitants, especially considering the bus stop’s peak usage will only be when school is in session and in the daytime and late afternoon hours.Assignment 4 stereographic solar projectionAssignment 4 orthographic solar projection

The psychrometric charts reveal that cold winters will be a major design challenge. This is particularly difficult to overcome as passive heating techniques quickly loose efficacy below 50ºF. This leaves about 75% of the time outside the comfort zone during the winter. Its possible that I may have to consider the implementation of heat pumps for the particularly brutal cold nights when fellow a-schoolers are waiting to head home at 2am. The summer on the other hand will benefit frAssignment 4 psychrometric winterom cooling via air circulation which a you can see from the wind rose diagrams below.Assignment 4 psychrometric summer

The sharp edge condition of the parking garage in conjunction with the railroad and grounds lawn clearings funnel accelerated winds straight through the site. In both the summer and winter months the prevailing winds are primarily coming from the south-south west with more violent and erratic speed spikes occurring in the winter.Assignment 4 Wind Diagram-02

Bus Stop Design:

My intervention will incorporate various design features to expand the thermal comfort zone for waiting passengers. All design elements are passive; following the logic that it is-after all-just a bus stop and the 15 minute-or-so wait in a low traffic bus corridor does not justify the implementation of expensive measures such as photovoltaics or geothermal conditioning.

bus stop plan-01

bus stop render 2.2

My aim was focused on keeping the thermal bubble warm in the winter and pleasant in the fall and spring under the assumption that in the hottest months of the summer, the primary users of the bus stop–students–wouldn’t be around. I also kept my primary focus on regulating wind flows and shading as these two factors play the largest role in determining the thermal conditions of this particular system. bus stop render 1.2


Foiret, Cyril. Creative Bus Stop Design. Trendland.

Crescent: Dubai AC Bus Shelter. Ergoform: Think. Create.

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[“You don’t get out much do you?”]

IMG_20131026_175505_792 Oliver and I did a little urban exploring one day last week. Our travels took us to the far eastern edge of Charlottesville were we found the old mill building by the Rivanna. The architecture and weathered bricks were absolutely beautiful in the Golden hour of the afternoon. We looked around for awhile and found what we presumed to be the water purification plant not too far away. At the time it was great to just enjoy the afternoon outside away from studio. But we still couldn’t help but to notice the single pane windows and radiators suspended from below the sawtooth windows (you can see them directly behind me). Not to mention the tall tapered smokestack and water tower. This just goes to show that the things we’re learning in lecture have very real applications outside of studio. We can’t get away from it!meIMG_20131026_175619_625

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