Patterns of Connection in Architecture: The Paradox of Light and Shadow

Suman, Kim
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There exists a dialectical relationship between light and shadow. This relationship reflects the inherent paradoxical qualities of nature. Light and shadow continually move and evolve, never static, as nature continually moves and evolves. The movement of daylight continually generates its opposite, shadow, leading to a reconciliation of opposites. This continual mirroring between light and shadow creates a holistic image that gives dimensionality and life to the illuminated structure. I present this exploration of light and shadow as a set of ideas, as one example of a “poetic map”, to help architects develop an awareness of how to “think about their thinking.” This awareness reflects a way of “Being-in-the-world” that taps into a deeper consciousness of what makes us human. It reflects a way of thinking about who we are, what our fundamental needs are and what our role is in the larger world. It is essential that architects “think about their thinking”. They must reflect on the impact of their thoughts and ideas on their work. They must contemplate a connection to nature through their work and, in turn, a connection to the larger world. Ultimately, every work of architecture reflects this awareness, or lack thereof. Learning how to think and developing this awareness can be taught. A “poetic map”, such as that presented here, suggests a path along which this awareness can be developed. From this “map”, it is up to each of us to explore and develop our own understanding of the “territory”. The “territory” is a way to think and to be. The “territory” is not shown on the map. In nature, light and shadow are one “pattern which connects”. Light and shadow play an important role in our perception of, and response to, space. Furthermore, humans, “are by nature phototropic --- they move toward light, and when stationary, they orient themselves toward the light” according to Christopher Alexander et al in their book Pattern Language.1 It is the paradox of light and shadow that engages our senses, gives architecture life and connects us, through architecture, to nature and to that which is sacred. Unfortunately, architecture has become primarily a visual experience. We have lost our sensory engagement, through architecture, to nature. Because our connection to nature, or to that which is sacred, is fundamental to our being, we have lost a part of ourselves. We must step back and engage all our senses with architecture that highlights nature and becomes “the pattern which connects” us to the “change and flow of climate, season, sun and shadow, constantly tuning our awareness of the natural cycles which support all life.”2 In this DArch project, I clarify the paradox of light and shadow in architecture. I explain the role of our senses in our perception of space, specifically with respect to light and shadow. I also explain how light and shadow influence materiality, memory, wayfinding and cycles of time in architecture. The successful manipulation of light and shadow frames our experience of architecture. Case studies of buildings that manipulate light and shadow to create full sensory engagement are presented to enhance our understanding of the relationship between light and shadow and the impact of that relationship on our experience of architecture. This relationship is critical to man’s connection to nature through architecture. It is this connection to nature that, in turn, enhances our response to the built environment. 1 Christopher Alexander et al., Pattern Language (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 645. 2 accessed 9/17/208.
92 pages
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