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Engraving the light within

Shi Zhang & Xuefeng Li
United States

This project aims to evoke urban citizen’s spiritual connection to natural light.

Introspectively speaking, having control of light reduces people’s sensitivity and their spiritual connection to the natural environment. Ever since the human race managed to produce artificial light, natural light is no longer as cherished and respected as it was during the pre-industrial time. The urbanization process has made the metropolis overpopulated, while the development of light technology is one of the key factors to make this reality came true. With a switch, people turn the light on and off as needed. Given the fact that 90% of the time urban citizens spent in an indoor environment, their sensitivity towards natural light faded due to overexposure to artificial light. As a consequence, they have less delight, more indifference towards natural light.

The light could be enjoyable instead of purely being functional in people’s daily life. In order to rediscover the beauty of natural light, perceiving sunlight as a scarce resource is necessary. It is the shadow that made the light clear, and thus an introverted space is ideal for sensation and meditation.

This architectural proposal is inspired by the natural element —— texture of pebble stone. The abstraction of the natural form marks specific sunlight paths, which also projects light in a limited area and changes its position along the day. Three types of experience were generated based on different textures on pebble stone: the meditation chamber, the silhouette gallery, and the reedpipe pavilion.

The spatial quality of the meditation chamber takes advantage of the circular pattern and becomes light tubes, transmitting sunlight vertically. When sunlight penetrates the light path developed from the circular pattern, the atmosphere within the meditation chamber captures a forgotten memory of cave-living during prehistory time when the light is admired and worshiped.

The silhouette gallery follows the consecutive arc lines, which allows sunlight to diffuse in a series of continuous channels. These channels are formed by layered semi-translucent sheets, made of recycled paper, tapered on the top. Projectors behind the layered sheets would provide visitors with a series of layered imaging. This area serves as a transitional space from being directly exposed to sunlight to smooth sunlight diffusion.

The reedpipe pavilion carves out vertical light tubes as a multifunctional object, not only serving for the human visual experience but also as a shelter for birds. In contrast to other experiences, the third approach shifts its focus to expressive form on the exterior, opening multiple access to the entry of sunlight as a visual attraction. To birds, some of the light tubes will be filled with food to provide them with a sufficient food source.

The monumental quality is achieved through the enclosure of cast-in-place concrete, its roughness linked the meditation space back to the primitive cave setting. The floor is made of clay sealed by oil, outreaching over a circular pond in the main space for water-based plants that prefer the darkness.

As Le Corbusier claimed in his manifesto The Athens Charter: “To bring in the sun, that is the new and most the most imperative duty of the architect.” Yet the time has changed. With the advance of building technology, sunlight is no longer the determinant factor in architectural design. People had abundant sources of light and better control of the access through shading and artificial light. But the connection between the human spirit and nature is lost due to the fact that urban citizens live in a forest of concrete and steel.

Therefore the need for sunlight exceeds the manipulation of sunlight within the architectural enclosures, but further requires pure isolation from distractions in an urban context. Let there be a monumental space that only preserves the sunlight, and let occupants engrave the sensitivity of sunlight in their spirit.

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