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Light Imitation

Heeyun Kim

Gothic design, particularly, Gothic architecture, celebrates nature and captures the eclectic beauty of nature. It utilizes light as its main medium to create a microcosm of nature in an enclosed space with elements borrowed from nature: its shapes, textures, and patterns.

Contrast to its predecessor, Romanesque style, Gothic is dramatic with its skeletal frames supported by flying buttresses and colorful stained glass windows. These features are created in careful yet playful observation of nature the Gothic buildings inhabit.

The basis of Gothic design starts with the existing Romanesque style that emphasizes simplicity, darkness, and mass. As a reaction to this bleak design, the Gothic invited light to break away the massing, carve out the darkness, and bring intricacy into space.

As the light invades the darkness, the space becomes broken and fragmented. The fragmented spaces form foreground and background and start to take shapes of cavernous voids and tree-like stems. These shapes stretch upward and branch out to create pointed arches imitating a row of trees in a forest.

These arches are reaching towards the sky to maximize the volume of space within the ribbed vaults and vertical stem-like columns. The solid surfaces that fill the space between the ribs are decorated sometimes with venation patterns of a leaf to further symbolize trees and forest. Other times, they are decorated in a pattern of star polygons to symbolize the light in the night sky. The assortment of voids outlined by these arches and ribbed vaults enshrines the light and celebrates its beauty with stained glass windows, bringing colors found in nature.

Simultaneously, as the shapes are stretching upward, they are spreading down into the ground like tree roots. These roots are flying buttresses that are stabilizing the skeletal frames from the outside so as not to interfere with the voluminous spatial quality of the inside. These buttresses continue the curvature of arches and the slim frames to provide a greater pathway for lights.
The light, with the playful juxtaposition of the solid and void, brings details to space by engraving nature onto the skins of these newly created spaces to evoke emotions and accentuate nature’s diversity: The gill of mushrooms, veins of leaves, scales of fish, barks of a tree, and countless other textures that add sensuality to space. The scale, density, pattern of these tactile and visual textures evoke different emotional associations with nature and glorify the diverse and unique characteristics of nature.

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