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The Cistern of Light

Jennifer Zhu, Bernadette Galingan

Check out the music piece by clicking the link below:

“Even a room which must be dark needs at least a crack of light to know how dark it is.” (Louis Kahn)
Shadows evoke a sense of quiet, uncertainty and mystery.
The quiet hum in the background of the piece and the soft and slow music creates a feeling of cold darkness. It is paired with the echo of water drops and metal clinking, creating feelings of hollowness and anxiousness. This emotion of uncertainty is then met with hope and awe midway, as the piano plays a more uplifting and dramatic melody. At that moment the imagery of seeing light came to mind. Light is the crude contrast of shadow. Light is often associated with hope, sight and clarity.
The music creates that feeling of clarity, emerging from the earlier mystery and cold uncertainty. The piece guided the intention of light and shadow as a means to express the duality of the emotions and dynamics of the piece within a space. The uncertainty and hollowness is depicted by a quiet darkness while the hopeful, uplifting feelings of clarity is depicted by the light.
Majority of the piece created emotions of anxiety and mystery, shadow is designed as the main element. The elements of light help emphasize and elucidate the shadows.
The Cistern of Light is a performance theatre that features different ways light enters the building and disrupts the shadows. One of the ways is the lobby space with slivers of light that is reminiscent of the slivers of uplifting melody that led up to the calming and peaceful sounds in the piece. The other is the great skylight over the performance space which reflects the awe of the light and almost joyous melody of the piece right before it goes back to the solemn and tense darkness represented by the backrooms
Water features are not only kept in the main performance space but incorporated into the lobby’s seating. Water is also treated as a valuable resource through the implementation of some sustainable net zero water strategies. This includes rainwater harvesting and filtration which is used as grey water and irrigation.
The performance space is located underground in a cistern. It was a way to incorporate both the intention of creating hollow spaces that reflects light and shadow and a space’s connection with water. Water is a consistent component of the piece and is reflected in the building through a consistent connection with water.
The materiality of the building also reflects the emotions felt from the piece. Stone and concrete were primarily used as they reflected the coldness and heaviness of the more solemn parts. Metal was used for detailing to not only add to the cold and heaviness but to reflect the more literal sounds that can be heard throughout the piece.
Each space designed, mirrors the duality of the human emotions in the piece; exploring the connection between individual elements such as water and the bigger theme of light and shadows.

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