ARCH 4605/6605
Zenithal Light

A light bulb hangs from a curved ceiling, a circular hole in the ceiling admits light.

Chiat/Day Building, Los Angeles, designed by Frank Gehry with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggens, 1991. photo / Grant Mudford

  • Instructor: Rodolfo R. Dias
  • Time: Th 3:00–4:55 p.m.
  • Location: OL
  • Credits: 3
  • Territory of Investigation: Architecture and Representation

"Something that has not often been considered at all, or has at least been seriously neglected, is the quality of light. What do we mean by the quality of light? Light is a phenomenon that human beings need to use constantly." — Alvar Aalto, from a lecture at the annual meeting of the Swedish Society of Industry Design, May 9, 1935.

Special Topics in Construction seminar that focusses on zenithal light. Through the use of natural light 'from above,' one can introduce unexpected and surprising concepts of architectural spatiality. These sources of light, freed from the building facade constraints, allow for particular formal freedom. A zenithal light strategy allows for a more controlled light. In other cases, zenithal light is the only option to bring light to central spaces away from the edge of the building. Zenithal light may connect spaces on different levels by lighting vertical voids in the planimetry of a building.

The course aims to identify zenithal light qualities, and how they impact the overall spatial experience and define atmospheres. Students will be presented with a vast overview of precedents of zenithal light sources throughout architecture history. The student is expected to develop skills in capturing lighting design concepts thru model making and representing spatial lighting concepts thru drawings following industry standards.

The class will consist of lectures, discussion upon material presented, and development of weekly student assignments.

Medium- to large-scale physical model building and photography are required skills (no 3D rendering tools will be used for presentation). Technical 2D representation will have a critical role in the development of weekly assignments. Autocad proficiency is mandatory.

Instructor permission required:

Mandatory attendance to the first class and mandatory one-week assignment completion due at the second class.

View a PDF of this class description.


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