Why ar­chi­tec­ture now plays its part in the nat­u­ral sciences Pre­sented by Philippe Rahm

Once ab­stract and in­or­ganic, in re­cent decades light has gained bi­o­log­i­cal and med­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions, prompt­ing a re­think of its de­sign by ar­chi­tects and ur­ban plan­ners

Domus - - CONTENTS - Pre­sented by Philippe Rahm

Light has of­ten been a key fac­tor in assess­ing beauty in ar­chi­tec­ture — that of Le Cor­bus­ier’s mag­nif­i­cently lit vol­umes or the si­lent light of Louis Kahn. Na­ture knows four sea­sons. “Ar­chi­tec­ture knows only two: shadow and light,” said the Ital­ian Ra­tio­nal­ist ar­chi­tect Al­berto Sar­toris. Un­til the 1980s, ar­chi­tec­ture played with light as an in­or­ganic ma­te­rial, a sculp­tural coun­ter­point to dark­ness, shap­ing forms and vol­umes, chore­ograph­ing spa­tial se­quences and re­vealed in all its splen­dour in the black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy of Tadao Ando and Robert Map­plethorpe. Light seemed to come only in a block, like an ele­men­tary par­ti­cle, as too empti­ness, shadow and full­ness: in­di­vis­i­ble, ab­stract, pure, fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments un­der­pin­ning the ar­chi­tec­tural com­po­si­tion and with which ar­chi­tects played to pro­duce beauty. Macro­scopic white light has, how­ever, grad­u­ally be­came more com­plex un­der the mi­cro­scope and been bro­ken down into dif­fer­ent wave­lengths be­tween in­frared and ul­tra­vi­o­let. It has lost its min­eral neu­tral­ity on con­crete sur­faces to as­sume bi­o­log­i­cal worth for the eyes and bod­ies of hu­mans, fauna and flora. We have started hear­ing about Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der, blue light, mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, light pol­lu­tion, bi­o­log­i­cal rhythms, pho­tope­ri­odism, cir­ca­dian cy­cles and their dis­tur­bance.

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