Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Notes on Complementarity 2

The Overlapping and Simultaneous Qualities of Light

It is typical and entirely logical that multiple characteristics of light appear simultaneously. Imagine light doing only one thing at a time. We’d see light sources, but no surfaces would be brightened. Or, we’d have bright wall surfaces without a source. Light in a space might only be one color. We’d have spaces of endless shadow or in uniform dimness. These singular events sometimes happen and they can be dramatic, but it is more common that we see light performing in various ways and altogether sensible that we design spaces that invite an array of daylighted events to occur.

Dependency on one characteristic makes most spaces less useful, less interesting, visually stagnant, and even inefficient. They separate us from the changes in daylight that occur during the day. Change and variation in lighting are not necessarily distracting or confusing. They are necessary.

In most buildings and even within single spaces, we should see a carefully designed range of daylight character and quality. We should see light sources and brightened surfaces, diffused reflected light as well as specular reflections, mirror-like in their accuracy. There should be shadows, shade, dim light, sometimes punctuated with bright sources or a beam of light selecting finding a target, and so on. By these means, among others, daylight may orchestrate the organization buildings. This enables daylight and shadow to direct us, making important things visible, other places stimulating or restful, and whole buildings logical and coherent. Light is not about one characteristic or quality. It is about the ensemble of those characteristics and how they perform together.

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