The balance between illumination and shadow influences the experience of Architecture. Too much of either can create uncomfortable spaces, that appear either washed out or gloomy. Getting the right feel to a room is part of the great art of architecture. Looking at the location of the site, the direction and orientation of the space and the seasonal variation of the sun's light is critical to creating spaces of both beauty and intrigue.

After living in the UK for many years, I saw why the Northern Hemisphere architecture forms, glazing design and interior colour palettes maximise the light quality, especially with the limited daylight hours in winter. The light is also softer there than it is here in New Zealand where our strong daylight casts deep shadows. What often looks stunning in the Northern Hemisphere light, often looks washed out in ours. 

While strong shadows and light texture through screens and overhangs can be used to great affect in our climate, another technique is allow the natural light to reflect off the wall positions, shapes and materials, softening the effect of strong daylight and highlighting the forms. This was often used by Louis Kahn (the master of light) who concealed the source of the natural light in strong light environments, allowing its illumination to skim over the surfaces - resulting in some incredibly beautiful and evocative spaces. He used light not merely as a surface effect, but as primary means of shaping space.

“A plan of a building should be read like a harmony of spaces in light. Even a space intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is. Each space must be defined by its structure and the character of its natural light.” Louis Kahn

" Where light is brightest the shadows are deepest" J.W.Van Goethe 

By considering the experience of the light as you journey through a house, you allow the experience of the spaces to be enriched, to contain a mood or feeling that may offer a little mystery. In New Zealand the large open doors to the view or garden (openness) for our indoor/outdoor lifestyle, can be equally balanced and grounded with a sense of enclosure, privacy and intrigue. The journey between the spaces needs to be considered to allow our eyes to adjust to the variation and enjoy the experience of light across the surfaces.

For more casual reading on light and shadow in life, there is a lovely issue of the German Lifestyle magazine ' SisterMAG' with some great articles on light and shadow in food, fashion, art and photography that was released this week . (It also features one of my landscape photos that sums up that beautiful balance we try to achieve in our spaces!).

Have a great week!