Architecture of Light

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Monochromatic, Perspective View, Students, Technical Drawing

Architecture of Light

Jack Lewandowski


The Pinhole Factory is an exploration and celebration of the notion of light in architectural design. The institute eulogises the art of analogue photography, in particular, that of pinhole cameras. A pinhole camera uses light to produce imagery in the most cardinal sense. Using no more than a minute opening allowing light to infiltrate a dark space, a photograph can be taken.

This can be relatable to architectural form. In the way a pinhole camera fabricates an image through granting light to enter a mass through an opening, architecture can allow light to enter a space, carving shadows and creating dynamistic, atmospheric design. It is these qualities of light and shadow I decided to scrutinise as an operandi to design the light institute. Architecture that uses the play of light to dictate space and provide experiential qualities. My aim has been to give the building two qualities; the measurable quality of everyday use, and the unmeasurable quality of its atmosphere and existence.

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Based on a mat-building system, all floor plans, constructional elements and material details are based upon a 1.5 meter modular grid. A series of contractions and extrusions make up the first floor. Sunken courtyards are paired with open voids, allowing light to filter into the space and gently diffuse across the building plate. Coupled with the raised platforms are a series of ‘light chutes’. In stark contrast to the diffusion of light from the open courtyards, the chute’s raised opening creates shadow and a polarity of light. As the source of light moves as the sun does throughout the day, so does the internal quality of the light produced by these chutes. The movement of these shadows carries with it the movement of place. This bestows the space with dynamism. Through the use of light, an open plan space begins to acquire character and definition. Different reverberations of space are created from the interplay of light and shadow. Movement can be dictated through the disparity between the dispersed light of the courtyards and the ostentatious nature of the chimneys.

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The ground floor features a series of exhibition spaces, all based around a central courtyard. Alongside these spaces are workshops for the production of pinhole cameras, and the developing of photographs. Light chutes bring light in from the roof, through the fabric of the first floor, illuminating the spaces buried underground.These elements create a variety of lighting conditions throughout the Pinhole Factory, generating a journey through the areas of darkness, guided by light.

The roof of the Pinhole Factory is designed to be an artificial landscape, bridging the gap between the urban town and natural countryside. Copper clad light chutes tower above, acting as a monument for the surrounding town of Richmond, connecting to the surrounding towers helping the building fit into its historical context.

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Who influences you graphically?

There are many people who through different media influence the way I work graphically. Architecturally I take inspirations from the abstract collage by the likes of Mansilla & Tuñón, the hand drawn material and light study perspectives of Tadao Ando and the monochromatic, atmospheric renderings of Barozzi Veiga. I try to draw influence from all these styles to create my own. Another main influence in my graphical style is the photography of Lucien Hervé. The high contrast, black and white images that Hervé produced inspired the polarity of light I wanted to achieve in my representation for this project.

What defined this interest for light and are there any buildings/installation/photographs that have had a particular impact?

This project began by constructing a pinhole camera and using it to generate photographs. I also explored the works of Abelardo Morell who creates camera obscuras for his photography series. The fabrication of an image from light in such a cardinal sense heavily influenced my final project, in particular, the buildings use and elements such as the light chutes.

I have always been interested in buildings that use the interplay of light and shadow, particularly the work of Zumthor, Ando and Kahn. During a research trip to Tenerife, two buildings stuck with me, both by a young local practice, GPY Arquitectos. Their cultural centre in El Sauzal creates dynamic space through its polarity of light and shadow, and in direct contrast the Segai Research Centre in La Laguna uses a translucent façade to disperse diffused light to create a calm environment for those at work. I wanted to take these two elements of light design and bring them together in my project.

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You explore your proposal through all means of representation, why so?

As this project will never be realised I felt that it had to be represented as broadly as possible to give me the ability to critique and improve aspects and to allow people understand it following its completion. I had the perspective section in my mind throughout the entire design process – a piece that shows everything – the space, the journey, the light. The external elevations and internal renders are there to show certain elements of the project I want to highlight, showing the proposal from an eye level view.

Despite the project focusing primarily on the atmospheric qualities of light, I feel that there is beauty and joy to be found in the details of a design such as the shadow gaps and modular construction I used in this proposal. It is a challenge to understand how the practicalities of a building are put together, especially when most of your thinking is conceptual. However, by exploring technical details and sections I am able to understand if my design works in a more pragmatic way. It also helps others to fully acknowledge the building as a whole, rather than through just a series of snapshot renderings.

How does the single silhouette influence the way the image and thereby project, is perceived?

I wanted the images to appeal to the viewer with a personal approach. The project is designed to provide its users with an individual experience through the quality and quantity of light they experience. Images need an indication of scale, but by reducing entourage I believe it removes any distraction from their purpose. Busy images work well in certain instances, but for a project based on the atmosphere of space carved by light, I felt that a single figure would better allow the viewer to understand how that space may feel if they were to inhabit it. I also find that images that are heavily populated can lie and hide aspects of a project. By using just a single silhouette, nothing can be concealed and the character of the space is highlighted, thus the project is perceived how I wanted it to be.

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What dictated the choice of views you choose to reveal your proposal through?

I wanted each of the internal views to be homogenous, yet all focus on a different feature of the project, be it a light chute, a platform or a courtyard. The internal images are chosen to show the journey a user may take through the building, choosing points that would have interesting qualities of light. Externally the views were chosen to show the building in its intended context, whilst keeping it as ambiguous as possible. I create images that have a strong central point of focus to bring the viewer’s attention to a point that can be explored out from. The position of the cut for the perspective section was chosen in order to show as much variation in space as possible, from tight dark corridors to a vastly tall chute space exploring the spatial disparity between rooms during the journey through my project.

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Jack Lewandowski graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with first class honours in 2016. He is currently based in London, working as an architectural assistant, before returning to complete his Masters of Architecture at both the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and KTH Stockholm.

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