Rendering Light and Space

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Perspective View, Render, Students

Rendering Light and Space

Jay Tsai


Lighthouse  Sea Hotel, Syracuse, IT [Finalist – Lighthouse Sea Hotel Competition Entry with Dimitrios Karopoulos & Kris Kiyoon Kil]

The Sea Hotel understands that the experience at and reinvigoration of the Murro di Porco Lighthouse is the main exhibit. To create a focal point, a 70×70-meters-squared canopy is lifted four meters off the surface of the site to encapsulate the Lighthouse and the open air structure adjacent to it. The smooth white surface that hugs the landscape is starkly contrasted by the rugged terrain surrounding the site. This juxtaposition of the canopy and the landscape naturally draws the viewer’s attention to the lighthouse.


Natural light streams into the hotel through a series of curated cuts into the canopy. The same cuts are projected through black timber floors which are spaced such that they expose the natural landscape below. This incorporates the landscape even as guests circulate around the space inside. More importantly, the cuts in the roof capture various angles of the Murro di Porco Lighthouse.


This diversity of views of the lighthouse is mediated by a forest of thin columns that are planted throughout the interior of the space. Each supporting column tapers as it connects with the ground. This tapered column is rigorously repeated at various densities to create a seemingly monotonous field. As such, the columns shift the viewer’s eye toward openings in the roof and ground that frame the landscape and lighthouse, rather than the program in-between. The program is masked behind denser column clusters which help to separate private and public functions while still allowing the architecture to remain porous and light.


Sunchen Art Platform, Sunchen, South Korea [Sunchen Art Platform Competition Entry with Dimitrios Karopoulos, Kris Kiyoon Kil & Ryszard Rychlicki]

The design for the Suncheon Art Platform infuses the critical elements of the old Yeonja-Ru with the Art and Visitors center to create a new typological architecture. Open in its function and iconic in its appearance, the Yeonja-Ru is a public place for gathering, playing, resting, and various communal activities. Set on a grid and raised on pilotis, the structure provides views from a higher vantage point. The Yeonja-Ru concept is adopted in the design for the Art Platform in Suncheon for its spatial economy and architectural iconicity.


​The immediate goal is to reinvigorate the Suncheon Art Platform by increasing its visibility at major intersections and corridors surrounding the site. Five critical anchor points, raised four meters above grade level, are marked. The first two points are set parallel to the Okcheon Stream, maximizing its architectural presence along the water front. These two points established the primary axis of a 9×9 meter grid which organizes the internal and external spaces of the design. The third point is set at the intersection of Joonany-Ro and The Street of Fashion to engage with bustling urban life. Northwest from there is point four, where it connects the Palmabi and the northern half of the site.  The final point stretches southwest where it is visible from The Street of Culture and also reaches the western half of the site, where there will be a sculpture park.

The points are connected by rounded edges to create five welcoming communal spaces to host anything from sculpture displays to social functions. Set within this soft perimeter are five courtyards that organize the internal functions of the Art Platform. The layout is centered on a pinwheel plan that   features small galleries along the inner edges of the courtyards and can be viewed by pedestrians passing below. Visitors to the Art Platform can enter the building through three different courtyards that all connect at one central space. Once inside the main reception hall, guests can explore the art and activities on display in each of the unique courtyards.

Major programmatic functions take place along the outer edges of the site: Administrative, storage, and working spaces are set along the busy Joonang-Ru; exhibition, education, and experience spaces face the quiet landscaped region of the site; and the cafeteria and new Yeonja-Ru overlook the Okcheon Stream and Old City.

Along the outside periphery of the Art Platform, the 9×9 grid that organizes the internal program extends to the external landscape, creating curated outdoor spaces that have a direct relationship to the interior functions.

Sandwiching the programmatic functions is a saw-toothed roof and a 3,000 sqm parking garage. In order to maximize the site for pedestrian use, parking is below grade, directly underneath the proposed design and connects to the existing underground shopping center. This positioning relieves the site of cars while reviving the sub-terrain experience.


Covering the programmatic functions is a saw-toothed roof that extends from the Okcheon Stream to the intersection of Joonany-Ro and The Street of Fashion. This roof, though simple in form, is dynamic in its integration with the city’s culture, including a contemporary interpretation of the Yeonja-Ru.

Tiny + Homes, Chicago, IL [WAN Future Projects Award: Shortlist Tiny Homes Chicago Competition Entry with Ryszard Rychlicki]

The design for Tiny Homes in Chicago is economic in its use of space and resources, but does not compromise in its ability to promote an ambiance of empathy and togetherness. Similar to individuals living within a community, our housing modules are unique on their own, but ultimately, they are stronger together.

Tiny Homes infuses character and personality into a structure that can easily feel cheap in its effort to be “compact” or “efficient.”  Instead of traditional windows, translucent polycarbonate is used to hug the plywood structure. Openings are cut through the plywood, at varying dimensions, depending on the program it serves. During the day these polycarbonate panels absorb ample light into the home. The polycarbonate skin promotes privacy for the interior, while emitting a welcoming glow on the exterior.

A diagonal entry though the cluster of homes opens up the site and reveals a larger communal area that can host a multitude of activities that can also be temporarily enclosed. This space is the hub for ten residential units (five per side) and two auxiliary spaces (one per side). Each unit, with only a gross floor area of 288 sqft, leans on its neighbor to create intimate communal patios which contribute an additional 144 sqft. Although all units are identical in floor plan, their precise location on the site affects the pitch of the roof. To maximize light, all roofs face north, south or both, thereby also adding character to each unit.

Yeoui-Naru Ferry Terminal,Seoul, South Korea [Yeoui-Naru Ferry Terminal Competition with Kris Kiyoon Kil]

Designing a ferry terminal in Yeouinaru Park, the most popular public park in Seoul, offers opportunities that exceed its programmatic requirements. Under our vision, this new ferry terminal will surpass its basic function as a transport hub and become a gateway for leisure and recreation. Unlike existing terminals that occupy massive physical spaces and are stifled by disparate transit kiosks, we are taking the inverse approach and giving space back to Seoul and its people.


 Modern technology allows visitors to purchase tickets via mobile devices, reducing their need to make purchases on site. This subsequently minimizes the amount of space devoted to offices and other administrative or back-office functions, while opening up space for more amenities including, reception / information kiosks, cafés, toilets, shops, and storage units.


The result is a highly flexible 2400sqm rectilinear platform that can host myriad activities and events. This platform is deliberately angled 45 degrees from the shore to call attention to the entrances beneath a dynamic canopy. The canopy, constructed of corrugated metal, is formed by the intersection of three gable roofs. Each roof has a different pitch creating both intimate yet expansive spaces. Each roof orients itself purposefully: the northern pitch faces the departing boats; the southern pitch welcomes arriving boats; and the middle pitch looks across the Han River and back toward the park.


Supporting the roof are tapered columns, positioned on a 4×4 meter grid. These columns are culled so to accentuate the park’s stunning views and maintain the structural integrity of the canopy.  The resulting arrangement creates a variety of experiences—visually and spatially—as a visitor moves through the platform.




Who influences you graphically?

The list is long and constantly growing. Currently, I am drawing inspiration from the works of cinematographers and photographers. To name a few:

Cinematographers: Emmanuel Lubezki, Jeff Cronenweth, Wally Fister, Reed Morano.

Photographers: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Jeff Wall, Bas Princen

What is your take on the hyper realistic render?

As a young architect, I find realistic renderings are important as it allows us to have a critical conversation about materials, light and space in lieu of the physical structure. Although physical models do a great job of this as well, rendering allows for a faster and more economical option, which is critical given the tight deadlines and budgets we often face.


Yeoui-Naru Ferry Terminal

What programs do you use?

I currently use Rhino Vray, and in the past I used 3dsMax Vray. My collaborator Dimitrios Karopoulos uses Cinema 4d.

Are there any specific parameters you adhere to when constructing an image?

The space is the main focus and anything that distracts from this is removed. In order to make a 2d image feel spatial, light and shadow play a critical role. When picking a view, we look for something that is geometrically balanced. Our cameras are usually set at eye level using a 35mm lens length. To produce the right lighting effect we fix our desired camera and render with various HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) maps that rotate around the target. Typically, we render one image every 15 degrees for 360 degrees. This allows us to evaluate and choose the most suitable option. A couple of carefully placed objects such as vegetation and people help to draw the viewer’s eyes through the space.

What defines the images through which you chose to reveal a proposal?

The space and light.

How have your studies both at Yale and at the Jersey institute shaped your take on architectural representation? 

NJIT, a technical school, focused on details and function. It was necessary to clearly visualize how the project worked spatially and structurally in 3d. As 3dsMax was the only program with a decent rendering engine at the time, I started learning this first before any other programs. Because of this I developed an interest realistic renderings. Yale School of Architecture and the Yale school of Art was influential in refining my aesthetic sensibilities. There I focused on minimalism: reducing a design / image to the essence of the idea. In general, the aesthetic culture at YSOA emphasized a high level of clean and clear images and drawings.



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