Natural Light

Natural light is a dynamic and ephemeral tool for expressing the quality of space. Whether it’s used in the diffuse illumination of a museum gallery or as a dramatic and variable figure within an enclosed space, the formal and architectural intentions of daylight should be directly associated with the evaluation of its quality. As a compliment to more traditional avenues of lighting research that assess performance in terms of quantitative illuminance goals and discomfort caused by glare, my thesis aims at identifying the importance of annual light variability and contrast as finely tuned architectural effect. Under the rapidly growing context of energy conscious research, my thesis attempts to re balance our definition of “performance” to include those perceptual and aesthetic aspects of light that are often disregarded by the world of green building simulation. If it can be determined that contrast is important to the definition of space, then it becomes essential to understand how architecture is enhanced and transformed over time by the dynamic and variable source of daylight.

Through an analysis of contemporary architecture from around the world, I’ve developed a lighting taxonomy that categorizes architectural space in terms of contrast and light variation over time. Lighting simulation programs such as ECOTECT identify light in terms of quantity across a hypothetical section of space. Although this information is useful in analyzing whether we achieve illuminance goals, it tells us nothing about the quality of space as a product of light-driven visual effect. RADIANCE can render light over a single snapshot of time or across a window of time, but what if we want to know how space is affected by changing light levels across the course of a year. What if we want to know how ‘variable’ the contrast of a space is under different sky conditions and what time of day it changes from low to high contrast as a result of geometry and the incident angle of sunlight. My thesis will use a rendered set of images under sunny sky conditions across the year to create a holistic analysis of the changing effects of contrast and light variation through a series of architectural spaces. The production of this thesis relies on renderings produced through RADIANCE and analysis scripts run through MATLAB to evaluate and plot the data present within the renderings.