To be confined, unintentionally and unknowingly, within four walls and a ceiling. Modern lifestyles have mostly been defined by these parameters as a majority of daily routines across the globe seek the comfort of the indoors.
This growing trend has, however, begun to raise concerns about the dwindling synchrony of spaces and their inhabitants with nature and its changing seasonal conditions. There has also been a rather crucial consideration of how architecture could interact with its surrounding natural environment and stimulate the users’ senses.
To address these issues, VELUX had organised its 6th Daylight Symposium in London in September 2015 with the theme “Daylight as a driver of change”, and invited engineers and architects who specialized in the field to present their views, experiences and research.
Among the presenters was Danish architect and lighting designer, Christina Augustesen, who has been practising in the field of architectural lighting for the past decade. Some of her most commended works include artistic lighting installations based on the dynamics of lighting and colours to emphasize the importance of awareness of one’s sensory perceptions. She aims to accentuate everyday natural phenomena that might go unnoticed into visible tangible sculptures.
At the Daylight Symposium, Christina Augustesen’s presentation that was titled “Architecture for the senses” had covered the importance of lighting (natural and artificial lighting) in architectural spaces and its role in enhancing user experiences.
Her talk had also highlighted descriptions of her remarkable work in designing the lighting for the new Novo Nordisk headquarters, Denmark, in cooperation with Henning Larsen Architects. Through this talk, she had intended to answer questions about how buildings could be designed to activate one’s senses and live in balance with the natural setting around.
The choreography of light and shadows and their renditions on surfaces is an integral part of perceiving architectural spaces. It is through this phenomenon that materials, textures, form and rhythm can be distinguished and highlighted. More often than not, the condition of lighting in spaces holds responsibility for triggering various moods, and for influencing health and wellbeing.
Christina Augustesen had expressed her belief that a lighting strategy with an established hierarchy between daylighting and artificial lighting was necessary to be integrated into buildings. This strategy had been illustrated with the examples of the two main buildings, NN1 and NN2, of the Novo Nordisk Headquarters in Denmark.
Both buildings were created to have large, mystical atriums that contained the life of the spaces. The idea of transporting one to the realms of the natural environment and evoking feelings while being indoors was the goal that was successfully achieved by the lighting architects and designers of the project.
Christina Augustesen had introduced a concept called ‘Double Dynamic’ that was implemented in both buildings. This setup had juxtaposed daylight’s dynamic behaviour with the design of artificial lighting through altering intensities, colours, temperatures and directions.
This was done based on analysis of the varying colours of the sky and by attempting to bring a contrast through a colour matrix developed for artificial lighting in the spaces. The outcomes were amusing recreational spaces that were meant to elevate moods under ornamental ceilings of light, shadow and shifts.
In 1996, Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa had published his book “The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses”, the contents of which had become an inspiration for the forthcoming generations of architects and architecture students. In this book, Pallasmaa had accurately written that-
“Architecture is essentially an extension of nature into the man-made realm, providing the ground for perception and the horizon of experiencing and understanding the world. It is not an isolated and self-sufficient artefact; it directs our attention and existential experience to wider horizons.
It concretises the cycle of the year, the course of the sun and the passing of the hours of the day.”
Engaging in just under fifteen minutes, Christina Augustesen’s talk, contextual to Juhani Pallasmaa’s phenomenal book, had provided ample room for deliberation. Considering lighting as a combined entity of both natural and artificial lights, with the latter complimenting and accentuating the former, is rather uncommon in the design of spaces and an interesting idea to explore. This may be in regards to the fact that usual practices involve the reliance on daylight to illuminate spaces, with the intervention of artificial light as a replacement only in insufficient regions or hours.
While the talk had achieved in providing fascinating insights on the possibilities of lighting conditions and modifications of environments based on various dynamisms, a more elaborate account of user experiences and causes for the stirring of emotions would have addressed human perceptions better.
However, there is no denying that Christina Augustesen’s “Architecture for the Senses” had assured valuable impressions with brief and crisp details. The lecture is easily accessible on YouTube, along with other presentations from the Daylight Symposium.
- Pallasmaa, Juhani, The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses, John Wiley and Sons, 2012