When you think about any building there are some basics: gravity, weather, materials, the spaces you live in, but bathing all of those basics is light. On Earth we are victims of living on a spinning Dreidel with a bent axis: as we rotate about it and the sun ebbs and returns in our hemisphere we are either despondent from its brevity or sick of its overheating.
The light of the sun is blasting, filtered, long in summer, brief in winter – it warms, it glares, and it weathers every material it touches, the sun is our biggest lightbulb, but when its not there enough to see, humans make there own light.
Light bulbs defeat the natural limitations of night, the dark byproduct of having a roof over our heads, and allow humans to focus on detail – like words, sewing, or someone filling the cavity in your tooth.
But light can prevent seeing too, it can glare so brightly nothing else can be seen – so houses often retrofit shades or are designed with deep eaves to cast glass in shade in summer.
Light reveals shape, fills space while revealing openness, and, for most of us lifts our spirits.
Light does what we want our homes to do – help us live, lift our spirits and warm our bodies – especially in mid-winter.
Our homes extend our desires: for expression, for activities we love, and, most essentially, to be protected. How we translate those desires to protect us from and use light has design guidelines:
Lighting from above has many times the impact of eye-level light. Whether its taking the top of windows tight to the ceiling or providing clerestory/transoms. but the light is unrelenting, the reason for window shades Skylights: perfect for bathrooms, iffy for bedrooms.
Its nice being “Green” but Solar Gain makes for massive overheating overheating in the summer – blinds help again, but large, well placed eave overhangs help more.
There is always a fight between view and glare – without backlighting by natural light on walls away from massive view capturing glass, you squint more than see.
When it comes to nighttime the lighting we employ needs to overcome a blacked-out world thoughtfully – so there is a dimming imperative: where you have a switch, have a dimmer – it saves a little energy, but it makes the “ick” of fixed lighting disappear
As we age we need more light to do the same things done without turning on the lights: Boomers are sentenced to living in an ever-increasing task-lit world. Building anything anywhere means humans confront the natural world and its bigger, badder and unrelenting: Light is one of the world’s weapons and graces: too much it erodes our building materials, too little and get depressed and can’t find our way.
As with all things, we can feel victimized by the world, or find joy in our dance with it…