THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF DAYLIGHT by Brent Richards
Architect, designer, academic, polymath & CEO
The Design Embassy Europe
Within contemporary urban environments, daylight is increasingly being restricted and supplemented with artificial light, resulting in a loss of connectedness to the natural environment. If our physiological and the psychological expectations are to be met, architecture will need to develop fresh techniques in working with daylight, as well as create a closer dialogue with science, in order to achieve a true state of well-being in people.
So far, architects’ concern for daylight has been driven by a need to control the indoor climate, to maintain comfort, and to penetrate the interior space with light. The primary interface and filter for daylight, has been the window. Glass permitted the window to fuse into the architectonic form, to provide enclosure, to control indoor temperature, and to transmit and celebrate the qualities and benefits of daylight. Glass has also been the measure of how individual architects have related their architectural vision to the well-being and comfort of users and inhabitants.
In contemporary terms, the windows have now become the building, and glass the interface for future engagement between daylight and living, between the physical and the psychological, between comfort and well-being. Building on the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe to present day Peter Zumthor, we are now seeing a new era of humane and sustainable architecture. This era speaks of the architect as a professional polymath, capable of embracing complexity and change; and of the architect as a humanitarian who is concerned with the value of daylight as a life giving substance.
We now need to initiate advanced research into a new field that we might call the ‘anthropology of daylight’, or the ‘culture of transparency’ in all buildings, and to seize the opportunity to enjoy a greater sense of well-being. But in doing so, we must also recognise that this task cannot be left to architects alone. We need teams of specialists to contribute and expand our knowledge and develop new methodologies and carry out live rather than laboratory experiments. It is time to conceive of buildings that are totally embracing daylight for its power and energy, for its visual delight and beauty, and for its healthy environmental effects.
Brent Richards is an architect, designer, academic, and polymath. Currently he is CEO of The Design Embassy Europe, a transdisciplinary creative consultancy in London that focuses on architecture, spatial design and experiential environments. He has conducted pioneering work on the advanced use of glass technology for which, in 1995, he was awarded the International Benedictus Award (USA) by Du Pont and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).