THE INVISIBLE LIGHT IN ARCHITECTURE
A SHORT ESSAY BY MESURA
Light gives shape to our world of matter. When there is no light there is only darkness, a void, a world without shape. Unlike common belief, architecture has never been about the design of a specific volume in a certain place. It has always dealt with the design of space as a whole, a universal yet abstract concept to grasp.
It’s easy to define space formally. It’s obvious to describe the physical characters we are used to name: form, colour, shape, light. But this vocabulary only distinguishes the tools we use to express what we see, not the experience they provoke. What lies underneath is a universal syntax, invisible to the eye until we are made aware of its mechanisms.
To be aware of the spatial code of architecture means understanding its full potential. It means understanding architecture as something that is dynamic and transformative. Its product, the building, is not a work of art, nor a technical or an investment object. A building is a social product (Lefebvre, 1998). It’s the setting we live in, an active background that organizes our lives, activities and relationships (Lawson, 2005). A space means little to us if there is no life in it.
Looking at light from the inside, we find not a carefully positioned beam of light, nor a certain selection of atmospheric lamps. We see something much more primitive and eternal. An element inherently natural to us. Looking at light from the inside, we see light defining our perception of space, giving it volume, distance, proportion and orientation. Light defines how we feel inside a space, if it’s private or public, calm or energetic. Light enables us visibly to see, and when we look at it with closer attention, we understand the full possibility of what it can do.