Natural Light – Part 2
post by: Peter Zimmerman
Openness and Elegance
Our design response to the lifestyle of the modern family, whether it be designing a new old house or working with an existing structure, manifests in designing spaces that allow for less formal lifestyles without losing their traditional elegance. The interior spaces are traditional though they have an open, airy, transparent feel without forfeiting Classical proportion and scale. To achieve this, we use large, properly placed openings with plenty of axial views. Though certain phrases are critical to my way of thinking architecturally, use of light encapsulates everything we do.
Sensitivity to the level and sources of light in a space is driven by the knowledge that the eye’s retina is unable to adjust instantly from darkness to light. We have all experienced walking from one room to another and squinting or closing our eyes in order to adjust to the light. Our solution is to raise the ambient light level inside to the light level of the outside, truly making the windows and glass doors transparent and removing the visual block of brightness. When explaining this concept to clients, I use the analogy of being inside a dark cave and looking toward the opening, which becomes a bright, blinding hot spot that acts asp0 a visual barrier instead of a visual corridor, actually removing the only available view. If, however, you were to raise the light level in the cave to equal the light level of the exterior, the visual obstacle disappears.
Also limiting the size and number of natural-light sources are low ceilings, which are found in some period houses. There is a fine line in these old houses between maintaining the scale and proportion and opening them up, but in order to gain the much-needed light, their scale has to be greatly increased. We push the exterior window envelope – enlarge the proportions of rooms and lift them up without making a house look like it is on steroids. This effort requires an understanding of the archetypal symmetry and balance of the stylistic approach.