07 May 2008

little drops of enlightenment

the ferocity of material covered this semester has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, especially added to the bank of knowledge that i try really hard to keep fresh. it has become even more apparent to me that design is basically the study of everything: people, technology, art, engineering, psychology, material science, geography, climate... it goes on and on, and notice that all of these subjects are entire fields of study in their own right. i love this about design. i have come to realize that i am a generalist, and i want to know as much as i can about as many things as i can. probably to my eventual demise, i could never pigeon-hole myself into 1 field... except, of course, design... because it is not one field. it goes in any and every direction. but as anyone can tell, design can be a great burden because no one can learn or know everything. nevertheless, we try... or we should try because design is for people. we are people, and we should care about each other. my first love was anthropology because it too is an all-encompassing field with its phalanges in sociology, biology, geography, history, religion... but anthropology is, again, just one of the many fields that inform design.

sometimes i feel like i'm carrying a too-small backpack along this long and winding path i've chosen to take. i keep picking up things that i need for the rest of journey. all of the goods that go into the bag are equally important, so i can't get rid of anything to make room for the new stuff. inevitably, things occasionally fall out anyway. in times of great time restraint, i'm often saying that i could use a clone. that way, we could carry two packs. there would be more room for the stuff i keep losing, the stuff i have to remember to back track to find and dig up out of the the depths of the dense earth that my brain has become. my clone and i could experience, learn, and create in double time! but if i actually had a clone, besides the extremely creepy factor, she and i would both end up being short-changed. even though i could ask her something that i missed to get a quick answer, i would have still missed the experience of learning it. i'm too much of a busybody and a know-it-all for that.

the truth is, i enjoy the learning part the most. we don't take the long and winding roads because of the destination (i still don't know exactly what the destination is), we take it to enjoy the view, the variety, and the somethings new we catch along the way. unfortunately we will never catch every detail that we wish we could, but the little drops of enlightenment that we are lucky enough to catch are enough to light our paths as we enjoy the rest of the journey. we'll be better for it once we reach some destination... or maybe... if we're lucky... the journey continues forever.

luraline comp: final submission

daylight model experiment

17 April 2008

color scheme experiment

for this exercise i chose a space that i found interesting but with very little color. using color theory learned from lighting design and the psychology of design, i chose color combinations for the space that create different harmonious effects.

light series 4a: incandescent/residential

a. purpose of the space- the space is occupied by a kitchen table where tasks vary from non-light-intensive, like eating, to light-intensive, like reading.

b. purpose of the light- the light seems to be designed for a combination of ambient light and focal/task light. this is because the light spills out beyond the apparent [work] surface, but not far. it has a fairly close fall-off.

c. luminaire- it is a pendant light that hangs from the ceiling by an 24" long chain. beyond the chain, the fixture is another 18" long. this makes the entire luminaire hang 3.5' from the ceiling over the middle of the table. the width if the fixture at its widest point, which is close to the bottom, is a 14", frosted-glass, semi-sphere globe. within the globe are 3 incandescent bulbs.

d. effect of the light on the space- see b.

e. effect of light on color- the vast majority of the materials affected by the light have warm colors and textures. there are no metal or other highly reflective surfaces. the wooden table has a gloss finish, but it is dulled with age. for these reasons and the nature of incandescent bulbs, the color quality in the area is quite warm in color.

f. appropriateness of the illumination- since the area is a multi-functional space, the combination of ambient and task lighting is appropriate. however, i believe that it could be brighter at times , but at others it seems too bright for intimacy. so there are pros and cons to designing a light for different functions in one space.

d. design suggestions- to take full advantage of the three lamps in the luminaire, i think that the globe could be less frosted so that the bulbs show brighter when needed. to counter that effect, a dimmer would need to be put in place for more intimate lighting when desired.

04 March 2008

form to design to form

"Form precedes Design. Form is what. Design is how... Design gives the elements their shape, taking them from their existence in the mind to their tangible presence. Design is a circumstantial act. In architecture, it characterizes a harmony of spaces for a certain activity." - Lobell, Between Silence and Light

the space below is the communal kitchen for the staff at the TVS design firm in atlanta. i think it is a lovely expression of interior design. it seems to portray a real-life, 3-D, visual lesson on simple design principles (balance, proportion, scale) being applied to simple design elements (shape, line, color), which, to me, is a very appropriate approach for any space within a design firm. the majority of the light provided for the space is natural, but the isolated luminaires are highlighted by their exclusivity creating a lesson of their own. it has a minimalist quality that is still warm, which is a wonderful concept for a place meant for gathering, like a kitchen. spaces animated by the people who's animations are influenced by the space they are in... hmm...

27 February 2008

light series 3

silence and darkness

chicago skyline from lake michigan, august 2007

when considering light, darkness is also considered, however consciously or unconsciously, because one does not exist without the other. in fact, darkness is only perceived as such in relation to light. it is a fact that hardly anyone ever really experiences pure darkness on earth unless deep within its crust. there is no true black. there is always some light, however faint, that makes us perceive something as black in relation to something lighter. therefore, "darkness" implies an absolute that hardly really exists. another word, silence, implies an absolute that also does not really exist, and though darkness and silence relate to two different human senses, both refer to an unreachable extreme. they are often used interchangeably in literature to emphasize feelings presented by emptiness. i would like to argue that both silence and darkness can be expressions of rich quality that can overwhelm us just as much as can light and noise. the difference is the elegance of subtlety that darkness and silence offer the imagination. light and noise focus attention leaving little choice, but darkness and silence intrigue mystery that suggests endless possibilities.

24 February 2008

light series 2a : retail space +

earlier this month i had the wonderful opportunity to spend an evening at the Herman Miller, Inc. National Design Center in Atlanta. this space operates as a work space, a conference center, and a retail space. it is a lighting wonderland. the HMI NDC is located inside of a beautifully revamped warehouse, which benefits from an enormous amount of sunlight. i imagine that this creates a pleasant working environment but that the lighting displays suffer during the day.

one of the interesting aspects of the lighting design here is that much of the light actually comes from pieces being shown by the company. since Herman Miller is a furniture company, many of the items that they sell are lamps and other light fixtures. the lighting that comes from other sources must be designed so not to interfere with the light of the luminares on display. though we were there after the sun had set, i can see that the sawtooth clerestory and large wall windows must pose a problem during the day.

another clever design @ HMI was the use of light to create a "scene". a photograph to the right shows a contemporary dining room that they have created using only Herman Miller products. there are hypothetical office spaces that use the same strategy, creating an entire environment without help from other products. these office spaces are set up in a way that alleviates some daylight with half-walls so that the lighting fixtures can show their capabilities.

23 February 2008


"In every thing that nature makes, nature records how it was made. In the rock is a record of how the rock was made. In man is the record of how man was made. When we are conscious of this, we have a sense of the laws of the universe." - Lobell, Between Silence and Light

imprinted upon the earth is what man has made. in a toy is the record of how the toy was made. in a house is a record of how the house was made. in a city is the record of how the city was made. when we become conscious that these man-made records will last far less time than the records earth has made herself, we have a sense of the laws of the universe.

i have chosen to share the following pictures for several reasons. the first picture is one i took in alaska in the summer of 2004 of a small colony of lichen growing beside a mountain stream. i love this picture for its purity of color created by the intensity of the july sun at mid-day at a very high latitude. also, i had never seen these tundra species, and this photo reminds me how i felt like i was on another planet when i was in alaska. of course, that experience just made me love this planet even more. the aspect of the picture i would like to focus on, however, is the pattern of growth the lichen has taken. now look at the similarities with the second photograph. the white cloud sweeping and growing across the earth is a satellite image of aurora borealis. natures patterns of growth can be found in the smallest and largest of places. if i included an image of an entire galaxy, the growth patterns would also be similar to the lichen and the northern lights.

my point is this. those patterns and miracles have been happening on earth for eons, much much longer than any living species on earth today, and they will continue long after the city lights seen in the second photograph have burned out. i do believe that nature will take its course. we humans have become like a bacterial infection that continues to spread and poison the earth. compare the city lights in photo 2 to the bacterial growth in photo three. what happens when we get sick? we get a fever that helps kill off bad bacteria. do you think that global warming could be the earth's fever? i do. do you think that if we can begin to behave ourselves that earth will allow us to stay a little longer? it is the only chance we have.

photos 2 & 3 courtesy of: http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/16625/aurora_NA_lrg.jpg, http://www.seriousnerd.com/portfolio/demos/flash/bacteria-growth.png

light series 1a

for this lighting series i decided to study the studio space because i think it is fun to note how the overall energy of of the space changes throughout each semester. i've never thought about what role light plays in that evolution, but i imagine that it does play quite a role and is worth observing. first of all, we are very fortunate to have a studio space that is so dominantly naturally lit. of course, that can become burdensome during some design projects, especially those centred around light; but it makes for a much healthier feeling work space. anyone who has worked here both day and night can attest to the very different kinds of energy in the studio at night, when it is bright and fluorescent, and during the day. because the space is so influenced by sunlight, and the position of the sun plays such an integral part in defining the energy of each season, i believe that over the next two months we will see a correlation between the energy of the sun and the energy of the space.

the photographs here were taken over the last month. i wish i had 4 photos instead of 3, but i missed a week. they were all taken around 3pm because the windows on the left face the west, and i wanted to capture the shadows from a semi-direct sun (after noon and before dusk seemed to offer the most contrast). as you can see, the space and the sun have both changed dramatically over the last month. of course, much of the change in energy is do to the semester's work/project load escalating to full gale. in fact, i do not see much in the way of observing the effects of the sun except that its pattern is changing. the spot so clear on the floor in january has now vanished. i will continue to document and observe this space in this way, and there will be one day that i take photos all day long at regular intervals. it will be interesting to see if there is a time of day that is just like another time of day but at a different time of year.

14 February 2008

the wonder of experimentation

these photos represent different phases of light experimentation within a very confined space (approx. 12" x 8" x 18"). after much diliberation over how many lights, what kind of light, and what king of filter, we decided to go with one light source that emits three different effects. one of the effects is a backlight created by cutting a hole in the back of the form. the light is inside the form and creates a backlight for by reflecting off of the wall behind it and, therefore, creating contrast between the form and it's surroundings. the second effect is a defined color wash created by using a color lense and styrene below the light source with very sharply cut edges the thrird effect is a hard shadow cast on the right wall by a shape positioned close to the light source. one of the successes of the project is that we did not everwhelm the small space eventhough we were able to show 3 effects. also, the volume of the form is only seen through the shadow cast on the right wall because of careful placement. and finally, the light is only experienced through the effects, not directly. subsequently there are "ah ha" moments that are delightful.

early experimentation

inside of box w/out effects

w/ effects

02 February 2008

touch and sight

The sense of sight is the most obvious sense to consider when it comes to light, but light is just as important to our sense of touch. here, looking at a photograph, which is primarily a visual media, we can feel the warmth of the sunny spot on the floor. this has much to do with associative memory and is part of our animal nature. certain types of light instill a feeling. the feeling depicted here is comfort. our visual proof is buster. He sees it, feels it, and... takes it.

17 January 2008

first blog ever

of the very brief knowledge of light that i have at this point, there are three things that i appreciate and somewhat understand about light that i would like to explore further. one of these topics is that light can be associated with other senses than sight and touch (heat). certain light/color combinations and intensities can spark something in the brain that appeal to smell, taste, and sound as well. the first photo that i'm showing here really exudes a sound track to me. at the bottom of the photo where the light is very bright gold/yellow, i can hear the sounds of the street: conversations, laughter, bellows, automobiles honking, breaks squealing... but as my eyes move up the buildings toward the sky, the brightness fades and with it i can hear all of the sounds fade until all i hear is the wind at the top of the skyscrapers. the intensity of the bottom transforms into a kind of serenity at the top, which is accentuated by the faint blue glow of late dusk. this photograph is courtesy of phil holden .

the second picture, to me, shows how focal light can make a space feel personal and almost private without putting up physical barriers. you see this in restaurants a lot when there is a faint spot light over a table. i think it has something to do with human nature in that we are drawn to light and, therefore, the close proximity to a light is more comfortable than the area outside the light. kind of like a campfire in a really dark field. you just feel safer and more comfortable near the light. so, i took this photo @ the loewenstein residence last semester when working in the exhibit design studio. this little nook is very different from the rest of the public areas of the house because it is slightly closed off by the book shelf to the left, but it is still open to the common area. i feel that this area is made even more private by the light coming in from the clerestory window sending a very direct ray down to the sofa. you probably wouldn't want to sit directly in that ray, but i think sitting right next to it curled up with a book would make for a very comfortable, warm, personal space without completely closing you off from the other room and your family. the spot of sun on the sofa would almost act as a personal little fireplace/campfire providing nice light and added warmth.

the third characteristic of light that truly fascinates me is how reflective light can change visual perception, sometimes drastically. we've all experienced it, and i'm sure we've all said something along the lines of, "this mirror makes me look fat/skinny/short/..." that is not exactly what interests me about reflective light, but the more subtle nature of it. in this third photograph, you are looking at the mirrored glass facade of some commercial structure in hong kong. but what you really see is the low-income housing next door to the mirrored building warpedly reflecting in the stripes of colored glass. the effect is something beautiful and markedly disturbing. the photographer, phil holden, has used the distorting effects of reflected light to enhance the artistic quality of this photo. i would like to explore those same possibilities to enhance the experience of interior spaces.