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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Lighting Softness

Lighting Softness
  • On November 6, 2015

Title Image: infinity mirror room—- yayoi kusama

Architecture can been seen as composition artificially assembled to cause effects in man, for example the shape, shadow and tones of architecture. When it comes to soft architecture, it can be translated as an experience for man created by architects with the help of computer in the physical world. Experiences caused by light in soft architecture will be introduced in this article. What kind of spatial experience would the light create? And what is the new relationship between individual and light?
In the book soft architecture, Nicholas Negroponte said that Machines allow the embodiment of ideas in dynamic media, while drawings and models can mainly represent ideas in non-dynamic media. [1]Light and shadow together is a dynamic and plentiful media to create special spatial experience in human beings.
Light is one of the revealing elements of life, is the most spectacular experience of the sense. [2]Is there a clear difference between the light in soft architecture and hard architecture? Can self-expression be one of the differences?
There is an example of how is light used in a building rebuilt project—-The URBANSCREEN designed by Thorsten Bauer. He wanted to transform buildings from objects into subjects. Since he supposed that building itself should explain a story. In the project the artist played with the emotional impressions the visitors get when they entered the room for the first time. They used the light and shadow expression to make the space feel bigger and smaller. The interaction between light and visitor also plays a very important role in this project. Bauer tells us. “The age of the screen is coming to an end, digital interfaces will dissolve and merge into the social space […] we poetically contribute to this through art “.
In this project, light help create a changing and interactive spatial experience for people come in. And in the project, the building is an object that share experience with people and also react to people’s movements.

URBANSCREEN / artwork: 320° Licht / Gasometer Oberhausen

There is another example describe the new role light played in soft architecture—-‘Tree of Codes’. The project is about a dance performance inspired by Jonathan Safran Foer’s sculptural book of the same title. In the project it allows people in the space to identify who he is. Help people to found themselves in the space.

Tree of Codes | The Creators Project Meets Wayne McGregor & Olafur Eliasson

In conclusion, soft architecture can make the building more initiative, through special devices, especial with the help of light. The light can change the size of the space, can help people find themselves through shadow things and also interactive with the people. What else can light be as a tool for soft architecture to encourage people to move, behave and even feel themselves in a new way.

[1]Negroponte Nicholas [1975], Soft Architecutre Machines, The MIT Press, p.24
[2]Rudolf Arnheim. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. University of
California Press, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A., 1974. New version; expanded and revised edition of the 1954 original. P.245


  1. Exterior lighting makes outside spaces as accommodating as interiors. Play with lighting in the garden to create atmosphere, depth and function. Enlighten pathways to safely find your way around the garden, accentuate features and uplight trees to create pure lighting pleasure outdoor.

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