Page E1.1 . 01 May 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Windows for Light

by Derek Phillips

No one can deny the historical importance of daylight in determining the form of buildings since, together with the effects of climate and location, daylight availability was fundamental to their design. However, with the introduction of modern sources of electric light, and particularly because of their increasing efficiency since the Second World War, by the 1960s the need to introduce daylight into buildings had appeared to diminish.

A number of architectural programs such as offices, shopping centers, factories, sports buildings, and even schools were developed as "blind" or "semiblind" boxes on the assumption that other environmental factors such as heating, cooling, and acoustics would be better served if there were no windows the best window was no window.

This assumption was engineering biased, ignoring all the less tangible advantages of daylight entry to a building. It was never a sound argument and is even less so today.

The introduction of daylight with all its variety has always been recognized by architects as having positive advantages, and now this view has gained ground due to the realization that our finite resources of energy must be conserved in world terms. The developed nations need to consider how savings of energy through building design can make a positive contribution.

Daylight Design through History

It is helpful to start with a brief review of daylighting in domestic buildings to illustrate how this type of architectural program was informed by the need to admit daylight when artificial lighting as we know it today was not available, and to show how this influenced the exterior appearance of buildings.   >>>

This article is excerpted from Lighting Modern Buildings by Derek Phillips, with permission of the publisher, Architectural Press, Inc.

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ArchWeek Image

For the bridge at the Château de Chenonçeau in the Loire, daylight is introduced via a curved window embrasure, reducing the contrast between the inside and the outside.
Photo: Derek Phillips

ArchWeek Image

The large windows of merchants' houses along the canals of Amsterdam indicate the importance of daylight.
Photo: Derek Phillips


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