If light is essential, shadow is the complement that gives it power. Relentless light (imagine a fluorescent-lit classroom or a discount store) deprives a space of the meaning that comes with variety.
Pools of bright light draw us to them because they highlight an area within a surrounding of shade. Shadowy corners or edges lend an air of mystery to a well-lit interior. Retreating into the shade when the sun is high allows us to enjoy a cool space on a hot day.
And filtering sunlight — mixing light with shadow — to admit just the right amount allows us to select the appropriate intensity of light for any activity. It is the play of light and shadow that gives shape to forms and brings life to our surroundings.
Placing the house on the site to take best advantage of available light requires a study of the light and shadow patterns created by surrounding structures, by the topography, and by landscape elements.
As the house takes shape, a primary goal is to bring light into each room from two sides, a strategy that reduces glare within the room and gives each room sun exposure through a good portion of the day. This can be accomplished in many ways.
In a simple rectangular house, each corner room has the potential for windows on two sides. A long thin house and a house shaped with long wings afford the possibility of windows on opposite walls.
Houses tightly fitted between surrounding buildings can achieve light on two sides by using an inner courtyard and bringing in light from above.
Patterns of Home
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Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at Amazon.com.