by Debra Moffitt
Imagine rushing through an underground subway station and suddenly looking up into the sky to realize that the earth has turned a few degrees and the weather has changed. This is the reaction that architect and artist James Carpenter wants to create with his daylight-bending projects.
In spaces with controlled, unchanging light, people may feel cut off from the natural movements of time. Carpenter, along with American light artist James Turrell and Dutch-born Joost van Santen, uses light to stir uplifting moods and reconnect us to nature.
"As a part of a shared human experience, this can create a sense of delight and wonder, and strengthen the connection to our surroundings," Carpenter says. In the Sweeney Chapel, for instance, glass boxes act as prisms to weave incoming light as it travels across the walls and into the space during morning services.
Carpenter likes to build contemporary "sun dials." His goal is to reestablish and enrich the individual's relationship with light and other natural phenomena within a built environment.
Carpenter's firm also worked on the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where the ideas of light and transparency are symbolic of the institution being able to look out to the people it serves and of the people being able to see into the institution.
James Turrell connects his use of light to a heightened awareness of a deeper connection with nature through what he calls "skyspaces." In the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in Houston, Texas, a "convertible roof" in an otherwise traditional church responds to our psychological attraction to light and our need to drink it in as vitamin D.
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