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Transformation of architectural perception through light: from ‘worldly to angelic

Essay Topic: ,

Introduction

Aims:

To introduce the ‘Edenic’ aspect of the project, elaborating its significance and application at personal and universal level.
Establishing what Angelic Architecture is; developing a symbolic architectural language based on the study of angels and immortal beings in various religions and beliefs.
Experimenting with materials in close coordination with Light to evaluate the correct degree of transformation required for the Angelic ambiance.

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Designing a structure which symbolically demonstrates the transition from being ‘Mortal to immortal’, ‘Wordly to Angelic’ through the use of specific ‘Light’ and materials qualities.

Background to the Research:

Commonly perceived as ‘a place of pristine and abundant beauty’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d.), Eden can be a perfect place/ state, experience or a moment in time. Human mind usually manifests ‘Eden’ as a situation/ environment which is either absent or difficult to obtain in real life. Similarly, ‘Electric Eden looks at the movement that continues Britain’s love affair with the notion of a visionary pastoral paradise’…which is ‘fictive domain that subtly swaps the present for alternative speculations’ (Michel Faber, 2010).

This ‘secret garden’ is supposed to be a retreat from the industrialized society to inspire and stimulate ourselves for the future.

Electric Eden personally, is achieving an Angelic flight experience while still being mortal and alive. Its ambiance will help to psychologically disconnect one’s self from the real world to experience a mystical meditation. Characteristics and flight of angels are influential in establishing quality and attributes of the Edenic experience.

In the Hebrew and Christian bibles, angels are commonly believed as ‘messengers of God’, while others agree on the notion of Angels being ‘spiritual beings’ who Protect/ guide human beings and carrying out God’s tasks. Islamic view suggests angels to be forces of nature, commanded over by Allah. These are made of ‘Noor’- Light, but can take up shape and form according to Allah’s will. Also characterized with having wings in Qur’an:

“All praise and thanks are due to Allah the Originator of Heavens and Earth, Who made Angels, messengers with wings, two or three or four…”(Qur’an,35:1)

Philosophically, angels are ‘pure contingent spirits’ (Benedict Ashley, 2006). Where as in many forms of art particularly poetry and paintings/ illustrations angels are depicted as male human beings with masculine appearance, delicate wings, represented with in or around bright, radiant and mystical light which gives them the wispiness and heavenly quality.

In 2002 a study (Emma, James,2002, cited in Wikipedia, n.d.) based on interviews was conducted in UK among 350 people to record their experiences with angels, they described: Visions, warnings, being touched, pushed or lifted, pleasant fragrance giving an indication of a heavenly body around them. In some visual experiences, many people interpreted: human being with wings, mostly in the form of ‘beautiful and radiant human beings’, or as ‘beings of light’.

Being commonly used as a metaphor of truth, spirituality and virtuousness, Light plays a vital role in creating peaceful and uplifting environments especially in worship and meditational spaces.

The study of forms and qualities of angels gives significant clues to be able to use them symbolically in creating a mystical experience which can help in meditation and spiritual awakening. By transforming the perception of place through these qualities, the experience of a place will also change.

Literature Review:

Light, Spirituality & Architecture

“ Light is the ‘source’, not only of illumination, but also of inspiration and meaning…it is the key to unraveling the mysteries of our Universe, of spiritual and physical dimensions of mankind’s past, present and future.” (Mark, Jonathan, Anthony, 2005)

Light and architecture have been strongly related since the beginning of the time. The expressions of light in art and architecture represented the social philosophies, geographic location/ conditions and other beliefs of the society as a whole (James Brogan, 1997). In Ancient Egypt, the worship of sun and the power of its illumination inspired the design of Egyptian temple as well as other buildings. The Roman Pantheon is an example of literal use light; highlighting the statues at the drum of the Pantheon, from the sunlight falling through the oculus.

The Monasteries of The Middle Ages depicted light as the symbol of the supernatural and manifested ‘God’ in ordinary things illuminated in light.

Culminating this symbolism in Gothic, light was expressed as “a medium through which the representation of Heaven was given a temporal earthly reading” (ibid, pg.6). This era was the beginning of dematerialization of materials and structures through light, where “light appeared to triumph over structure” (Banister Fletcher, 1996, cited in Wikipedia, n.d.).

In Baroque art and architecture, qualities such as movement, emotion, spirituality, motion and atmosphere were most effectively expressed through manipulating light.

After Baroque, light was used less spiritually and more commonly to enhance shapes and ‘clarify geometric forms’ especially in the works during Neo Classicism. Soon after, the concepts and aspirations of light in architecture changed dramatically with the invention and development of ‘the electrical/ artificial light’.

The Modern movement was more about literal expression of light used to accentuate structures and materials. Thereafter, later modern period saw the light was revived as a symbol of spiritual power and ‘emotional intensity’.

Le Corbusier in his later works tried to explore the natural forms and mediums which had divine and mystical character .He was interested in “ representing the spiritual motivation which lie at the root of all human experiences” (James Brogan, 1997) into architecture. At his Church in La Tourette, with the use of materials in accordance with color and light he was able to transform ‘the place of worship to other-worldly’ (ibid, pg.7) environment. His various religious building designs reveal light, and its ‘allusions’ as the most significant transformational element that enhanced the ‘uplifting and worshipful environment’ (ibid, pg.7).

An in depth analysis on the works of art and architecture is required which is based on the mystical and metaphorical use/ treatment of light. Particular works of Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Ricardo Legorreta, Tadao Ando, Steven Holl will be analysed for clues on transformational qualities of light.

Research Problem:

Can Light help transform a worldly environment to an angelic environment?

Research Questions:

What is angelic architecture
How can perception of an environment be transformed through light
What qualities of light help in the transformation of angelic environment/ architecture
What are the materials and qualities required for the angelic architecture

Methodology/ Research Methods:

The research methods will involve the thorough review of the literature regarding the mythologies of angels in various beliefs and religions.

The primary research method will be qualitative through which the characteristics of light having the ability to change the perception of human mind, will be determined. To accomplish this, comprehensive interviews of visitors to religious buildings and meditation spaces will be conducted. Their accounts in terms of perception of space, experiential qualities will be recorded.

The secondary data will be gained from the published literature on Light, its forms and qualities. Focusing on the spiritual use of light, case studies (minimum-2) will be carried out on places of spiritual and mystical character such as places of worship and meditation. The character of light: the source, color, texture etc. will be analyzed through the case studies. A series of quick but decisive experiments with light on materials will be conducted. The effects of certain lights on materials: their visual appearance and the experiential character will be determined.

Pilot study:

A brief yet conclusive study was undertaken in order to determine the change in perception of an environment with the use of light. Two small scale Experimental models were composed:

1. Opaque materials (wood/ metals)

2. Transparent materials (Glass/ metals/ fabric)

Both were photographed under manipulated lights (coloured lights and images projected from digital projector). Six chosen images with different lighting effects were shown to 10 people (aged 18-40), who were told to express their perception by giving 3 adjectives for each image. The resultant 180 adjectives when put together as qualities of the environment, provided significant insight on the characteristics of light. Most of the people perceived the glassy structure to be ‘heavenly’, ‘strange’, ‘bright’. 4/10 people mentioned ‘angelic’ as one of the qualities while other qualities were ‘unreal’, ‘cosmic’, ‘dreamy’, and ‘illusory’. Majority perceived glass structure as more ‘attractive’ and ‘inspiring’. This concise study laid forward important conclusions for the research:

Light can change perception of materials and their properties, environment and its experience.
Metals, transparent and translucent materials work best under light. Their reflectance, glare and transmittance are significant properties to incorporate in angelic environment.
Light being a weightless and swift medium falls, passes, hits, bounces back or engulfs materials and tends to change their perception differently; Solids like wood seem to evenly glow when most of the light is absorbed, while glass and metals become even more ‘crisp’ and ‘radiant’ in light.

Research Outcomes:

The potential outcomes of the research will include characterized definition of ‘Angelic Architecture’ and based on the symbols and qualities of angels/ spiritual beings, the clues for the architectural language will be developed. A brief selection of materials based on specific angelic qualities will be developed for future references. A structure with use of chosen materials will be designed, and the angelic qualities of light with then will be applied to it to demonstrate the transformation of human perception.

The Research, though having a limited focus will give a comprehensive set of clues on changing the perception of environments/ space. By evoking spirituality through the use of light and distinct materials, the unique treatment could be attributed to other works of architecture for certain transformations.

List of References:

1.Banister Fletcher,1996, Citing: A History of Architecture [WWW]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_architecture, [Acessed:19/04/2011]

2. Benedict Ashley,2006, The Way toward Wisdom: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Introduction to Metaphysics, Notre Dame Indiana, University of Notre Dame

3. Brogan James, 1997,Introduction:Light in Architecture, Architectural Digest, Academy Edition,pg.6-7

4. ‘Eden’, Encyclopaedia Britannica online (2011),Available at: http://www.britannica.com/bps/dictionary?query=eden [Acessed:10/ 04/2011]

5. Emma Heathcote-James (2002), Seeing Angels. London: John Blake Publishing

6. Major Mark, Speirs Jonathan, Tischhauser Anthony,2005,Made of light: The Art of Light and architecture, Switzerland, Birkhauser

7. Michel Faber (2010) Citing The Fire Gospel [WWW] Guardian Bookshop. Available from:http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/07/electric-eden-folk-rob-young , [Accessed 20/04/11]

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