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The Geometry of Light

Part 2 Dissertation 2022
Rosie Somerville
Oxford Brookes University Oxford | UK
This thesis interrogates architects’ understanding of light, following my observation that light’s qualities were limited when seen through the modernist conception of ‘form’ in architecture. Quantum Physicist, Zajonc (1949 - present) states that our comprehension of light and our ‘conceptions of space have coevolved’. Current methods for designing with light overwhelmingly focus on light paired with shadow, revealing a form-based design approach. Kahn (1901-1974) and Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965) directly describe ‘structure’ and ‘form’ as the intervention required to mould light. Yet the perception of light is inextricably linked to both form and material. Whilst architects such as Zumthor (1943 - present) design with material light, a disseminated methodology isn’t available to the profession. With limited resources, architects are missing out on an aspect of architecture filled with rich opportunities. Taking precedent from Brunelleschi’s (1377 - 1446) application of geometric optics to devise the perspective drawing, this thesis applies a revised scientific theory of light, which now includes light’s interaction with matter, to the architectural design process. This research forms a new framework for light in architecture, culminating in a series of tools for architects to design through material light, enabling the translation from concept to design.
Rosie Somerville

Hannah Durham
Freya Wigzell
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