Celebrating Contrast and Daylight Variability in Contemporary Architectural Design: A Typological Approach
The perceptual performance of architecture can be greatly altered by the ephemeral quality of daylight. Unlike artificial light sources, which can be adjusted to meet performance criteria regardless of geographic location and time of day, daylight is a variable source of illumination. When used to illuminate the static environment of a building, sunlight can dramatically alter our perception of interior architecture. Despite a wide range of daylight design strategies, neither high nor low levels of contrast and variability are synonymous with performance: it is the specific conditions that must be engaged appropriately within the context of each architectural work. While there have been several attempts at quantifying brightness and luminance diversity in daylit architecture (through the use of digital images), we have yet to see a method that can measure the spatial and temporal diversity of light within the visual field. In order to establish the importance of luminous composition within interior architecture, this paper presents a survey of contemporary architecture from around the world to develop a more effective vocabulary about contrast and temporal variability under daylight conditions. This survey allows us to grasp the broad range of design strategies employed within contemporary architecture and develop a matrix of contrast typologies against which each space could be compared on a relative scale from high to low. This matrix allows us to develop a precise language about the composition of perceptual luminosity within each space and helps architects to contextualize and compare the perceptual impacts of daylight within space.