A study of the characteristics of natural light in selected buildings designed by Le Corbusier, Louis I. Kahn and Tadao Ando



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The thesis discusses the characteristics of natural light that are visible inside concrete buildings designed in the late twentieth century. The study addresses three major objectives. First is to identify the characteristics of natural light visible inside these spaces. Second is to understand the use of natural light to illuminate different spaces. Third is to explore the relation between the characteristics of natural light and the overall perception of the space. With these objectives in mind, a comprehensive literature review was done to develop the hypotheses for this thesis. The first hypothesis states that the overall perception of a space is affected by certain basic characteristics of natural light. The second hypothesis suggests that the overall character of a space can be enhanced by emphasizing the source of natural light as a visual element. To test these hypotheses, this thesis studies the effect of natural light in three buildings made out of reinforced concrete in the late twentieth century. The three buildings are the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut Ronchamp by Le Corbusier, the Kimbell Art Museum by Louis I. Kahn and the Church of the Light by Tadao Ando. The method of analysis is based on the selection of a spatial envelope in each building that helps to provide an ideal framework for studying the effects of light. The method takes into consideration the principles of visual perception and the use of images depicting the varied effects of light inside the spatial envelope. The results of the analysis show that the three projects employ similar design principles to achieve some of the common effects of light, and the listed characteristics of light in relation to the overall perception of the space do not vary to a great extent when moving from one project to another. The emphasis on the source of natural light is a common and recurring theme in all three buildings. The thesis concludes that the results support the hypotheses, and that the quality of a space is dependent upon the way a designer brings natural light into the space.