finding light

Natural daylight is one of the most important components of a carefully constructed interior space. The building’s exterior, or ‘envelope’, can be seen as a moderator, or filter, between an unfettered source of natural light (depending on the immediate context around the building) and interior conditions. We like to think very carefully about ‘apertures’, the openings in the envelope, to determine interior performance. Too large of an unobstructed opening can create problems of glare and heat transfer - solar heat gain, or thermal losses - and so we tend to design for smaller amounts of glass, located in pertinent geometries to catch the sun where it will have greatest positive effects, and limiting the less desirable ones. Sun entering the building through glazed openings can cause heat build-up, which can be good - for winter warming - or problematic -
for summer overheating.

Carefully designing the form of the apertures in the roof, to form roof or ‘skylights’, can embrace certain sun angles, and shade from others. We design the ceiling splays (cuts in ceiling plane up to the skylights) in such a way as to maximize the effects of the light, which often leads to interesting sculptural effects in the interior space.


These images, of a small house remodel in Echo Park, Los Angeles, show new skylights being added that will capture the winter sun, but shade from higher summer sun angles. Throughout the year, ambient ‘daylight’, as opposed to ‘sunlight’, will bounce into the space.

Carefully moderated light can have interesting changing effects on a space during the course of a single day.

These are images were generated at early design stages to view the impacts of a small (8” wide by 7’) roof light on the overall space by ‘capturing’ a beam of sunlight.


Sometimes, in ‘deep plan’ conditions, where an interior space is a significant distance from a moment of natural light, we try to create ‘light corridors’ where long views to exterior windows lift the wider experience.

At Crosstown Arts inside the Crosstown Concourse building, we created 3 light corridors so that the primary ‘East Atrium’ had long (up to 400’) views to the exterior. This helped to inform the overall spatial composition. Typically an openness to finding natural light becomes a prompt for a spatial, or sculptural interior condition.