Lighting Education in Schools of Architecture
Object Title

Lighting Education in Schools of Architecture

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Collection: Parsons School of Design MFA Lighting Design program theses ➔ Series: 1987-1991 (PC020404.01)

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This thesis purports to investigate a possible major reason for the distorted situation: The lack of adequate education in schools of Architecture.

Before the advent of Electrical Light, slightly over 100 years ago, the primary illumination source for interiors was Daylight,even after gas lamps were invented (these mainly served as utilitarian means of providing light for short periods of darkness after sunset). Thus, Architects and builders took daylight into consideration as an important design parameter.

We notice, in indigenous architecture of hot countries, that the size and location of openings are very much related to sun direction in such a way as to allow ideal ratios between sunlight/daylight penetration and heat deflection. The same can be observed in public or religious institutions since the development of transparent panes of glass and their application in European urban buildings towards the end of the 17th century.

On the Design Level, Joseph Swan and Edison’s invension of the incandescent electrical lamp seems to have an adverse effect on architects and designers who probably assumed that electrical light replaced daylight effectively, thus they were relieved of the obligation to take light into consideration as a design parameter and the electrical lamp would give them “as much light as they needed for any given purpose in any kind of space”. One of the main results of this lack of consideration is that very often, till this day, people, including professionals from Architectural or related fields, will talk about “good architecture” when they only really mean a building’s exterior aesthetics.

This is well understood knowing that most Architects, even though putting a great effort in conceiving and designing interior functional and aesthetical spaces, never thought of the means of showing the spaces, emphasizing the right forms and surfaces and usually left he work of providing “enough” light to the electrical engineer. Therefore, critics could only seriously judge what was well illuminated, i.e. the exterior facades of buildings out to their full aesthetical value at various times of the day and of the year.

All the above is obviously a generalization. We can, indeed, find examples of buildings serving various purposes and functions, built by some of the most illustrious architects of this century. Alvar Alto, Louis Khan, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), Frank Lloyd Wright, Pier Luigi Nervi and a few others, who did consider Light a very important factor in their planning and design(even though many of them only considered daylight and disregarded electrical light), but they constitute a small minority in the large community of this century’s Architects. Thesis Goal Having observed and experienced the above described situation which I consider abnormal, I decided to dedicate my thesis to promote the understanding, by architects of the importance of Light in Architecture. Strategy Basic schooling has a tremendous amount of influence on the architect’s professional life. I therefore decided to investigate the current situation of Light/ Lighting education in schools of architecture around the world. Execution The approach I took was: a. To carry out a broad statistical survey of the current situation of Light/Lighting edication in schools of architecture abroad and in North America. b. In parallel, to conduct a series of verbal and written interviews with lighting professionals and architects.
November 1987
Related person
Gad Giladi (designer)
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