Winston Churchill once acknowledged the fact that not only do people shape buildings, but buildings also shape people. Can buildings and spaces, then, also affect how groups of people interact with each other? Can they foster a new team spirit of togetherness in our society?
This issue of Daylight/Architecture takes a closer look at buildings that re-interpret existing typologies, that hold surprises and that enable new kinds of collective use. In these buildings, daylight plays a central role. This is by no means a coincidence. Natural light has a decisive impact on the way in which people perceive spaces and how they behave in them.
There have always been places where people come together to perform collective rituals as well as exchange goods and ideas. Providing a built framework for such peaceful gatherings is one of the basic needs of our species. And this has not changed in the digital age.
The American sociologist Ray Oldenburg has conducted ground-breaking research on the meaning of social meeting points away from the home and the workplace, coining the term 'third places' to denote them. In his view, these places give a society stability; they promote the integration of newcomers and nurture democracy. It is here that the cohesion of different generations is strengthened, it is here that the individual receives mental and spiritual stimulation, and it is here that friendships begin. However, the conditions of our living together in a community are changing. Whereas collective rituals used to remain the same for centuries, the use of public places changes much more rapidly today.
Architecture can support this by remaining adaptable to social changes and providing an inviting atmosphere in which everyone is welcome. Daylight is one of the most important means of creating such an atmosphere.
In Daylight/Architecture 28, the journey to the places of collective experience begins in the Pantheon in Rome, a magical location that has been fascinating people for centuries. In his article, Adrian Carter forges a bridge between the former Roman temple and two more recent buildings that embody a radically new kind of social gathering place − Jørn Utzon’s 40-year-old Bagsvaerd church near Copenhagen and the Newport Islamic Centre from 2017 by Glenn Murcutt in the vicinity of Melbourne. Australia’s first genuinely modern mosque is shown in Daylight/Architecture with brand new photograpy, taken just days after its opening. Both Utzon’s and Murcutt’s building are open to the entire community and bring people of all origins together. They are both deeply embedded in the local context, yet full of surprises, enabling their visitors to experience daylight in new and unprecedented ways.
This connects them to the next two buildings featured in this issue. The Naoshima Hall in Honmura, created by Hiroshi Sambuichi, is a venue for sports and cultural events and is part of a greater transformation strategy for the islands in south Japan’s inland sea. Alex Hummel Lee describes how Sambuichi cleverly uses ‘moving materials’ (i.e. daylight and fresh air) to create an optimum indoor climate for the users of the hall.
In a similar way, the FRAC museum in Dunkirk also embodies the transformation of an entire region. The twin building designed by Lacaton & Vassal integrates an abandoned dockyard hall in its monumental dimensions in order to create a space for future and unforeseen uses. Karine Dana talked to the staff and visitors, and found out for herself how the building’s light-flooded, lightweight envelope makes it possible to experience the sea climate on the coast of the English Channel even inside the building.
Taken together, these examples illustrate how daylight in buildings moves people – psychologically and physically, individually and collectively. Dedicated architects can use this potential to connect communities and improve their quality of life. Regardless of any social and cultural change that our societies will undergo in the future, this will be a vital contribution to our peaceful and happy living together on Planet Earth.
Enjoy the read!
The VELUX Group