Light is a key element in architecture. The late world-renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier agreed on this when he said: “Architecture is the skilful, accurate and magnificent plays of volumes seen in light.”
Now, the United Nations wants to raise the awareness of the importance of light in our lives, our future and in the development of society by proclaiming 2015 as the “International Year of Light”. Danish architects have known the importance of incorporating good lighting in architecture for many years. They have created multiple examples of great lighting solutions in cultural institutions; and here we want to share a few with you.
In Copenhagen lies the Royal Danish Playhouse, which was designed by Danish architectural office Lundgaard & Tranberg. Located at the edge of the city centre, towards the harbour, and between two of the capital’s finest, historic urban areas, namely Nyhavn and Frederiksstaden, the architecture submits to the surrounding buildings of the area.
The lighting in the playhouse’s foyer is softened, designed to create a sensuous excitement, preparing the audience for meeting the actors in the halls. Lighting is such a significant part of the building that the Danish Lighting Centre awarded the Danish Lighting Award to the playhouse in 2008.
Part of the jury’s motivation for awarding the Royal Danish Playhouse the award was as follows: “The lighting is not an add-on, but a decisive means to understand the architecture and communicate the special life, magic and scenography of the playhouse. The project is thought through, both on a technical and an aesthetic level.”
Another example of the use of fine lighting in Lundgaard & Tranberg’s playhouse is how the lighting supports the experience of the architecture. The soft lighting in the foyer enables visitors to look outside the playhouse at night-time without seeing reflections of the foyer in the great glass facade – something very unique for a glass building, according to the jury.
“As a minimum, light has to support the function of the space in which it is used. There are a number of functional aspects to take into consideration when designing light, e.g. to make people feel safe and to light up the space, so people can see what they are doing. It is also important to think about how a building is lit up at daytime and night-time – these things have to be thoroughly developed,” says Thomas Maare, Specialist Lighting Project Manager at the Danish Lighting Centre.
In Iceland, Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic architectural company Batteríið Architects have designed Harpa – Reykjavik’s Concert Hall and Conference Centre – which takes inspiration from the fabled Northern lights.
Positioned on the border between land and sea, Harpa reflects both the sky and harbour space as well as the vibrant life of the city. The spectacular facade was designed and developed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Studio Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects.
The building appears as a kaleidoscopic play of colours. With a south-facing facade made of glass and steel in a twelve-sided space-filling geometric modular system called the ‘quasi-brick’, the colours are reflected in the more than 1000 quasi-bricks.
According to Henning Larsen Architects, one of the main ideas behind the design was to dematerialise the building as a static object and to let it respond to the surrounding colours – the city lights, the ocean and the glow of the sky. With the continuously changing scenery, the building appears in an endless variation of colours.
“Light and transparency are key elements of the building. The crystalline structure, created by the geometric figures of the facade, captures and reflects the light – promoting the dialogue between the building, city and the surrounding landscape,” says Ósbjørn Jacobsen, architect and Design Manager at Henning Larsen Architects.
In Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus, lies ARoS Aarhus Museum of Art designed by Danish architectural firm schmidt hammer lassen architects. The cube-shaped building is covered with characteristic red bricks and is sited in a sloping plot.
Having a footprint of 52 x 52 metres, standing almost 50 metres high, the building presents a distinct contrast between the strictness of the exterior and its white interior featuring a sequence of organic curves, which define the different storeys of the building.
The museum’s curving inner walkway divides the museum into two separate wings: the exhibition wing, with its range of gallery spaces, and the service wing.
The ‘canyon’ of the atrium space is flooded with daylight, which enters the building from the glazed roof and from the large glass walls neighbouring both entrances.
According to Thomas Maare from the Danish Lighting Centre, enhancing the architecture is an important aspect of great lighting solutions.
“In addition to fulfilling the minimum requirements for functional lighting, it is important that lighting can be an experience as well. We are delighted when developers and architects meet more than the minimum needs for lighting and create aesthetic human-centric solutions.”