Advanced Design Studio 1 required a working knowledge of fundamental principles of design, research, representation (manual and digital), building systems, structures, environment, history, theory and ethics. The course was conducted as a design studio intended for graduate architecture, interior and urban design students with emphasis on the role of research in design process and proposition through specific topics and issues proposed by individual instructors. It was intended to develop students’ applied theory, research and integrated design skills to an advanced level. Course activities included individual and group exercises and critiques, in addition to lectures and seminars. Students were required to present their work in progress to peers and faculty, and present completed work to a review jury of faculty and guest critics.
The Daylighting Studio was taught by Professor Martin Schwartz, and fulfilled the Advanced Design Studio 1 requirement in the graduate curriculum. It addressed the influence of daylight (sun, skylight, dim light, shade, shadow, darkness) on architecture and the influence of architecture on the quality and character of daylight. The design process focused on how our knowledge and appreciation of daylight might guide us to make intelligent decisions in the design of architectural spaces, the selection of appropriate materials, the making of good places for people to work and live in. We examined how these decisions then suggest architectural form. The study and use of reflected sunlight and diffused daylight was emphasized as the best kind of light, in terms of energy use and a comfortable visual environment, for interior illumination.
To develop a better understanding of skylight versus sunlight, we first experimented with a simple volume and manipulated the openings in order to achieve both diffuse skylight and direct sunlight in the interior space. This was a good way to get acclimated to how architectural form alone can be designed in order to achieve a properly daylit interior while avoiding harsh direct sunlight. From that point forward, the assignments were more directed toward the actual project site where the non-denominational chapel design was proposed. The existing property was in Ann Arbor near the Central Campus of the University of Michigan. It was a long, narrow site that housed an existing church designed by Gunnar Birkerts and a small residential home. This particular site offered some unique challenges. Both long sides of the property contained buildings and landscaping that blocked a significant amount of natural light, forcing us to utilize the edges adjacent to the street and the sky directly above for the majority of the light. Due to the location, the designs also needed to provide convenient and pleasant paths as people travel through campus. We began with a study that imposed a structural grid across the site, and then examined how the structure alone impacted light throughout various times. It was difficult at first to design the structure before there was a design, but having an organizing element to design around proved quite beneficial. A non-denominational church needs to be designed with ample flexibility, which we learned through studying the lighting effects of various seating arrangements and enclosures in a gathering space.
As walls began to create the spaces of the building, I learned how critical it is to design in section and three-dimensions in order to look at the daylight potential.
The most valuable technique I utilized in the studio was creating all of the physical models, which were required with every study. As a supplement to the individual semester project, we analyzed the differences between a physical model in actual sunlight with the lighting and raytracing abilities of digital renderings. For most of the spaces, we looked and documented the lighting both physically and digitally. The physical models proved more helpful, because the quick digital studies did not accurately show how the diffuse skylight behaves in the spaces. This showed me not to underestimate the value of a simple physical model as part of the design process, despite the convenience and availability that can come with digital modeling.