Divine Illumination

Published on 7th August 2015
Fiat lux – let there be light – has been an architectural driving force for centuries. We value and crave natural light, not just because it’s convenient and looks good, but because it’s vastly beneficial for our health; giving us strong bones; healthy hair, teeth and nails; improving our concentration; and influencing our moods. The Romans knew the power of light in building design, and since that time, the importance of light has not diminished. Whether in public places or private dwellings, the presence of natural light is considered an advantageous selling point, and it can be found in all areas of architecture.

In high culture light has long been used as a tool for enhanced exhibitions, with the skylight in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim museum leading the contemporary way. It’s a trend that has been tried with varying degrees of success throughout the years, but Mexico’s Soumaya Museum takes some beating. Apparently windowless from outside, this strikingly statuesque structure draws down light from above, through what is a rather modest skylight. The illumination from which is none the less is used to great effect. This is a form of artifice employed in many less illustrious public spaces.

After the grandeur of the Victorian era, there was a time when railway stations became places of pure functionality, with little thought given to the visual appeal of the grey concrete constructions built to house them. The new concourse at Birmingham New Street Station, due to open later this year, seems to signal an end to that way of thinking. Illuminated by a vast, domed atrium, supported by sinuous arms of white, the upper structure has little true functional value, but remains an aesthetic wonder. Almost dazzlingly bright, the space is a stark, appealing contrast to the gloomy interior of the old station, where nary a beam of sunlight dared to reach.

On the domestic level there are a growing number of ways to introduce light into a home. While doors and windows used to be the sole glazing in residential properties, in recent years there has been a move towards glass architecture; conservatories and orangeries have seen a revival; glazed curtain walling is somewhat de rigueur, thanks to television programmes such as Grand Designs; but the biggest – and potentially greatest – of them all, is the atrium. Once the preserve of hospitals and shopping centres, the atria has found a niche in the domestic market, and though we hate to brag, we think that the Jenkins atrium, created by Apropos, is a perfect example of the kind.

Serving the purpose of a vast open-plan sitting room-cum-conservatory, the Jenkins’ atrium provides a direct link between the two wings of the house, bringing light into a space that could easily be cast in shadow. Vibrant and airy, the glass panelling provides a view of nature, while the open view of the sky above makes the spirits soar, even on the gloomiest of days.

Natural light is integral to the well being of all human beings, so it’s hardly surprising that glass and architecture have gone hand in hand ever since we first learned how to create it. At Apropos, we’re proud to be continuing the tradition.

Get in touch today to start letting light into your life!
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