22 February 2008

The effervescence of natural daylight

Artificial lighting of the future will give off natural daylight.

And to that extent will probably remain an illusion, as natural daylight can only ever be grossly imitated.

Natural daylight comes in a wide variety of forms, and the difference between each of them can be enormous. The source of all our natural light is the sun; however it presents very different characteristics at different times of day and in different weather conditions. Instead of a single source of light we end up with many different ones ranging from hard to soft and warm to cool. Without preaching the obvious, two very common observations are enough to be convinced of the extraordinary dynamics of natural daylight.

Sunlight has a different character at different times of day. Our atmosphere scatters the shorter wavelengths of light with the effects of creating the blue of the sky and reddening the light from the sun itself. The thicker the layer of atmosphere that sunlight has to travel through, the more scattering occurs. This is exactly what happens as the sun gets low on the horizon, thus causing more scattering at the beginning and the end of the day.

Clouds also have a major influence on both the color and the character of sunlight. Clouds are translucent. They let light pass through in a diffuse manner, deflected by the water mist they contain. Rays of light are bouncing around to emerge from several directions. This phenomenon is similar to the scattering of blue light by the atmosphere, except that in clouds the scattering occurs across all wavelengths, not just the shorter ones. Clouds also affect colors, since they usually hide the blue sky and the light emanating from it.

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Form is the visual shape of mass and volume. Light makes form legible. There is no form without light.


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