Faux Sunlight

Interior space illuminated by high tech LED skylight from Coelux

CoeLux uses LEDs and nano-materials to create a startling facsimile of sunlight.

Here is a technologically innovative light fixture that simulates the look of sunlight through a skylight. It is made from a material that mimics the light scattering achieved through the Earth’s atmosphere. CoeLux wants to change our experience in spaces cut off from the outside. Different models recreate the warm, grazing light of Northern Europe or the dramatic light of the Tropics. It is currently being used in ‘iceberg homes’ —mega basements for the wealthy in London. But imagine it being used in hospitals, gyms, offices, and carparks. It could have some real impact when the price comes down…

Below is the full article from the blog PetaPixel. Photos by Michael Loos.

Interior space illuminated by high tech LED skylight from Coelux

Accurately mimicking sunlight isn’t just a matter of creating a perfect simulation of the sunlight’s wavelength, but recreating a process called Rayleigh scattering where that light is subtly distorted by atmospheric particles.

There’s an innovative new light technology that’s trying to shake up the way people think about “artificial light.” In Italian company called CoeLux has developed a new light source that recreates the look of sunlight through a skylight so well that it can trick both human brains and cameras.

It’s a high tech LED skylight that’s designed to provide “sunlight” for interior spaces cut off from the outdoors. One of the main ideas behind it is that to create realistic sunlight, you can’t just simulate the sun… you need to recreate the atmosphere as well.

CoeLux turns a basement washroom into a passable alternative to a Mediterranean spa.

A basement washroom transformed into a passable alternative to a Mediterranean spa.

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Interior space illuminated by high tech LED skylight from Coelux

The scientists who invented the light figured out how to use a thin coating of nanoparticles to accurately simulate sunlight through Earth’s atmosphere and the effect known as Rayleigh scattering. It’s not just the color temperature that is the same — the quality of the light feels the same as well.

People who have had a chance to experience the skylight so far have been fooled into believing that there was an actual hole in the ceiling, and the sample photos on the CoeLux website come with a cautionary note: “The photographs on this site are real and unretouched. They are not computer renderings.”

The technology is designed for providing the appearance of sunlight to spaces that could use it (e.g. hospitals, gyms, offices, underground parking structures), but it seems photographers could also make use of it as well for an artificial sunlight source in a studio — especially people who work in places with unpredictable or limited sunlight. However, the price would need to come down first: CoeLux currently costs £40,000 (~$61,000) to buy and up to £5,000 (~$7,600) for installation.

CoeLux says future improvements will include the ability to change the position of the sun in the frame and dynamic color temperature of the sunlight.

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The innovation behind CoeLux is a custom nano material that recreates the effects of 6,200 miles of atmosphere into a sheet of plastic just a few millimeters thick.

Wired magazine also has an article on this: A Nanotech Skylight That Looks Just Like The Sun Shining Overhead.

Big-box buyers become bookworms

Here is an idea that has been mooted post- Target Canada debacle. And it comes, indirectly, from its discount store rival Walmart, no less. After Walmart abandoned one of its retail stores in McAllen, Texas, the city decided to reuse the structure as a new main library. Reinvention in the face of adversity is a common theme these days.

McAllen, Texas' new main library is located in a converted Walmart store. Photo by MSR.

McAllen, Texas’ new library is located in a converted Walmart. Photo: MSR Design

Target Canada recently announced that it is packing up shop less than two years after opening 133 stores across the country. Some blame its failure in the Canadian market on anti-competitive pricing while others attribute it to a limited product selection (I’ve also heard “it didn’t understand the complexity of the Canadian consumer”). It will be interesting to know what’s in store for the slew of these newly vacant big-boxes in the ‘burbs. In the meantime, ears are perked for ‘liquidation sales!’ Let’s hope incoming Uniqlo fares better…

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Your typical Target Canada superstore. Photo: Geoff Robins/Reuters

South of the snowline, architecture firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MSR) has created a highly functional, flexible library of 125,000 square feet, making it the largest single-storey library in the U.S.A. To give that some context, it is an area equivalent to nearly 2 1/2 football fields.

To start, the former Walmart store’s ceilings were stripped and the interior and new mechanical systems were painted white to form a neutral backdrop for new patron and service areas, which are designated with colour and texture.

BEFORE. Photo: MSR Design

Within the sprawling volume, the designers created more intimate spaces introducing form, pattern, and light. All aspects –from the interior architecture, to the graphics, to the furnishings– work in harmony and relate to one another.

The library creates a much-needed intellectual and social hub that arguably brings more to the community than another superstore can. The new venue boasts 16 public meeting spaces, 14 public study rooms, 64 computer labs, 10 children’s computer labs, and 2 genealogy computer labs. Other features include an auditorium, an art gallery, a used bookstore and a café. There is even a Farmer’s Market on the weekends.

Here is what the designers came up with:

Laser-cut wood ceiling plane runs the length of the building. Photo courtesy of MSR.

Laser-cut wood ceiling plane runs the length of the building. Photo: MSR Design

Super-graphic-clad ceiling pendants and lighting and flooring choices define spaces. Photo courtesy of MSR.

Super-graphic-clad ceiling pendants, lighting and flooring choices define spaces. Photo: MSR Design

For easy wayfinding and to encourage self-servicing, service desks and collection areas are designated with colourful, textural landmarks. Photo: MSR Design

Inspired by the Fibonacci Series, the layout and patterns found in the childrens area mimic growth patterns in kids. Photo by MSR.

Inspired by the Fibonacci Series, the layout and patterns found in the children’s area mimic growth patterns in kids. Photo: MSR Design

The teen hang-out area is acoustically separated from the rest of the library. Photo: MSR Design

FLOOR PLAN: bisecting axes define program areas. Image courtesy of MSR.

FLOOR PLAN: bisecting axes define program areas. Image: MSR Design

There is a lot of talk these days of how libraries, large and small, are evolving in the face of the digital revolution, which is radically changing how we access and consume information. As we see in McAllen, libraries are prioritizing community engagement and facilitating new learning models. But that’s a broader topic for another day.

To find out more about this project, click here.

Ice Fishing Architecture

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.)

While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

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Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward “objective” point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.

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A section of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Coal Bunkers.

The minimalist approach of Johnson’s photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

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There is a broader ‘urban’ angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

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This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015. www.icehuts.ca

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Canadian shooting locations 2007-2012.

 

Architecture on Film: Cathedrals of Culture

Architecture takes centre-stage in the 3D film Cathedrals of Culture, rather than its more usual background role. According to reviewers, this six-part documentary, directed by six acclaimed filmmakers, explores the cultural significance of six iconic and very different buildings from angles not seen before.

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Oslo Opera House, a futuristic symbiosis of art and life. Photo by Øystein Mamen.

Spearheaded by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, the film asks the question: “If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?” Wenders builds on the 3D techniques he first employed in the documentary Pina. He is joined by Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz. Each lends a distinctive artistic approach to the project, exploring a day in the life of these “cultural machines” — the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Narrated by the imagined voices of the buildings themselves, the film ambitiously aims to uncover “the soul of buildings.” While The Guardian’s Oliver Wainright says it presents a “limited and internalised view of architecture”, as a formal exercise its camerawork and visual mastery is captivating.

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The Salk Institute, an institute for breakthrough science. Photo by Alex Falk.

The Berlin Philharmonic, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

The Berlin Philharmonic building, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou, a modern culture machine. Photo by Ali Olcay Gozkaya.

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler.

Halden Prison, the world's most humane prison. Photo by Heikki Färm.

Norway’s Halden Prison, the “world’s most humane prison.” Photo by Heikki Färm.

Cathedrals of Culture premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for its next screenings. In the meantime, see the official trailer:

Fleeting traces on our wintry landscape

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Sonja Hinrichsen. Aerial photo of Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado 2012

Artist Sonja Hinrichsen is not interested in creating lasting artworks, particularly not in nature. Instead, her ‘environmental interventions’ are temporary installations; swiftly documented and living on in photographs.

“I feel like this planet is so scarred already through human activity and I don’t feel like I want to add more traces as an artist.”

The ongoing community arts project ‘Snow Drawings’ is Hinrichsen’s way of helping us regain a greater awareness of the natural world around us. Her walk patterns largely take the form of swirls and concentric circles, casting designs onto pristine snow surfaces. In a single unbroken line, they follow the contours of the landscape — whirling, meandering, accentuating — and create a visual texture across otherwise blank stretches. These sprawling drawings are short-lived, threatened by snowdrifts and melting.

Here is what she has been able to do with a herd of 50 volunteers donning snowshoes and unleashed onto the open landscape:

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado 2014

Sonja Hinrichsen. We Are The Water — Snow Drawing project, Colorado 2014

Inspiration to create the snow drawings stemmed from an artist residency in the Colorado Rockies in the winter of 2009. In the winters that have followed, she has created designs on sweeping ‘canvases’ – wide-open fields and frozen lakes – in northern New Mexico, NY, and Colorado.

You may want to compare and contrast this with fractals and crop circles and to consider what the impermanence of this work brings to your enjoyment of it.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

I discovered the artist in a recent article about her snow studies in the Huffington Post. Below are some of Hinrichsen’s explorations at the other end of the scale: pen & ink drawings resembling microorganisms; and, embroidered words on the leaves of a fruit-bearing fig tree.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing in pen & ink.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing in pen & ink.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008. Documented on video and in print

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, 2008. Documented on video and in print.