Structural Light
Project Description

Add or Subtract Light?

In 2013, Velux and RIBA-led one successful campaign for healthier and better well-lit spaces in architecture and building regulations, claiming that the already known as 2-3% of daylight factor is very low. The ways to increase that factors are various and are yet one of the main topics in design and architecture and is one of the main topics for this proposal.  "Without Space and Light" title of this campaign underlines a rhetorical, yet very provocative, questions: Does architecture add daylight to dark spaces or subtract it from fully-lit ones?     

Our Buildings are inherently opaque and we, therefore, understand daylight in architecture as an object: we frame it by windows, facade screens, perforated surfaces and other determined and designed devices. We assign design as a gatekeeper against the light, armed with calculation, simulations, numbers and figures that capture daylight and control it.

However, daylight is free in nature and hence it exists on many levels that we are still incapable to accommodate in built environment and, in best cases, only try to imitate them. Tree shadow, snow exposure, water surfaces and cloud clusters are levels of an in-between status that unfold the existence of light into an unusual narrative of textures and gradients.

 More than Transparent

The approach of structural light considers the properties of materials as ways with which extended investigation can readdress daylight studies. The structural parts of the buildings are considered the strongest, and presumably, the heaviest. Encapsulating daylight in these parts could readdress how we see and understand structures. The transparent mortar (TM) is one more attempt to be added to the families of proposals that are looking at translucency in materials like wood and concrete.

However, the aim in this attempt is not to merely find transparent materials but also to propose a let-go concept of extremely controlled daylight in built environment and adopt a range or accepting permeability in light and shadow. TM brings another dimension of proposing that the amount of transparency can be shifted to the in-situ application by simply adding TM to the needed surface than having it defined in a lab situation.

Transparent mortar can help in the atmospheric light of a structure that, in addition to the sculptural value it adds to space, can contribute to the daylight factor needed in our buildings. 

 Materials and Costs

"Glass is not really a solid; it can be more accurately thought of as a supercooled liquid" [1] .

The ways of which we can have transparent mortar varies from low-cost direct applications to research-based exploration. The world is full of glass shards that should be preferably recycled without spending too much energy. TM could be one application of waste glass recycling by arbitrarily opening the solid in a fashion similar to the coloured openings in the dome of  Arabic Baths but on a micro-level.

Resins is a natural material: an organic Polymer that can have a considerable impact on the transparency of solid matters. Mixing resins and concrete has  been explored. However, resin acted like fillings for small rectangular (designed) openings [2]. We propose to work with resin's natural adhesive properties as (glue from a tree). 

Sugar composites are another carbohydrate material that are naturally abundant and can be used in composites with translucent properties. PMMA-Sugar composites were used to make wall panels [3] from PMMA (Acrylic) and agricultural wasted sugar with an advantage of thermal control and the challenge in TM of PMMA-Sugar is to control the solid-liquid status of the material on site. Left to mention that with help Phosphorescence, TM can store light for later emission.

 Low Cost Experiment (Paris Plaster | Thin-tile | Acrylic)

In the experimental project, we worked with Paris plaster and acrylic where one or more pieces of transparent acrylic was placed within the mortar. The strength of the mortar was affected by the acrylic but roughening the connection surfaces of the acrylic could enhance this feature. The fractured grouts were between 20% to 80% transparent, and the plasters coat on acrylic finds its own way to coat or reveal it, it was unpredicted and spontaneous exactly as we aimed for in the proposal.

The thin coating of plaster over the acrylic appears to be solid, but it was slightly translucent and could diffuse light into the interior space. The change of light direction kept alter the appearance of the materials; acute angles did not modify the intensity of the light diffusion as the light was mirrored in the inner surfaces of the acrylic but the direct light was only possible within a small range of angles in the individual grout. Hence, we surely propose TM for enhancing daylight factors, light storage and natural-built patterns of light.  

Read more