Archive for light

i c e l a n d

Posted in architecture, art, beauty, iceland, landscape, light, lighthouse, mountains, scent, senses, symbology, time, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2014 by dacarc

the alchemy of a place


indescribable, dreamy, mystical, stunning, disorienting


the visible elements:

lush green fields rolling under jagged peaks, washed in swaths of violet lupine




stark glaciers falling into the ocean’s horizon







endless lava deserts, blanketed in thick moss




split chasms, cracked earth fissures


photo by tim girvin


milky blue lakes of steaming minerals, thrusting from deep underground





heavy timber structures emerging, of the earth, stone-walled, turf sheltered






rushing waterfalls, slicing over sheer rock mesas downward to the sea







mist-shrouded peaks, veiled mysteries




never-ending light, midnight sun


standing stones, cairns, and rock-circles





ice-shards, crystalline boulders streaming over black sand shores





ancient codes, runes, and magical sigals




bands of wild horses, roaming over lush green valleys




the people, shielded by the powers of their natural island-world








the invisible elements:

the scent of green, wet stone, salt-waters



the desolation of no-where




the absence of night








dark histories, volcanic destructions




the chilled misted, crystalline air




the heat of underground forces




a place of mystery


photo by tim girvin


a magic place






and the enduring strength of the people



i c e l a n d


world of wonders – soul of place

Posted in architecture, dreams, energy, landscape, memory, time, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by dacarc

 what is a place of wonder? why are some places full of wonder. what makes a place wonder full? 

treasure cave - cliffs of taktsang monastery, bhutan

which is more full of wonder – the creations of humanity or natural wonders? how would you choose only seven?

great buddha at kotoku-in temple, kamakura, japan

how do some places capture the essence of a culture,  an era, a civilization, an empire?

great wall of china

do places of wonder hold the power of the dreams, the collective spirit of a people?

holding sun and ocean

where are the energy lines, the intersections of spiritual resonance, epicenters of power?

borobudur and mount merapi - java, indonesia

are there places where your dreams are entwined with those that have come before?

humayun's tomb - delhi, india

i’m wandering in the world of wonders, looking for the soul of place, seeking the spirit held within our dreams.

bamboo forest - kyoto, japan

journey into night

Posted in japan, landscape, light, mountains, time, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by dacarc

mount fuji sunset

now finally, at day’s end, spent sun-chasing over the endless blue ocean

out here, finding a more heightened sense of the moment, and the beauty it holds

reaching farther – onward – the journey continues

into the night

year of light

Posted in architecture, light, time, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 1, 2010 by dacarc

seattle space needle - 2010


wishing for you 

a new year 

reveling in  light 


a sense of time

Posted in architecture, bhutan, dreams, java, light, morocco, ruins, time, turkey, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2009 by dacarc
spinning prayer wheels - clockwise - bhutan

spinning prayer wheels - bhutan

architecture is design in at least four dimensions.  there are more dimensions i wonder about, that physicists theorize on – 10, maybe 11 dimensions – though they are not physically evident.  translating the others into concrete, or even words, is an obscured, mystical and magical act –  like the infusion of spiritual and magical powers into layered metals in the making of the keris blade. 

this master keris maker – a national treasure of java (who passed away only months after our time together), told of the final fusion – made during days, maybe weeks of meditation – no eating, no sleeping – a trance-like state where the spirit and magic of the blade is evoked.  it is physically manifest in the intricate layered metal patterns on the finished blade, and serves as powerful protection to the family for whom it is made – it takes about one year to complete the process of folding and fusing metals in the creation of one blade.

javanese keris master - national treasure

javanese keris master - national treasure

keris maker's workshop - java

keris maker's workshop - java

what dimension is this?  on a neverending exploration into realms only glimpsed, returning to the fourth dimension seems simple.  time is powerfully and clearly the fourth dimension that is embodied in architecture – and when not considered as essential to the foundation of a design – it is powerfully and tragically missing.  architecture defines the passing of the day – dawn to dusk to midnight, the passing of the season – heat, wind, rain, snow, the passing of eras, the rise of empires, the dissolution of cultures. 
istanbul mosque

bursa mosque


bhutan - rammed earth structure

bhutan - rammed earth structure

when i look at buildings i see time – forgotten or treasured.  i see the evidence of time – through the weathered patina of materials, the craft and construction of the culture, the purpose of the structure reflecting the industry of its time.  i see the line and wave of people moving from one place to another, mixing across cultures and landscapes – the alchemic mix of east and west, islam and christian, buddhist and animist, merchant and shintoist, dutch farmer and frontier settler… 

skagit valley barn

skagit valley barn

i see strata of time, layered one over another. of one time, re-made anew, or left to dissolve..

essaouira morocco

essaouira morocco

palouse agricultural outpost

palouse agricultural outpost

as we draw, we can move from left to right (width), forward and backward (depth), and upward and downward (height).  in time, we can only be in the present, being taken toward our future.  in our minds, we go back – our memories – in our minds, we go forward – our dreams. 

in studying the sufi concept of time – it’s beyond the inevitable past, present and future line – it’s the whirling, cycling, spiraling continuum, no beginning, no end…it is a connection from the infinite to the present, from the present to the infinite – that is the hand, upward, the body, whirling, the feet, grounded.

whirling sufi - istanbul

whirling dervish - istanbul

my son reminds me that everything we see in the present moment is actually in the past – due to the fractional amount of time it takes for light to move through space.  the idea that our reality is not real – that is well proven – our brains are designed for survival, not reality – and our perception of reality is limited by the capacity of our senses along with the contained past experiences our brain has stored – which means even with the aid of telescopes and microscopes we can still only percieve less than 25% of what actually exists. 

infinite invocation

infinite invocation

as we create buildings, we reference what has been known, and anticipate what will be – the act of architecture is fusion of the past, present, and future.  memories, senses, and dreams – together.  if we take great care in that orchestration, it can be beautiful.  it can be perfectly imperfect, wabi sabi, impermanent, organic, cyclic,  temporally ambiguous, time shifting, both of the past and the future.  transformational.
sinan's bath - istanbul

sinan's bath - istanbul

seeking beauty, always.

moroccan architecture – light, texture, color, and detail

Posted in architecture, light, morocco, time, travel with tags , , , , on December 14, 2008 by dacarc

In Marrakech, after a short flight and descent of looping figure 8’s from Casablanca, there is a small hint of what is to come – the wrapping envelope of light and shadow, layered textures on every plane – though the saturation of color has been stripped away, in a modernist move, to pure white.  The effect is a striking geometry, softened by the intricate cast of shadow and light on a heavy structural diamond web.

marrakech airport - arrival hall

marrakech airport - arrival hall

marrakech airport - exterior canopy

marrakech airport - exterior canopy

 Within the old city’s original walls, the medina, it feels like travelling back in time – in some places just a century or two, in others, thousands of years. This was a crossroads of trade routes – from the original Berber tribes in the nearby Atlas mountains, the blue-robed south Saharan Tuaregs, to the Atlantic.  Other than the city walls, only one small fragment of the original city remains – the mosque dome of Koubba El-Badiyin – the origins of Moorish building and the basis of North African architecture.

marrakech - koubba el-badiyin mosque

marrakech - koubba el-badiyin mosque

koubba el-badiyin mosque

koubba el-badiyin mosque

A series of dynasties have since left traditions of incredible richness in the skill and craft of architecture – in palaces, tombs, schools, and mosques.  Even today, the highly detailed cut tile mosaics, carved and painted wood panels and cut plaster are all created by hand.  There are an endless number of details and textures wrapping every surface, a complete enveloping of beauty in color and pattern.  The French also left a tradition that continues – all buildings are pink – and the variations of hue are infinite, and especially beautiful in the late afternoon sun, as the city and people glow in the reflected shades of cinnamon, rose and sienna.

ali ben youssef medersa

ali ben youssef medersa

ali ben youssef medersa

ali ben youssef medersa

ali ben youssef medersa

ali ben youssef medersa

 Diving in today – it’s vibrant, overwhelming in the riot and chaos of the souks and labyrinth of streets filled with hand carts, motorcycles, bicycles, donkey and horse-drawn carts, speeding Mercedes taxis, and people weaving through it all. Spice, smoke, incense.

marrakech souk

marrakech souk

marrakech souk

marrakech souk

marrakech souk

marrakech souk

 Behind the doors are the hidden calm – the riyads – traditional courtyard homes filled with hand cut mosaics, carved and painted wood paneling, lace-cut metal lamps, hand cut plaster ceilings – all with a level of intricacy that continually captivates and changes with the time of day.

riyad al moussika - marrakech

riyad al moussika - marrakech

jardin majorelle - marrakech

jardin majorelle - marrakech

Everything here feels like a powerful reminder of time – the line of ancient cultures, the traditions handed from generation to generation, and the light of this very moment, just for an instant.

Grateful, in Marrakech.

architecture is light

Posted in architecture, dreams, light, time, travel with tags , , , , on November 15, 2008 by dacarc

in my dreams, the substance of architecture is light.  in my life, the most powerful experience in architecture is the captivation of light in space.  the first photograph i developed in a darkroom was of heavily dusted light rays streaming into the barn loft – long before i was drawn into the profession of architecture. 

i dream of buildings – light streaking through arched clerestory windows, ice-white-blue transparent slabs opening out to stunning white peaked mountains rising out of deep blue seas, misted grey weathered columns in a green valley.  it’s always about light.

Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Nôtre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp is a dream-like world of light.  I was completely transfixed by the light-sculpting architecture of this place on my first journey through Europe.  This remote pilgrimage in the early days of my career to the eastern border of France was a life changing experience.

ronchamp chapel

ronchamp chapel - france

ronchamp chapel interior

ronchamp chapel interior

ronchamp light well

ronchamp light well

Grand Central Station in New York is a place of great power to me – the angle of light-streams project the time of day as the people of the city flow in and launch their journeys – a true portal of time and space.  A place that can captivate you in it’s state of constant change every time you return.

grand central station

grand central station - new york

The Pantheon in Rome – the circular oculus opening in the center of the dome, washing the deeply articulated coffers and intricate marble floor patterns, creating a striking connection to the astronomical cycles of our days, nights, and months – a pure focusing of light and time in space, in this place of profound power.

pantheon - rome

pantheon - rome

The Aya Sofia in Istanbul, Brunelleschi’s Duomo of Florence, Borobudur in Java, and even the absence of light in the temples of Kyoto – which in their darkness awaken a sense of deep past, the dark creating a heightened awareness of inner self by shutting out any sense of time. All of these places I’ve experienced a deep sense of my own spirit and my connection to the universal human-ness of our world.

siena museo archeologico

siena museo archeologico - italy

basilica of san domenico - siena

basilica of san domenico - siena

humayun's tomb - delhi

humayun's tomb - delhi

kiyomizu temple - kyoto

kiyomizu temple - kyoto

borabadur - java - indonesia

borobudur - java - indonesia

aya sofia - istanbul

aya sofia - istanbul

Junichiro Tanizaki’s “In Praise of Shadows” is the most powerful writing on light in architecture – “find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing another creates.” Just as light creates architecture – the substance of architecture is light.  the power of light in architecture is not only in spiritual places – indegenous farmhouses in bhutan, simple barns in eastern washington, the seattle public library – there are modern buildings that capture the power of light in space, many that do not. 

haa valley farmhouse - bhutan

haa valley farmhouse - bhutan

barn window - spokane

barn window - spokane

seattle public library

seattle public library


in Tanizaki’s essay, he makes the case that modern spaces overlit by electrical lighting are psychologically exhausting – that the eye and psyche are drained by overlit modern environments.  I had years of discussion with my clients in Japan at Seibu and Sogo on the perception of light in their stores – typically overlit to 1200 lux and a cool 4000-4500 degrees kelvin – pretty much like a refrigerator, a morgue or a supermarket – and not the most romantic setting for the display of high fashion, beauty, accessories and home decor.

sogo osaka - light column

sogo osaka - light column

One of my clients (and friend) in Japan, Mr. Matsuhashi, once tried to tell me “look at my eyes, see how dark they are – we don’t perceive light the same way you do”.  I looked at him and said “look at my eyes, they are the same color as yours!”.  I finally came to understand that it was the climate and conditioning – that all the other stores were over-lit with super-cool spectrum lighting, and that is what they were accustomed to.  Terrified that if the lighting were not equally bright as the competition, they would loose shoppers.  Ultimately we came to a middle ground – 700-800 lux at 3500 degrees kelvin, which allowed us to highlight visual displays and give the eye someplace to be drawn to, and other places to rest easier.  Another common challenge with lighting in these environments is glare – light fixtures that are not properly diffused, angled, or at heights and beam angles that force the iris to contract, and dramatically reduce your ability to see anything – let alone the refined fabric, color and detail of high designer merchandise. 

What I’m exploring now more deeply in the work is the concept of natural light, it’s link to psychic and emotional response – and how that can be used both to enhance the experience, as well as reduce the usage of energy in the environments that we create.  I believe this is a path for great invention and beauty.

The most powerful and magnetic connection of the human spirit to architecture is the captivation of time – embodied in it’s materiality and use. As my son once reflected on the concept of light and time, when he was 12 years old, and pronounced “everything we see is in the past” – as he explained, because light waves take time to pass through space from the object we see – all the we see is reflected light, from the past.