Light in Three Museums, November 11, 2010


light source: quantity emitted, lumens; luminous intensity: intensity of beam of light from glowing object – candela; illuminance: lumens falling on an area (lumens/sf); luminance: light emitted from a glowing object (candela/sf); reflectance factor: amount reflected, absorbed; reflection types: specular, reflect lines / matte, scatters; reflection issues: reflected glare; brightness: perceived luminance, not an absolute value. Something can appear very bright after leaving a dark space; brilliance: extreme brightness, intensity that can be overwhelming. Limit of human eye’s ability to adapt to it; sparkle: attractive brilliance, dimly lit environment with extreme contrast; contrast: difference in luminance; dazzle: overpowering vision by light intensity. light so intense, you lose ability to construct a sense of where you are; glare: typically a case of extreme contrast, interference by an uncomfortably bright source; gloom: absence of expected visual information.

Kimbell Art Museum

Fort Worth, Texas

Louis Kahn


Vault includes parabolic reflectors that reflect light up into the ceiling – not pure reflectors, however.

Reflector is a very finely perforated mesh so it’s not a dark shadow. Kahn tried to maintain a neutrality of surfaces. Almost no gradient of intensity, no contrast in the entire surface. Why? When a piece of art is placed in that context, it pops.

Galleries: subtle marking of the figures in relation the the vaults.

Gaps in the continuous vaulting create voids that result in special spaces within the museum.

Much of the light in library spaces comes in through cracks, seams.

Construction of vaults: cast in place concrete.

Menil Museum

Dominique de Menil, Houston, Texas

Renzo Piano


Way of dealing with light would be a major organizational factor.

Always reflected light coming into the space. There is ventilation that allows a thermal tempering zone, renders a much lesser cooling load. Highly integrated systems

Recessed court that becomes a major entrance. Embedded courtyards where some of the bays have been pulled out.

Beyeler Museum

Basel, Switzerland

Renzo Piano


The building is a landscape and a light monitor.

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