Sun, Land and Water: The Opportunity for Connection
Architects can only provide the opportunity for connection. They merely suggest the logical, natural association or bond between two or more things. As we become more ambitious with the idea of sustainability, there will be collaborative relationships that exist between design and the environment that are not absolute and need to be solidified. The environmental elements have more to offer than just energy, and they can be a derivative of form and orientation. It is our job to question the strategies and relationships that already exist between architecture and the environment and critically dissect the possibilities of discovering new interactions. My thesis has taken me on a journey between the constraints of architecture and the freedom of an artist to create a piece of architecture that joins both the man-made qualities of the built world with the natural phenomena that exists within our environment. I believe the process we are taking to make this connection between the man-made and the environment needs to be stronger if we truly want to make impactful change in the built world.
To investigate this connection, I chose as a site for my thesis work Tempe Town Lake, a pleasurable destination for the city of Phoenix that acts as a token of relief in the dead of summer when temperatures rise to unbearable levels. In each part of the design process, I tried to find ways to connect the simplicity of architecture with the key elements that already exist around the site in light, land and water. I used data diagrams, sun-path diagrams and a sundial to understand the sun’s behavior in this region of the desert. From these analytical diagrams, I was able to start a process of drawings and models studying both the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the sun’s luminance. Through this process, I felt the need to draw a series of light studies as a way to weld my concept together. I used the sun’s arc and seasonal light patterns to form and slice the building into pieces, cutting voids of separation and creating a series of vertical-sliced windows that illuminate the sundial cropped along its lakefront facade. The design uses the existing qualities and paths of sunlight - commonly overlooked - as derivatives of the boldly curved and sliced form that unites with the lakefront in a reflective manner.
The separated spaces between the forms come from the natural direction of the sun as it scrapes across the skyline. At specific times during each day, the sunlight passes through the gap between the structures and creates a naturally lit corridor that serves as an entry/exit to the courtyard. What lies in the building’s shadow is an undulating, fractured, programmable landscape, which metaphorically connects the object with its very own shadow. I used the metaphor of the object and shadow because this association of light with shadow is one way to connect the building with the earth that surrounds it. This light-object-ground-shadow relationship can interlock the gravitated landscape with the massive curved building. A shared, underground, interdisciplinary space also allows for the opportunity of social oppositions to mesh with one another.
In order to create any opportunity to solve the problems facing us in the future, successful environments - whether man-made or natural – must resist complication and reward simplicity. I believe my thesis strives to answer the solution to this universal, global problem in architecture; how can we create an architecture of connection between the built world and our environment. The beauty of this project really “came to light” through the drawings. As a result, this site can provide the foundation for interlocking the ideas of connection between the man-made and the natural environment with a focus on simplicity.