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A house without artificial light. A project of Polish students

24 of August '23
w skrócie
  1. Students of Wroclaw University of Technology: Gabriela Gustaw and Julia Sielska took on the challenge of The Home of Shadows international competition, designing a home where the only source of light is natural light.
  2. The design, which was shortlisted for the competition, was inspired by the caves of the Grand Canyon, where the changing light creates a unique aura.
  3. The house was constructed using rammed earth techniques, with a skylight above the lobby and vertical windows creating a play of light and shadow.
  4. The structure on the water, takes advantage of the reflection of the night sky, further illuminating the interiors.
  5. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal.

Is it possible to design a single-family home that uses only natural lighting? This was the question asked by the organizers of the international competition The Home of Shadows. Students of Wrocław University of Technology: Gabriela Gustaw and Julia Sielska took up this challenge, proposing a rammed earth house inspired by the caves of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The task of The Home of Shadows competition organized by the Buildner platform was to design a single-family home for two people that does not use artificial light. The organizers left the participants free to choose the location and specifications of the building. They were looking for designs that explore how natural light can influence architectural decisions and shape space and build mood.

Projekt Light Canyon umieszczony jest na jeziorze Mead

The Light Canyon project is located on Lake Mead

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

The submitted projects were evaluated by a jury consisting of: Guillaume Aubry, Cyril Gauthier and Yves Pasquet (FREAKS Architecture, France), Yu-Hsiang Fu (fws_works, United States, Taiwan), Robert Hutchison (Robert Hutchison Architecture, United States), PatcharadaInplang andThongchai Chansamak (Sher Maker, Thailand), Flora Lee (MAD Architects, United States), Geoff Nees (artist, Australia), Peter Newman (artist, United Kingdom), Alexander Saša Ostan (Atelier Ostan Pavlin, Slovenia), Wu Ziye (Nanjing, China).

Four main prizes were awarded (First Prize went to Maria Tîlvescu Nicula from Romania), six honorable mentions, and the competition short list was announced. This list included the Light Canyon project by students of Wrocław University of Technology: Gabriela Gustaw and Julia Sielska.

Projekt Light Canyon, aksonometria

A broken skylight over the lobby forms the main core of the house

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

cave of light

Designing a building without the use of artificial light prompted us to reach for original housing patterns. We were inspired by some of the first human shelters, namely caves. We wanted to reflect their atmosphere—beautiful and cozy at the same time. The main inspiration for the project was the caves of light that stand out among the rock formations of the Grand Canyon. For this reason, we decided to locate our project in Arizona. At the same time, the proximity of water was important to us, so we chose the neighborhood of Lake Mead," the authors of the project talk about their inspiration.

Dom jest oświetlony światłem naturalnym zarówno w ciągu dnia, jak i nocy

The house is lit by natural light both during the day and at night

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

Light in caves naturally changes dynamically as the day progresses, the students tried to mimic this effect by designing a broken skylight over the lobby. In this way they created the main core of the house, which forms its axis and opens it to the view of the lake. The dynamics of the interior is built up by the walls of the rooms. Each room has been appropriately rotated in relation to the lobby.

The chosen arrangement is not accidental—we tried to adjust the rooms so that at the most functionally important moments of the day, they are illuminated by sunlight, the designers add.

Pionowe pasma otworów okiennych tworzą rytmy Łazienka z widokiem na jezioro

Vertical window openings frame the surroundings

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

rammed earth house

Gabriela and Julia were keen not to interfere too much with the existing landscape. Therefore, they decided to build the house from rammed earth. They also wanted to maximize the exposure of the materials used, giving the building an impression of austerity and blending in with the surroundings. The composition of the house's facade is based mainly on horizontal directions, with which only narrow vertical bands of window openings contrast. The proportions of the windows and their placement were chosen by the authors so that the light entering the building creates a varied play of light and shadow.

In addition, the window openings create a kind of frame that allows one to admire the atmospheric beauty of the natural landscape, the students point out.

Light Canyon, przekrój

The house was designed using the rammed earth technique

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

construction on water

An important element of the project was the placement of the building on water. Its construction was based by the authors on special piles. At night, the light of the stars and moon reflects off the surface of Lake Mead, illuminating the rooms. In addition, in the lobby, the designers placed a glazing in the floor, the shape of which corresponds to the skylight on the ceiling. In this way, reflections of the water help illuminate the central part of the house.

Ściany domu zostały wykonane z ziemi ubijanej

The building sits on the surface of the lake

© Gabriela Gustaw, Julia Sielska

Also read about other alternative home designs that use the play of light and shadow: Circadian Home, which takes advantage of changing lighting conditions, and Because Every Step Counts for the blind.

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