SHEDDING LIGHT: A Manifesto for Solar-Conscious Architecture
Echoing Le Corbusier’s “five points of a new architecture,” architect Christian Wassmann has put together exclusively for PIN–UP, a five-point manifesto for the sun.
Good architecture is aware of the sun, bad architecture is not. Every place on planet Earth is affected by the sun, and architects must consider it now and in the future, as did the masters of the past, for mankind to survive. The sun should shape our architecture: its path (or more accurately our orbit around it) should give form to our buildings anchored on a specific site. The sun is always part of the genius loci, as are the moon and other extraterrestrial bodies, but their impact is less felt and cannot be utilized as effectively as that of the powerful heart of our solar system.
People plan their waking life to the rhythm of the sun: architects must organize space in relation to its course, committing to solar forces and not falling for the opportunistic flexibility or undecided versatility that is commonly misunderstood as freedom. A house is not a machine for living in, but an observatory for life, an in-between piece, a comforting and stimulating Passstück between human beings and their environments.
To continue living on Spaceship Earth joyfully and calmly without destroying our ecosystem, we need to use more renewable and recycled materials. Wood grown under the sun on sustainably tended soil and up-cycled post-consumer waste are a good start. Experiments and cross-disciplinary research will lead us to other ecologically balanced innovations. We must use materials for as long and as efficiently as possible, ideally cycling them forever.
Let the sun’s rays animate our static buildings! By exposing and covering surfaces to differentiate between light and dark, we can make them appear to move. With its broad spectrum, sunlight can dramatically alter the interior ambiance of a building as well as its outside appearance. Seasonal changes caused by the tilt of the Earth enrich our lives and should be reflected in our architecture — for the right place at the right time.
It is the sun that gives life on planet Earth. A giant ball of nuclear fusion, it heats to around 15 million degrees Celsius at its core, sending light and warmth out towards us. Our natural habitat is in perfect distance to our central star; near enough to turn its energy into growth, and not too close to overheat and lose our water. Today’s photovoltaic technology allows us to inhabit structures that harvest and produce more electric power than we could ever consume. We can heat and cool our spaces without burning fossil fuels and gases that clog up our atmosphere and our lungs. Architecture must give more than it takes, it must make the world a better place. The sun can help. Everything that is human-made should connect individuals to one another, to themselves, and to the cosmos.
Christian Wassmann is a Swiss architect living and working in New York City. He founded Studio Christian Wassmann, which won the AIA New York New Practices Award in 2012, and his first monograph was published by Koenig in 2017, Sun Path House and Other Cosmic Architectures, the book’s title referencing a residence Wassmann designed in Miami Beach based on a sun path diagram of the site (2006–2015).
All drawings courtesy Studio Christian Wassmann.
Taken from PIN-UP 28, Spring Summer 2020.