Friday, February 1, 2013


This project’s challenge is to understand the special character of the place and to sensitively introduce design solutions within the built fabric that help stimulate life within the environment. For this challenge two inter[ior] inter[ventions] were designed by chosen objects from nature.
The first interior intervention takes inspiration from the veins of a magnolia leaf for the double-height entrance lobby of the Art Institute of Chicago. The existing skylight structure in the institute will be replaced with a new skylight that derives its form from the rhythm of veins and the color of a magnolia leaf.
As Norberg-Shultz explains, "color is one of the things that determines the environment character." The color of the magnolia leaf introduced in the skylight, draws attention to the play of light and color in the entrance lobby. The rhythm of the veins give a sense of movement to the space, thus reinforcing the genius loci of the place.
The second interior intervention is in the one of the floor of Spertus, Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Chicago. The space was designed to be an art gallery. But now it is a space for public event, which resulted in the exhibit area being shrunken to a small area hidden from the event space with curtains. The new design brings the essence and characteristic of a seashell, which are layers, protection and enclosure, to the exhibition to protect and define a specific space for the precious objects of exhibition. As Norberg-Shulz (1980) states “…enclosure becomes a center which may function as a focus for its surroundings”, the objects of the exhibition are being protected while the area has its own definition. This is because of the arrangement of the exhibition. Also, since “the enclosing properties of a boundary are determined by its openings” (Norberg-Shulz, 1980), the external wall shows part of what is hidden behind it in order to invite and engage people to the small exhibition.

Source: Norberg-Schulz,Christian (1980). Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. Academy Editions.

Saturday, December 8, 2012



The human body is so complicated and very sensitive to our environment. Numerous recent chronobiological studies have revealed the influence of light on our health, both mentally and physically.  Our natural circadian causes our body to behave with different responses to light patterns.  When daylight decreases our body produces a hormone called melatonin that promotes sleep.  This hormone is sensitive to both natural and artificial light.  Another factor the human body has with light is the effects of blue wavelengths in decreasing the levels of melatonin.
Cancer is a common disease among night shift workers and shift nurses, who have to work against the body’s natural instinct of being awake during the night. There can be architectural solutions for this problem by having both dark and light spaces designed specifically for the workers activity needs.
Lights relationship to the body’s health requires special attention to individual needs. Each person may have different preferences to the amount of light, color and intensity of light.  It is necessary to think about the individuals using the space, and create a design with controllable lighting systems. Designs for the elderly, and individuals with disabilities are critical because of the quality and quantity of light necessary for their movement and activities in the space.
These findings reveal the important roll of interior architects in design considerations of daylight on interior spaces.  Creating spaces that cause less Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by balancing the amount of red and blue light in their artificial lighting design creates a space with less undesirable physiological, mental, and behavioral effects on the end user. 


As described in the “Light Revealing Experience” essay, our experience of light comes from places that we know:  the house that we grew up in, our school, the cities that we’ve lived or visited, and many other environments.
During winter, one of the most pleasant moments of my childhood was when I felt the morning sunlight on my skin. The morning light shined through a large picture window and filled the living room. Although the size of the window caused energy loss during the summer and winter months, the area that it lit up was warm and soothing.
 Often, living or spending time in a place can help us understand the attitude, and patterns of light.  Such is the case in my current home, when it had taken me an entire year to figure out the intensity of the sun light as it shined into the dining room during the summer months, and specifically the afternoons. The different qualities of light can dramatically alter our understanding of the Sun’s movement. Observing the transition of the light in a small cozy dining room as a source of heat and light, even when the window shade is drawn to prevent the suns glare, is enchanting. This experience reveals different roles of light throughout the day.
In considering climate problems, engaging the lighting conditions into design solutions allows light to play a major role in the creative process.  As in Iranian historical architecture, empty frames were used in various weather conditions. They were constructed from wood, and then covered with glass to form a window. Also, they could be assembled in a way to shape a wall for a balcony. These balcony walls had successfully prevented the sun from shining directly into the space during hot and humid weather conditions.  This design feature helped facilitated air circulation while creating beautiful patterns and textures of light on the surrounding surfaces. Other design features of these frames had them completely covered with various colors of glass for both the hot and dry conditions. 
 Another experience I can recall was walking through a historical shopping center called a “Bazaar”, and seeing light as an image of nature.  Typically, the Bazaar is a permanent enclosed merchandising area with controlled climate conditions, and has streets of shops where goods and services are exchanged and sold. Walking through with stores on either sides, surrounded by sounds and attractions, is a surreal world. Suddenly, I saw a beam of light coming through an opening of the ceiling as an unexpected phenomenon.  It was a pleasant surprise, in an unlikely place. 

 The use of skylights as a design solution can bring light to the inner portions of a building that would otherwise be dim, but careful considerations in its application must be anticipated.  As in any design solution it can be successful or unsuccessful. A successful example of this design features is used by Steven Holl at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. Holl’s use of a skylight brings diffused light into the inner space, and brightens the entrance hall in an artistic and spiritual way. An unsuccessful attempt with the use of a skylight is the main building of the Engineering Department at the University of Mashhad. The skylight in the lobby brings straight and intense sunlight into the building. It has no filtration and makes it too hot during the summer months. The designer disregarded the fact that light has two simultaneous aspects of illumination and heat that might make visiting such buildings an unpleasant experience.
In adding to my past experiences of light, studying this course with detailed reading and experimentation will be helpful in understanding the patterns of daylight, and the manipulation I could use to create lively spaces.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hearing Architecture
Majedeh Modarres Nezhad

Architecture can be heard. The first time I heard architecture was during a visit to the famous rural town, Masuleh, in northern part of Iran when I was a student. Masuleh is a unique town with buildings that have been constructed into mountain. While I was inside one of its houses, I heard sound of a stream, which created a calm and peaceful feeling. This impression couldn’t be from the building per se since it was dim and small. I figured out later on that there was a river flowing beneath the town as well as under several houses, and that flow was visible over the surface in some areas of the town. It was really impressive to see how sound of water can create such a relief and calmness.
There are a few historical buildings in Iran that are famous for their acoustic qualities. I’ve had the opportunity to visit two of them in the city of Isfahan. One of them is Ali-Qapu, a historical and royal building dating back to 100 years ago. The king (Shah) used to entertain his guests in this building. This edifice which is an entrance to a great garden has six stories, the highest of which is called “the music room”. It was in this space that the orchestra used to play for Shah and his gusts. The ceiling and walls have embellished cutouts in the shape of ceramics and glassware that create a delicate surface which helps to lower the sound reverberates in the room. These hollow compartments in the wall retain the echoes and produce a clear sound for both singer and the musical instruments. There is a myth about this room that says it was because of Shah’s love for art and music that he asked his architects to build an extraordinary music room on the sixth floor of his palace.  The room is excessively decorated with deep circular niches and intricate plaster ceilings to improve the acoustics of the space.  The legends also say that because Shah was a busy man he was not always able to listen to his beloved court musicians when he desired.  So the architects built the walls of the music room in such a way that sound could echo around the room for hours until Shah returned from a busy day to enjoy his music even after the court musicians were long gone. ­­
This building also has another magical acoustical characteristic. At the entrance of the  building, there is a square room with a curve ceiling. If one whisper in one corner of the room, her voice can be clearly heard on the opposite corner whereas no voice could be heard on the straight line connecting the opposite corners of the room, although all the points on that line are close to the speaker. The first time that I experienced this phenomenon, I was obsessed with this pure magical characteristic of the space that later on I found out it to be called creep: reflection of sound along curved surfaces. In this case, the sound can only be heard along the curved surface and not on any other point.
In the city of Isfahan, there is also a grand mosque called Shah (Imam) Mosque. The hall under the main dome is surrounded by stone walls and the dome itself is covered in colorful tiles. This space has a special character: while standing at the center of the dome and speaking, one can hear her sound loud and clear. This effect is mainly due to the typo of material used as well as the shape of the dome: stone reflects the sound and the dome amplifies its source which is located at the focal point of the dome.
These are some of my past experiences in hearing architecture before studying this course, and I am looking forward to experience and learn more on how to design spaces while paying special attention to the issue of sound.

Binggeli, Corky. (2003). Building Systems for Interior Designers. New York: J. Wiley & Sons
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. (2000). Experiencing Architecture. 2nd Edition. Chapter 10, Hearing Architecture. Twenty Eight Printing, 224-237
Azad, Hassan (2008). Ali Qapu: Persian Historical Music Room. Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics Vol 30(3).