“Buildings are beautiful when people feel good in them”

Highlights from 7th VELUX Daylight Symposium


Above quote by French architect Anne Lacaton from the award winning practice Lacaton and Vassal was one of many important statements from the 7th Daylight Symposium, held in Berlin on 3-4 May 2017. Under the theme, “HEALTHY & CLIMATE-FRIENDLY ARCHITECTURE – FROM KNOWLEDGE TO PRACTICE”, the symposium presented 39 speakers from research and architectural practice, calling for more evidence and common sense in architectural practice.

In the fully daylit conference room at the iconic Café Moskau, 360 participants from around the world witnessed presentations on groundbreaking daylight research and generous lectures related to daylight in architecture by leading architect offices from Europe, Canada and the USA.

The key conclusion from the two days is that research and architectural practice are truly approaching each other. The use of tools, simulations and virtual reality technology can really establish a common understanding of the importance of daylight for us as humans – who are living a vast majority of our time indoors. And also; that tools alone cannot do the job. A good deal of common sense, the use of our senses and our awareness of beauty and ‘feeling well’ must not be forgotten.

Architecture starts where daylight hits the wall
Stefan Behnisch from Behnisch Architekten (DE) had the first keynote lecture “Daylight as a qualitative aspect and driving element in developing architecture” and shared how he as an architect specifically appreciated the sensation of light in space.

He quoted Louis Kahn “architecture appears for the first time when the sunlight hits a wall” and continued “even if a building is fulfilling all technical specifications, you will have no guarantee for the quality of the light when it hits the wall”.

He illustrated his speech with examples of his work where reflective and translucent surfaces were crucial for the daylight sensation.


One big architectural narrative
For Omar Gandhi, recognized as one of the world’s top 20 young architects by Wallpaper* magazine, the role of daylight in the creative process was also unquestionable too.

“Daylight can be used as one big architectural narrative. Just like a movie plot, with low and high points,” he said and showed how he had used it as design concept in a string of buildings, from Shantih to Harbour Heights to Rabbit Snare Gorge. Spatial experiences can be configured by using daylight to create particular moments and highlight special spaces through light contrasts.


A responsibility to give light back
Jacob Strømann-Andersen from Henning Larsen Architects demonstrated the legacy from Henning Larsen’s daylight thinking by showcasing a school project where daylight and variability increased the joy of learning. Students learn 20% faster when surrounded by good daylight conditions.

Peter Andreas Sattrup representing the Association of Danish Architectural Firms called for an increase in collaboration and data sharing between existing built-environments and the research community to further create value in the design phase of future buildings. “We need to better understand how buildings perform – dialogue is the essence here”, said Sattrup.

James Carpenter from James Carpenter Design Associates JCA shared his office’s approach to architecture by stating "when you build or privatize space there is a responsibility to give light back".


Double space and possibilities of use
Anne Lacaton demonstrated in her presentation how buildings can be renovated with daylight-solutions; including how to modify and renovate a 70’s high rise building in Paris without relocating the residents by adding extra square meters of living space to improve the quality of indoor life.

These renovations were carried out for one third of the costs of demolishing and rebuilding.

“Never demolish, always add, extend and give more”, Lacaton said and elaborated how buildings should provide “generosity of space and economy to serve life, uses and appropriation”.


Light affects our immune system and alertness
Award winning researcher, Marilyne Andersen from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, shared groundbreaking research with occupant-centric daylight simulations based on the evaluation of health effects attributed to daylight in building design and stated “light affects our immune system, our alertness and sleep quality”.

Dean Hawkes, emeritus fellow of Darwin College, University of Cambridge shared insights and images from 25 years of experience of living in his private house a “circadian house” that is in balance with nature and seasonal cycles.

Evidence-based architecture, a strong bridge from knowledge to practice
Implementing modern research results focused on human wellbeing, people and society could enhance the design of schools, universities and hospitals, noted Lone Wiggers architect and partner in Scandinavia’s oldest and largest architectural practices C.F. Møller.

”If we can shorten recovery rates, bring down human error and foster happiness, we can by far outweigh the construction costs,” she pointed out.


Can outdoor work spaces make us more efficient?
Christoph Reinhart from Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrated how environmental simulations can lead to better conditions in outdoor spaces with his presentation “Daylighting the millennials”.

Reinhart introduced an outdoor WIFI monitoring tool and work spot, the “Soofa”, as a concept to address the daylight deficit in modern living and raised basic but essential questions: Should we reconsider the way we plan workspaces in the future? Could we do more efficient work outdoor?


Watch keynote presentations by Stefan BehnischOmar GandhiAnne LacatonLone Wiggers.

Watch the symposium video “The essence of daylight” 


About the Daylight Symposium

About the VELUX Group

For more than 80 years, the VELUX Group has created better living environments for people around the world; making the most of daylight and fresh air through the roof. Our product programme includes roof windows and modular skylights, decorative blinds, sun screening products and roller shutters, as well as installation and smart home solutions. These products help to ensure a healthy and sustainable indoor climate, for work and learning, for play and pleasure. We work globally – with sales and manufacturing operations in more than 36 countries and around 11,000 employees worldwide. The VELUX Group is owned by VKR Holding A/S, a limited company wholly owned by non-profit, charitable foundations (THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS) and family. In 2022, the VELUX Group had total revenue of EUR 2.99 billion, VKR Holding had total revenue of EUR 4.29 billion, and THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS donated EUR 181 million in charitable grants.

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