Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Daylight in Thai buildings

Is it fair to say that most traditional Thai buildings (temples, houses etc) have dark interiors? Maybe buildings were seen as shelters from excessively bright light, as well as from rain, wind and the heat of the sun. When was glass introduced into Thai building?- before this windows were closed with shutters, keeping out most of the daylight.

Interiors that are relatively dark can be pleasant enough, but increase the risk of glare- as the eye adjusts to the low level of illumination inside any direct contact with direct light will produce the sensation of glare. So transitions from inside to outside are important, through verandas etc. Daylight can also be softened/diffused by using lattice and other types of screens, which can be highly decorative (see picture of house in Lopburi).

The size and direction of the light source are critical- diffused daylight coming from large areas and from different directions will reduce the sensation of glare. Direct sunlight will give much more glare. Interiors which give sensations of glare also need more artificial lighting to make them comfortable. But large openings for daylighting can be a security risk, tho this can be mitigated by putting them out of reach at high level.

Contrasts of colour and reflectance of adjoining surfaces can also add to the sensation of glare. The range of colours in Thai traditional architecture was quite limited, and tended to be on the warm side- creams, yellow, ochres, terracotta, gold etc. Are there strong associations linked to different colours in Thai building, in a similar way to clothing?

What other factors should be considered to develop an approach to lighting and colour in a new building? Here are some tentative 'patterns':
-Light from opposite sides of a space
-Avoidance of direct sunlight in interiors
-Direct daylight diffused by lattice screens, shutters, window jambs etc
-Light coloured surfaces next to daylight openings
-Transition spaces between inside and outside to reduce sudden changes in light levels
-Spaces narrow enough to ensure that the range of daylight levels is limited to what is comfortable.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

This is really interesting...especially in terms of glare and creating gradients from outdoors to indoors. and I will ask around about the use of color in buildings!