Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gatewood studio arts building: Bathroom

The Gatewood Studio Arts Building is one which faces a number of unique but definite lighting challenges. We worked, as a group, to determine the specific lighting challenges in this building, specifically those faced by the third floor Women’s restroom. While the over all aesthetic of the space is quite pleasing, the interactions between light and user, space, and color palette change the nature and intent of the space altogether.

The room itself is narrow yet intimate, used mostly for personal hygiene and (in our case) a place to sketch, draw, etc The awkward mix of material choices leave one questioning the possibility of better, more user-friendly options. Lighting in the space is harsh, bright, and unforgiving; its fluorescent glow makes the user feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in space . The tiles on the floor and serving as baseboards are a mixture of matte and glazed, creating an unusual texture map and glare through uneven distribution of material reflectivity. There is no natural light to work with and very little color in the space, so we found that designers should not only consider adding color to a space such as this, but also incorporating natural light. This would break up the monotony in the space an allowing for a more fulfilling spacial experience.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lighting: From the Inside, Out

I’ve just realized how sensitive to light we are. Reading a couple articles helped me stumble upon this realization. I knew before how important light was, but I didn’t know that the changes in light and a person’s exposure to light affect the people biologically.
The first article I clicked on talked a little about how day light savings time can cause health problems. According to O’Connor, the author of the article, it’s been known to cause restlessness, sleep disruption, and shorter sleep duration. It might even be a contributing factor to some heart attacks and suicide. I have deducted one thing from this article: Humans are animals. That fact is really easy to forget sometimes. We have our complex lives, filled with our intricate individual relationships with those around us. It is easy to get caught up in our little worlds with our very strict, clockwork routines. We even sometimes think that since we’re the most intelligent beings on this planet, we can control things that are out of our grasp—things like light and time, and how we perceive them.
The whole reason daylights savings time was created in the first place was so a group of people would have more daylight to complete their jobs outside in their farms. When people decided to do that, they weren’t changing time or changing light—they were shifting people’s perception of it. When you tell a bunch of people that they have to change their routine, there are going to be different reactions to it. Some people will be upset that they don’t get to sleep in an extra hour. Some will hate going to sleep an hour earlier. Some will wonder, “Why am I not hungry yet? Its seven o’clock. I always eat at seven!” only to remember a minute later, “Oh yeah, day light savings time has struck again.” In today’s day and age, people are creatures of routine, which contradicts who we are biologically. There is nothing routine about how our bodies react to light. If we notice light in the morning, our brain automatically becomes more active causing us to be in a lighter sleep, which will ultimately lead us to wake us up soon. When it gets darker, we react slower, and think less acutely because our brains are more at peace and tired. The fact that manipulating ourselves to operate in a different way than we’re biologically supposed to causes health problems completely makes sense. Us humans can control a lot. But sometimes, we can’t control everything; even the way we ourselves react to light.
Another article I read focused on how women who are more exposed to light at night are more prone to breast cancer than those who are exposed to long periods of solid darkness. This happens because a hormone that suppresses tumors can only be released in pitch black—therefore, those who sleep with a nightlight on, or work in a field where they don’t have a normal circadian rhythm are more vulnerable to the tragic disease. This was a shocker to me. The fact that the presence of light can have such a tremendous and disastrous effect on anyone baffles me. As a designer, it is important to know things like this, though. Maybe if everyone knows how detrimental light may be, they can help prevent potential harm by designing their environment to manipulate light and expose it in the healthiest way possible.
The final article talked a lot about different ways that lighting can be implemented better in environments, based on the idea that there is actual evidence of the effects lighting has on people. Eve Edelstein, the author of the article, made a great point about lighting in hospitals. She stated that in the hospital rooms, there are huge windows to let in bright and cheerful daylight to let the patients experience the outdoors from inside. That being said, she went on to point out, though, that when a person is sick and stressed out about their health, they aren’t going to be in their normal circadian rhythm. They will be sleeping a lot during the day and tired even though its bright and sunny. Hospital rooms have blinds, but blinds don’t block out light completely—they just diffuse the light to make it less bright. It is still difficult to sleep with just blinds. It would be a great move for a designer of a hospital to install some sort of installation to cancel the light out completely, whether it is opaque curtains, or even one of those fancy mechanical shades that lower down by themselves at the press of a button. The latter would make more sense because then the lighting of the room can be altered easily to fit the needs of the patient.
How we perceive and react to lighting is as natural and biological as the act of breathing. We are constantly learning new things about it and about ourselves. As we obtain this new information, we can implement our findings into design, helping it evolve into a healthier, more convenient, more practical way of lighting up our lives.