Research, ongoing. Advisors: Axel Kilian,Forrest Meggers, Michael Young.
As seen at: Advances in Architectural Geometry (Zurich, 2016); DEMO DEMO (Los Angeles, 2021)
Isolating interior from exterior has been the thermodynamic building convention for the last century. This strategy undergirds the prevalence of mechanical systems, the climatic effects of which must be urgently addressed. As discourse shifts towards more nuanced notions of thermal comfort and relies less on insulation, a more flexible relationship between interior and exterior emerges. These thermodynamic assumptions foreground new material possibilities, such as in glass. Previously, glass was viewed as a vulnerability in hermetic enclosures, due to solar heat. Rather than resist glass’s material properties, might we now find opportunities in its transmissive behaviors?
Thermal caustics offer one such possibility. Caustics are light rays, transmitted via the curved surface of a reflective/refractive material. In architecture, their study has been limited primarily to visual effects. Yet the term’s etymology derives from causticus, “to burn,” suggesting non-visual optics.
“The Light, the Heat” applies thermal caustic logics to the geometry of glass envelopes. These surfaces are optimized via a machine-learning algorithm to target thermal masses with sunlight. The result is a series of volumetric thermal gradients in space, which constantly change. While the prototype exists for a single room, there is a clear scalar potential.
In our cities, we can no longer afford to isolate ourselves from the environment. More than demonstrating ‘proof-of-concept’ for a sustainable building technology, “The Light, the Heat” reexamines our assumptions about how buildings mediate persons and nature. It seeks to thoughtfully integrate computational processes, and asserts that climate conscious futures can be deeply experiential, aesthetic and integrative.