Lightscapes | Local identity – exploring a forgotten resource
Visible rays of sunlight are called crepuscular rays, or more poetically, angels’ stairs. The installation “lightscapes” by Transsolar and Anja Thierfelder at the XV Venice Biennale reproduces this special phenomenon of atmospheric optics and perspective, which we can all observe against the backdrop of a forest or the sky.
Crepuscular rays can be seen if direct sun light is blocked by obstructions, such as clouds or leaves, and flickers through holes or gaps. To see these rays it is necessary that their light is scattered by micro-particles in the atmosphere, like dust or haze, and that the visual field has high brightness contrast, which is created by bright light rays and dark shadows from the obstructions side by side. Despite seeming to converge at a point, the rays are in fact near-parallel shafts of sunlight. Their apparent convergence is due perspective. When they hit the ground, the light rays create a pattern of light spots, a lightscape on the landscape, so to speak…
The new Louvre Abu Dhabi is a prime example of how the local identity of a site can shape architecture. Only the Abu Dhabi-specific high dust levels allow the design vision of the architect Jean Nouvel to be realized: His creation is a visible “rain of light” below the perforated dome above the museum plaza – crepuscular rays in architecture.
Installation: Transsolar + Anja Thierfelder
Photos: Crepuscular rays in nature (Angel’s stairs, by James Brown) versus installation test in the Arsenal (Anja Thierfelder)