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It is necessary to return to the point where the interplay of light and dark reveals forms, and in this way to bring richness back into architectural space. Yet, the richness and depth of darkness has disappeared from our consciousness, and the subtle nuances that light and darkness engender, their spatial resonance - these are almost forgotten. Today, when all is cast in homogeneous light, I am committed to pursuing the interrelationship of light and darkness. Light, whose beauty within darkness is as of jewels that one might cup in one’s hands; light that, hollowing out darkness and piercing our bodies, blows life into ‘place’." – Tadao Ando


In architecture, an atrium is a large open space located within a building. Atria were a common feature in ancient dwellings, providing light and ventilation to the interior. Modern atria, as developed in the late 19th and 20th century (brought by industrial revolution’s great advances in iron and glass manufacturing techiques), are often several stories high and having a glazed roof and/or large windows. They are a popular design feature because they create a dynamic and stimulating interior, provide shelter while maintaining a visual link with the environment, and bring a feeling of space and light. 


Sometimes located immediately beyond the main entrance as lobby and other times placed in the heart of the compotition as the space that works as a visual connection between the various components of complex buildings and as a semi-public meeting place. As Charles Jencks has noted in his article ‘The architecture of democracy’: “The hidden essence of democratic space is the public realm – the agora – that celebrates our differences, our plural views as well as our commonality and makes speech and action significant.”, adding another political and social dimension to their function and symbolism of indoor agoras. 


In contemporary design, the aspect of ‘light and ventilation’ has been taken further into more integrative sustainable solutions in which ‘living machines’ are part of the ecological wastewater treatment of the facility and together with other bio-climatic design features can achieve zero-energy buildings.         


In this selection of atriums we see examples from museums (Museum of Islamic Art, MAXXI, Our Dynamic Earth, Enzo Ferrari Museum) to shopping malls (MyZeil), conference centers (Qatar National Convention Center) to universities (Georgetown Doha, Carnegie Mellon Doha, Hamad Bin Khalifa Doha, churches (Jubilee church, Santo Volto di Gesu) to office buildings (Actelion) and concert halls (Usher Hall).


As an architect, photographer and user, I find this design feature fascinating, from the small scale examples of residential architecture to the grand scale cases of public buildings, and with this on-going collection I want to capture their special role in the vocabulary of architecture. The square format was chosen because of its particular emphasis on composition and geometry, to underline the design signal of intention, planning and precision. The black & white render was chosen to accentuate the interplay between light and form. 

October 2014.

March 2014.

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