ARCH 249-The Architecture of Light: An Analytical Journey

Instructor: Luisa Caldas, TA: Xinwei Zhang. Fall 2021

Ruins - Rebuild a Memory from the Bombing of Dresden.

This project started from manifesto to re-build a memory of the Dresden Bombing and re-shape the surrounding environment of the tragic site. From the historical narrative to contemporary socially engaged voice, it raises historical awareness and recovers what has been lost through visual and aural languages as well as spatial experiences. User experiences in this multi-sensorial virtual architecture space include a variation of Daylight Factor, a contrast of solid and void, a red-colored reflection pond representing the blood of people, a contrasting materiality with black and white color schemes, and the rumbling sound resembling bombing. We together build from the ruins as the beginning of light — rebuilding, regeneration, and rebirth of humanity.


In the context of sea burials, the relationship between sea and land is similar with the relationship between death and life. And the sea burial ground itself can be seen as an invisible wall between life and death. Different programs in the whole sea burial ceremony, such as waiting, farewell, cremation, are integrated into a linear space with certain narrativity. By harnessing different environmental factors (lighting, smell, sound, view, etc.) from both sides of the project (city vs. ocean), this project aims to create a series of sensory containers where the players can feel the fluctuation of emotion.

Virtual Office

Based on The Vessel designed by Thomas Heatherwick, we designed a futuristic office complex with a similar complex flow, with intricate spaces and high flexibility of use. It also has a special sunlight blocking system so that the natural light intensity in the room is always comfortable. Through VR technology, users can experience the changes of light and shadow in this virtual office and a day in the life of people working in the future environment.

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This project develops a chocolate factory within an existing parking garage, and a new residential portion at top. Lightwells doubling as mechanical spaces allow for the concept of the typical large chocolate factory to be included in this tight space. The experience I’d like to explore in this course is the distinct lighting conditions in the differing spaces we’ve created, as well as showcasing the overall experience of chocolate making.


Art Centre

This project is located in the Mission District, San Francisco. It is a multi-program building containing performing space, art studio and community centers. The site is relatively small, with a dimension of 80 feet by 80 feet, thus the spatial layout is very compacted where daylighting strategy is important to light the inside. The largest move is the central atrium enclosed by glazing and shading, which provides daylight to most parts of the building. The shading panels, on the one hand, screen part of the daylight, also reflect the light into the space on the other direction of the atrium. Meanwhile, a round beam will be cast to the ground at noon due to the shape of the atrium like a spotlight, reinforcing the idea that creating a public performing space for the neighborhood on the ground


Art Complex

This project is a complex of art studios for artists before they become famous. It is a renovation project that makes a huge abandoned gas tank into a building. This gas tank could rotate and rise driven by air pressure in it. So after rotating up, this tank could have an additional space for exhibition. The logic of the design is simple, to insert some new structures hanging the studios along the inside surface of the tank, and form a circulation for the visitors to go up, see all the studios and enter the hidden exhibition space. Due to the need of stable and neutral light and the need of displaying their art works for potential buyers, the windows are facing toward center and share the diffuse light from the central opening on the roof of the tank.



‘Project Bloom’ presents itself as a standing tree – canopy which unfolds its petals to provide shade based on the weather conditions. Just like how a user would like to open an umbrella when it’s raining or sunny and close it when it’s pleasant.

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Welcome to COLORSPACE. This is an experiential journey through 3 of Josef Albers; 2-dimensional color studies, exploring our perception of relative color. Each study is spatialized as a series of long hallways, which are called ‘study halls’. The study halls are connected at their terminuses via grey vertical shafts that you can fall through — there’s one at the end of this hall. After you fall through the shaft, turnaround 180 degrees. Click on the audio button to hear about what you are trying to perceive in each study. Then proceed through the hall. After the final shaft, walk towards the forms in the distance to learn each study’s secrets. That’s all for now. Proceed to the first shaft, and have fun!


Mechanical Heart

This project aims to make a metaphorical surgery to solve the freeway dilemma in downtown Oakland by inserting a machine-like building at the intersection of Broadway and I-880 freeway.


AIA San Francisco New Headquarters

“This project is an exploration of providing a virtual hub for the architecture profession to spread interests and connect with the public within this virtual recreation of the existing Hallidie Building, where AIA San Francisco is located in reality.”