We are certainly in one of the moments of time that calls for a radical reassessment of how we think about our built environment, specifically the types of buildings which will need to address both a modified working culture and the pressing need to address a more impactful sustainable future.
Other such moments in the recent past which many of us have seen in our careers were the impact of the early 1970’s energy crisis which led to greatly reduced glazed areas in a building skin and the ubiquitous use of grey and bronze heat absorbing glasses that defined a ‘doomed to darkness’ work environment to the more recent 9/11 tragedy which, in the first few years following the event, triggered a skepticism whether businesses would ever again occupy such large buildings or what level of security and structural impregnability must we have or whether people would continue to live in cities such as New York.
I am very positive about our abilities to address the challenges for these necessary changes in the built environment for several reasons. I believe that we are clearly moving from a hierarchical work environment to a collective one, where the individual finds their personal space within a ‘public’ place. This alone necessitates more generous work environments that provide the highest level of air quality and healthfulness, spaces that encourage interaction amongst individuals and a connection to nature and light.
There needs to be a connection between the internal ‘public spaces’ to the external ‘spaces in-between’, the public spaces that interconnect with the buildings themselves, creating a richer complexity of urban space that distinguished itself from the mindset of singularity. And light. For myself, light has always been the valued commodity which glass can deliver and it is light that we seek in both the public realm and private space. Differentiations in how light is experienced, from its more shadowed presence to its moments of brilliance and sparkle, are the stepping stones to understanding the environment surrounding us. How one reads the volumetric presence of light provides a richness and tactility that expands the experience of place.
I foresee moving away from the large expanses of purely clear glass that have so fascinated us all these last few decades and moving towards a deeper understanding of how to distribute, and make manifest, qualities of light. Smaller windows that tune, re-project and re-interpret light, thus enhancing our awareness of life beyond the ‘view’. Collecting these varied light event fragments and bringing them optically into the space one occupies must reciprocally be embodied in the external expression of the skin, providing a reading of these light events to the public realm. The building skin we seek is one that provides all the above benefits to the occupant while simultaneously enriching and contributing to its surrounding community/environment.
Founding Principal of James Carpenter Design Associates inc. NYC, USA
James Carpenter has worked at the intersection of architecture, fine art, and engineering for nearly 50 years, advancing a distinctive vision based on the use of natural light as the foundational element of the built environment. Originally studying architecture before concentrating on the fine arts, Carpenter founded the cross-disciplinary design firm James Carpenter Design Associates in 1979 to support the application of these aesthetic principles to large-scale architectural projects. Carpenter’s work is driven by a deep awareness of materiality and craft as a means of enhancing the individual human experience within the built environment.
Carpenter has been recognized with numerous national and international awards, including an Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Smithsonian National Environment Design Award. He holds a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and was a Loeb Fellow of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and a Mellon Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago.