2019 Annual Symposium

Saturday 22 June 2019
10.00-17.30 – St George’s Bloomsbury
Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SA
17.30-20.00 – Sir John Soane’s Museum
​13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP

Architecture and Light

From the glittering windows of Hardwick Hall and the severe shadows of the Trellick Tower, to the poetry of Chandigarh and the brash neon of Las Vegas, light is a defining factor in any form of architectural design.

Coinciding with the exhibition Lumière Mystérieuse: Soane and the Architecture of Light (19 June – 8 September 2019) at Sir John Soane’s Museum, the symposium explores the presence, use and meaning of light in architectural design across all periods and styles.

The starting point will be the notion that, just as light is understood scientifically as a wave-particle duality, in architecture light exists and functions as both a natural and cultural phenomenon. While on the one hand, the way (sun)light falls over a building is arguably architecture at its most elemental, how we view those light effects is always culturally conditioned. The symposium will reflect, develop and challenge this dualism.

A full programme is below and online booking is open. Tickets are £50 for the day (including the drinks reception). A limited number of student and early career tickets at £35 are available on application.

The venue for the symposium is Nicholas Hawksmoor’s church of St George, Bloomsbury – whose own powerful and evocative use of light with provide a fitting backdrop to the discussion. The day includes tea and coffee on arrival, a buffet lunch and tea and coffee during the afternoon break. It concludes with an evening drinks reception at Sir John Soane’s Museum where there will be an opportunity to explore the Museum and view the exhibition Lumière Mystérieuse:

Timings and locations
10:30–17:00 at St George’s Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SA
Reception and private view ofLumière Mystérieuse
17:30–19:00 at Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP


10:30   Doors open – registration and coffee in the Upper Vestry Hall

10:50   Welcome and introductory remarks
Owen Hopkins (Sir John Soane’s Museum)

Innovations: culture and technology

11:00   People in Glass Houses: Glass and Politeness in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Christopher (Kit) Maxwell (Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, USA)

11:20   Daylight and Neon: Charles W. Moore and Postmodern Experiments in Light

Richard W. Hayes (independent scholar)

11:40   ‘Let’s Buy Some Daylight, Too’: Skyscrapers and the Commodification of Light in 1920s New York

Joseph M. Watson (independent scholar)

12:00   Discussion/Q&A

12:30   Lunch in the Upper Vestry Hall


Illuminating case-studies

13:30   Savage Shadows – Shadows of Refinement: shadow, surface and light in the churches of Street and Bodley

Stephen Kite (Emeritus Professor, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Wales)

13:50   Joy versus Ratio: Charles Siclis and Le Corbusier on artificial lighting in architecture

Ruth Hommelen (Luca School of Arts Brussels Ghent and at St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp, Belgium)

14:10   Sunlight as an indicator, a symbol, and a hidden clue: the unusual case of St. Anne’s church in Cracow

Michał Kurzej (Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland)

14:30   Discussion/Q&A

15:00   Tea in Upper Vestry Hall


Meanings: functional and symbolic

15:30   Natural Light in Anglo-American Educational Classrooms between the World Wars

Dale Allen Gyure (Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, USA)

15:50   Drawing, writing and enacting light at the Valparaíso School of Architecture

Mary Ann Steane (University of Cambridge, UK)

16:10   Discussion/Q&A

17.00   Closing remarks and introduction to Lumière Mystérieuse
Frances Sands (Sir John Soane’s Museum)

17:30   Reception begins at Sir John Soane’s Museum

19:00   Reception closes