THROUGH A GLASS LIGHTLY
I remember writing about the Solar Light Pipe in the Washington DC offices of the
Morgan Lewis law firm back in 2001. I was struck then by how an object like that could
be as beautiful as it was functional. Bringing natural light to every floor of a 12-storey
building, it was also a sculpture that enhanced the narrow atrium space in which it was
suspended. Commercially available light pipes were, and are, generally worthy but clunky,
designed for discretion not display.
The project was by Carpenter Norris, one of many collaborations which architecture-trained James Carpenter, featured in this issue, has undertaken since setting up
New York-based James Carpenter Design Associates in 1979. He describes his practice
as being at the intersection of architecture, art, design and engineering. There is much talk
now of this interdisciplinary convergence. It can mean many things, and the amalgam can
result in a whole range of structures, materials and manifestations. But a kind of magic
happens at that crossroads.
Carpenter’s alchemy comes largely from light and glass (transitioning into art in 1968,
he studied with Dale Chihuly), though specular metals also figure in the mix. His work
fully integrates with the interior space or exterior facade, an artistic architectural element,
like the light pipe, augmenting it physically and aesthetically while introducing the
delight of natural light.
Unlike most, he doesn’t look through glass but into it. ‘When I think about transparent
glass, I think about the light information on the surface of the glass, the information
within the glass and the light information beyond the glass,’ says Carpenter.
Jill Entwistle, Editor
17 COMMENT LIGHTING MAGAZINE
VOLUME 50 • ISSUE 02 2018