Winter in Cape Town. The play of light at this time of year is mesmerising. Welcome collections of water can be found throughout the city and surroundings. Pools, streams and dams mirror images of our varied surroundings. Whether in the early morning or at dusk, vermilion clouds fill our skies and both dappled and striking shafts of light play across the mountain or sea.
This display of splendour prompts us to consider the use of light and water in architecture and design. The effect of light on splayed surfaces is beautiful and emotive. It seems to offer an almost primitive sensation of safety and nurturing. At the same time, light is uplifting and inspiring. Architect Le Corbusier says of the iconic design for the chapel at Ronchamp, France, “Light and shadow reveal form.”
In Landscape Design, light can (and should) integrate the interior experience with its exterior counterpart by building different forms of lighting, both natural and designed, that accentuate the distinct spaces. The powerful effect of light reflected off water has the ability to create outside “rooms”.
To quote Le Corbusier once more,
"Light alone can create the effect of enclosed space."
Another highly accomplished creative giant, Peter Zumthor designs with light and water to inspire and awe. Of the thermal baths at Vals, Switzerland, Zumthor remarks that they are, “not so much a building as an earthwork”.