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
  • Symposium​​: 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   The Translucent Christ: Edward Burne-Jones and the Architectural Theology of Stained Glass Window Design
Katherine Hinzman (University of York, UK) 
16:10   Drawing, writing and enacting light at the Valparaíso School of Architecture
Mary Ann Steane (University of Cambridge, UK)
16:30   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