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Daylighting Design in the PNW

For the past 4 years I have been documenting projects in the Puget Sound area and in Idaho where daylighting has been a major focus of the design effort for a forthcoming book with the UW Press. Entitled Daylighting Design in the Pacific Northwest, the book features high dynamic range images of daylit spaces, usually with no electric lights on. The book is a project developed with my co-author Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg and with the assistance of former and current UW graduate students Maximillian Foley, Carl Von Reuden, and Sean Kelly. It has been a great experience getting out to buildings, turning the electric lights out, and seeing how the daylight distribution in the spaces really works. Especially enlightening is talking to people who use the spaces on a daily basis and who have experience with the buildings throughout the year under many different sky conditions and learning about how they experience these spaces.

One of the primary challenges we have faced in documenting this work is in the visual representation of dynamic phenomena (changing skies over time). The current convention of architectural photography is often to capture scenes at twilight, the “magic hour,” with all electric lighting on, where visual contrast between indoor and outdoor light levels is low and drama is high. This can create compelling imagery, but runs contrary to our intentions. Our goal is to show interior spaces under the patterns of daylight present during more typical times in the use of the building.  We also used daylight as the primary, and usually the only source of light in our exposures.  In our photographs, the ambient electric lighting is off so that the reader might more clearly see the distribution of daylight created by the architecture itself.

EX3 Teen Center, Federal Way, WA; Architect: Weinstein AU; Photo: C. Meek/M. Foley

The book showcases daylighting design and research done by the UW Integrated Design Lab (IDL) in collaboration with some of the Northwest’s leading architectural design teams. In the book we strive to bridge the gap between the “monograph” culture of the design world and a traditional textbook which is intended to both inspire and instruct. The primary content consists of 14 exemplary projects covering a range of commercial, institutional, educational, and cultural facilities sited in the varied climate regions of the Pacific Northwest. The projects featured represent what we think are the best daylighting efforts in the current wave of sustainable design practice in the region. We tell the story of these projects through photographic images of interior spaces and design details, supported by narrative of the design intent, process, and the collaborative efforts of the design teams.

Christopher Meek is a Research Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington and registered architect in the State of Washington. He is among the core faculty of the Integrated Design Lab (IDL) at the University’s College of Built Environments.  In this role, he consults with design teams in the Pacific Northwest and nationally with a focus on building energy performance, daylighting, visual comfort, electric lighting, and climate responsive design. He conducts project-based research for numerous commercial and institutional building projects per year. Mr. Meek teaches graduate and undergraduate level courses on building design, daylighting, electric lighting, and perception at the University of Washington Department of Architecture.


Morse Center, Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham, WA; Architect: HKP Architects; Photo: C. Meek/C. Von Reuden

Yesler Community Center Gym, Seattle, WA; Architect: Mithun; Photo: C. Meek/K. Van Den Wymelenberg

Pierce County Environmental Services Building, University Place, WA; Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership; Photo: C. Meek/K. Van Den Wymelenberg

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