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Renovating to Maximize Light

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Who doesn't want a little more light in their lives? In these eight projects we explore the power of illumination, from a modernist skylight in Harlem to concrete-clad funnels that mitigate the harsh sun of Puerto Rico, proving that architects across the globe know myriad ways to harness the sun.
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  "It's like living with a light show," says Carlos Delpin of his 1940s home in Puerto Rico designed by architect Natanial Fúster, whose work employs the use of skylights, light shafts, oculi, perforated panels, and patios to filter and play with natural daylighting. And with cross breezes welcomed into open rooms, there is no need for air conditioning. Photo by Raimund Koch.

    "It's like living with a light show," says Carlos Delpin of his 1940s home in Puerto Rico designed by architect Natanial Fúster, whose work employs the use of skylights, light shafts, oculi, perforated panels, and patios to filter and play with natural daylighting. And with cross breezes welcomed into open rooms, there is no need for air conditioning. Photo by Raimund Koch.

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  Architects Carrie and Kevin Burke's home in Charlottesville, Virginia, is designed to be a time-telling observatory. Before construction began, the area was surveyed to align the house precisely north to south along the solar axis and to ensure that the roof angle would parallel the angle of the sun at winter solstice. Photo by Prakesh Patel.  Photo by: Prakash Patel

    Architects Carrie and Kevin Burke's home in Charlottesville, Virginia, is designed to be a time-telling observatory. Before construction began, the area was surveyed to align the house precisely north to south along the solar axis and to ensure that the roof angle would parallel the angle of the sun at winter solstice. Photo by Prakesh Patel.

    Photo by: Prakash Patel

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  A derelict townhouse in Harlem is revitalized by funneling light through the four-story space via a singular architectural element: a giant oculus. The architects based their design for the aperture on traditional Victorian skylights but tweaked it to fit a more modern sensibility and outfitted it with fluorescent tubing to recreate the effect in the evening. Photo by Adam Friedberg.  Photo by: Adam Friedberg

    A derelict townhouse in Harlem is revitalized by funneling light through the four-story space via a singular architectural element: a giant oculus. The architects based their design for the aperture on traditional Victorian skylights but tweaked it to fit a more modern sensibility and outfitted it with fluorescent tubing to recreate the effect in the evening. Photo by Adam Friedberg.

    Photo by: Adam Friedberg

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  For this double-fronted Victorian in Richmond, just outside of London, architect Gregory Phillips connected the original house to a new modern extension that doesn’t interfere with the surrounding houses. “I try to be true to the location,”he explains, “so it doesn’t seem like some spaceship has landed.” A wall of uninterrupted glass is a good way to bring natural light in, even in a famously overcast country. Photo by Richard Powers.  Photo by: Richard Powers

    For this double-fronted Victorian in Richmond, just outside of London, architect Gregory Phillips connected the original house to a new modern extension that doesn’t interfere with the surrounding houses. “I try to be true to the location,”he explains, “so it doesn’t seem like some spaceship has landed.” A wall of uninterrupted glass is a good way to bring natural light in, even in a famously overcast country. Photo by Richard Powers.

    Photo by: Richard Powers

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  It took more than a year for the architects to navigate the tangle of renovation red tape to get the needed building permits for this renovated Tribeca loft. Pulltab’s inventive use of motorized skylights connected to light wells, which punctuate the space, allowed the architects to create rooms that city ordinances would usually not have permitted. (New York City code prohibits interior rooms that lack light and ventilation, so dividing up a loft space with no windows along a parti wall can be problematic. Photo by João Canziani.  Photo by: João Canziani

    It took more than a year for the architects to navigate the tangle of renovation red tape to get the needed building permits for this renovated Tribeca loft. Pulltab’s inventive use of motorized skylights connected to light wells, which punctuate the space, allowed the architects to create rooms that city ordinances would usually not have permitted. (New York City code prohibits interior rooms that lack light and ventilation, so dividing up a loft space with no windows along a parti wall can be problematic. Photo by João Canziani.

    Photo by: João Canziani

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  The owners of this renovated mid-century modern home in California longed for an outdoor eating area, but with the house sited smack-dab in the middle of the 40-by-100-foot corner lot, the property offered neither adequate space nor privacy from the streets or neighbors. The design team specified a 14.5-by-6.5-foot retractable skylight over the dining room, which brings in sunshine and provides natural ventilation. The Rollamatic window quietly transforms the space into a near-outdoor oasis in just over ten seconds. Photo by Mathew Scott.  Photo by: Mathew Scott

    The owners of this renovated mid-century modern home in California longed for an outdoor eating area, but with the house sited smack-dab in the middle of the 40-by-100-foot corner lot, the property offered neither adequate space nor privacy from the streets or neighbors. The design team specified a 14.5-by-6.5-foot retractable skylight over the dining room, which brings in sunshine and provides natural ventilation. The Rollamatic window quietly transforms the space into a near-outdoor oasis in just over ten seconds. Photo by Mathew Scott.

    Photo by: Mathew Scott

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  And don't forget where the sun goes once inside. Instead of building out light-sucking dark cabinets at eye-level, consider frosted glass. In this Victorian renovation in San Francisco, rolling steel-framed panels of textured glass above the counter act as a scrim, allowing the Felds to choose what to obscure and what to display in a visually light manner. Photo by Cesar Rubio.  Photo by: Cesar Rubio

    And don't forget where the sun goes once inside. Instead of building out light-sucking dark cabinets at eye-level, consider frosted glass. In this Victorian renovation in San Francisco, rolling steel-framed panels of textured glass above the counter act as a scrim, allowing the Felds to choose what to obscure and what to display in a visually light manner. Photo by Cesar Rubio.

    Photo by: Cesar Rubio

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  In a Cambridge, Massachusetts, house renovated by Beat Schenk and Chaewon Kim, an ingenious floor treatment—slats laid over the ceiling beams—enables the skylight to do double duty, pouring sunlight into the living room below. The translucent bathroom wall turns that into triple duty. Photo by Adam Friedberg.  Photo by: Adam Friedberg

    In a Cambridge, Massachusetts, house renovated by Beat Schenk and Chaewon Kim, an ingenious floor treatment—slats laid over the ceiling beams—enables the skylight to do double duty, pouring sunlight into the living room below. The translucent bathroom wall turns that into triple duty. Photo by Adam Friedberg.

    Photo by: Adam Friedberg

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