In Praise of Light and Shadows

In Praise of Light and Shadows

By Lucas Spears / Published by Lucas Spears
Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1933 book, In Praise of Shadows, has us thinking about how some office designs incorporate the outside world to create tranquil spaces.

In his 1933 book, In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki gave the world a gift, a quiet meditation that forever changes the perspective of anyone who reads it. Although his focus was on the decline of the Japanese aesthetic in the face of mounting Westernization, his descriptions of the subtle pleasures and beauty to be found in things as they are will leave an imprint on your mind.

Tanizaki was disturbed, in particular, by the Western need to electrically illuminate every corner of every room – and this was well before the electric light had conquered so very many corners of the planet. Nowadays, with the sheer number of hours people spend in their workplaces and artificially lit spaces, shadows and natural light have become the exception in our experience. But their value is no less than in Tanizaki’s time.

 There is, of course, no shortage of great office design out there, but here we praise the beauty offered to us by companies that have brought the outdoors into their interiors in innovative and sensitive ways. 

 SelgasCano Architecture 

Yes, half the structure is underground, with the roof rising a few feet out of the ground. Although it looks incredibly simple, getting the right materials moulded to the right form and size was no easy feat – even for a formidable team like SelgasCano – and involved multiple firms and specialised processes. The results, though, are a paen to light and shadow.
Image via SelgasCano

HOK London

An international architectural firm with a focus on sustainable practices should naturally have a green space for employees. By including a park in an urban-feeling setting, HOK London has made its offices reflect the city itself.
Image via Inc.


We can’t leave off Andreas Stavropoulos’s mobile design studio for San Francisco–based design firm XS|LA, of course. Being solar-powered, it is of course intimately connected to the landscape and to the movement of light. The self-contained setup allows him to  Pons + Huot. Although not built into the land, the offices of Pons + Huot hold an unexpected interior landscape that is naturally lit all day with a filtered light that really is like being in a forest. Where there is electric lighting, it’s whimsical and adds to the magical feeling of the place.
Image via XS/LA


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.