RM-3 Episode Six: Light

In this episode of RM-3 (Raw Materials 3 Ways), host Dan Maginn investigates how light accentuates architecture, sculpts our experiences, and ultimately shapes our behavior.
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Though intangible and mercurial, light has a profound impact how we perceive and navigate space. In this episode of RM-3, our host Dan Maginn speaks to architect Joan Soranno, whose manipulation of light in sacred spaces like chapels and mausoleums creates transcendent experiences; architect Miguel Ángel Aragonés, whose LED-colored homes in Mexico City take on shifting moods throughout the day; and Charles Blanc and Tristan Surtees of art practice Sans façon, whose treatment of light in public places plays with people’s perception of commonplace events in a playful—yet moving—way.

Tune in to the full episode below, and keep scrolling to see the projects we talk about on the show.

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Featured Guests 

Joan Soranno, HGA

Designed by HGA Architects and Engineers, the Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a granite building with canted recesses and carefully placed clerestory windows and skylights that create contemplative moments for the grieving.

"I think one of the driving missions of a sacred space is using light in such a way that evokes that sense of transcendence," says architect Joan Soranno.

Patterns of light and dark help modulate the corridor that links the crypt rooms and columbaria, creating a sense of mystery and intimacy.

Miguel Ángel Aragonés, Taller Aragonés

Architect Miguel Angel Aragonés is seen in the cantilevered second-floor bedroom that overlooks the rear courtyard of Rombo IV, one of four structures on his Mexico City property—three houses and a studio—collectively called Los Rombos after their rhomboid shape.

During the day, the walls reflect variations in sunlight and sky color. At night, the interiors are saturated in vibrant LED hues evocative of a sunset.

Aragonés embraces how the mood and character of a home changes throughout the day, like those of a person. "For me, first of all, there is light," he says.

English artist Tristan Surtees and French architect Charles Blanc are art practice Sans façon, which literally translates to "without unnecessary social ceremony." They specialize in perception-altering pieces that interrogate people’s relationship with place. Case in point is Limelight: Saturday Night, in which two streetlights are replaced with theater spotlights, inviting passersby to engage with the street in a new way. The piece has traveled to 16 cities worldwide since 2010; the above image is from Miami in 2011.

"People may have ignored it completely," says Surtees, "but people would see it, and if someone else was close to them they’d start interacting with one another through the spotlight on the floor, or they may just walk through and click their heels. It became really an invitation to think about their relationship with public space through light."

In Sunset/Sunrise, two split-flap signs display the name of a town where the sun is setting, and simultaneously, the name of a town where the sun is rising. "When you stand between those signs moving, it’s a bit like you were removed from the planet," says Blanc. "It's moving under your feet somehow."

RM-3 is produced by Jenny Xie, produced and edited by Laura Spencer, and hosted by Dan Maginn. Our theme music is by Slag Ralden. Special thanks to Joan Soranno, Miguel Ángel Aragonés, Tristan Surtees, and Charles Blanc for being on the show; and to Laurie Stern, Isabel Cadenas Cañón, and Keifer Dallison.


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