James Carpenter on Light and the Building Envelope

Architecture East Newsletter Sustainability Technology West

7 World Trade Center envelope, New York, NY. (David Sundberg/ESTO)

In architecture—and especially in warm, sunny locales like Southern California—light is a double-edged sword. Successful daylighting reduces dependence on artificial lighting and enhances occupants’ connection to the outdoors. But the solar gain associated with unregulated natural light can easily negate the energy savings effected by replacing electric lights with sunshine.

Light Veil, Cotton Bowl facade, Dallas, TX. (Cambridge Architectural)

Light Veil, Cotton Bowl facade, Dallas, TX. (Cambridge Architectural)


Berlin Lichtof, Berlin Foreign Ministry cable-net wall and skylight roof, Germany. (Andreas Keller)

As leaders in the field of high-performance building envelope design, James Carpenter and Joseph Welker, of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), are no strangers to the benefit-cost balance of designing for light. Carpenter and Welker will draw on their firm’s extensive portfolio of both civic and commercial projects for “Light in the Public Realm,” the morning keynote address at next month’s Facades+ LA conference. “We’ll talk about the approach we have to light—how you use light for the occupant, and for the public realm,” said Carpenter. “It obviously has technical components, like cable walls and curtain walls. But the thread might be less about a purely performative agenda and more on performance and aesthetics together.”

JCDA’s notable facades include two joint projects with SOM, 7 World Trade Center and the Time Warner Center atrium, both in New York. For 7 World Trade Center, the firm was tasked with integrating the glass tower and concrete podium. By floating vision glass in front of a stainless steel spandrel panel, the architects encouraged the play of light on the tower facade, creating an ever-shifting dynamic that blurs the line between building and sky. In the case of Time Warner Center, JCDA designed the largest cable-net wall ever constructed, and achieved the remarkable feat of hanging two cable-net walls from a single truss.

To hear more from James Carpenter and Joseph Welker on JCDA’s approach to light and the building envelope, register today for Facades+ LA. More information, including a complete schedule of speakers and workshops, is available online.

Double cable-net wall at Time Warner Center, New York, NY. (Brad Feinknopf)

Double cable-net wall at Time Warner Center, New York, NY. (Brad Feinknopf)

Related Stories