7 World Trade Center: Lucid facades of glass, designed by James Carpenter (Photo: Wired New York)

James Carpenter was a glass artist for 30 years (and studying/collaborating with Dale Chihuly while he was at RISD) prior to his more recent involvement in architectural projects. His approach involves using glass not to just create enclosures but instead as a tool for “manipulating” light.

Fred A. Bernstein described Carpenter’s approach to architectural space in the New York Times on Sunday:

While “orthodox” modernists have long thought of glass as a means of making their buildings transparent, Mr. Carpenter said that for him transparency is far down on his list of concerns. What interests him, he explained, is “what is occurring on or in or through the material itself.”

In the case of the office building, which is scheduled to begin construction this year on a lot along the High Line, he talks of “privatizing” some light for the interior while returning the rest to the public, altered by its journey through high-tech sandwiches of glass. It’s an approach demonstrated in 7 World Trade Center, the Lower Manhattan building known for its unusually lucid facades.

There, blue metal sills reflect light onto and through the backs of clear-glass panes suspended several inches outside the building’s enclosure, producing an effect that Mr. Carpenter describes as “volumetric light.”

Volumetric light. That is a great way to describe how light becomes material and how elemental it is to the experience of viewing. It is a concept that is at the heart of my intentionality although it is very hard to demonstrate except when a work is encountered in real time, in the flesh.


Seeta 4, 16 x 20″, mixed media on canvas. The layering of light and image just doesn’t come through in a photo…

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