© Iwan Baan

Open Eye: 7 Oculi That Pierce the Sky

Differing greatly in both scale and typology, these projects exhibit a breadth of flexibility while still remaining fixated on the diffusion of sunlight and connection to natural elements.

Jennifer Geleff Jennifer Geleff

Have your say in the world’s best architecture: the 10th Annual A+Awards Public Vote is now open! Cast your ballots in the largest awards program for architects and designers before May 27th, 2022!

Traditionally, an oculus is a circular opening in the center of a dome or on a wall. Most famously, the Pantheon’s divine oculus — the church’s main entry point for natural light — was built to penetrate and illuminate the interior, and simultaneously provide a symbolic pathway to the heavens. Since then oculus openings have yielded a variety of contemporary interpretations. In Open Eye’s inaugural collection, we celebrated seven exciting oculi that acted both as functional skylights and key visual elements.

In a similar vein, the following collection features various approaches to the majestic circular opening. Differing greatly in both scale and typology, these projects exhibit a breadth of flexibility while remaining fixated on the diffusion of sunlight and connection to natural elements. From a sculpted light well in an artist’s studio space to an entryway for children climbing into their family home, the oculus functions as skylight, window, door and focal point all at once.

© Urlaubsarchitektur

© Urlaubsarchitektur

© Urlaubsarchitektur

© Urlaubsarchitektur

© Urlaubsarchitektur

© Urlaubsarchitektur

Refugi Lieptgas by Urlaubsarchitektur, Flims, Switzerland

From a distance, Refugi Lieptgas resembles a traditional wooden hut. An unusual holiday home for two, a closer look reveals that the cabin is entirely constructed from concrete. The bedroom — a romantic refuge — features a mystical circular opening along the pitched ceiling, delicately opening up the space to its surroundings. The entire structure is located in the Swiss Alps, wedged between a village and the forest’s edge.

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

The Center for Character and Leadership Development by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Colorado Springs, Colo., United States

This new 46,000-square-foot education center is a symbolic addition to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s campus, which serves as a nexus for cadets, professors and visitors. Minimizing the need for artificial lighting, the building’s dramatic 105-foot skylight aligns with the North Star, creating a meaningful architectural interpretation of the Academy’s values. Placed in the building’s heart, the main conference room rests beneath a glass aperture, which lyrically opens to the larger skylight above.

© denieuwegeneratie

© denieuwegeneratie

© denieuwegeneratie

© denieuwegeneratie

© denieuwegeneratie

© denieuwegeneratie

Dutch Mountain by denieuwegeneratie, Netherlands

Partially submerged into a man-made hill, the northern façade of this home is disguised while the southern and western walls open up to the landscape through glazed paneling. In order to minimize disturbance on the surrounding terrain, the architects imagined new approaches to entryways and doorways. The home features a circular opening through which residents may climb into the home.

© Åke E:son Lindman

© Åke E:son Lindman

© Åke E:son Lindman

© Åke E:son Lindman

© Mikael Bergquist Arkitektkontor

© Mikael Bergquist Arkitektkontor

House at lake Båven by Mikael Bergquist Arkitektkontor, Sweden

A simple house with a form inspired by the traditional barns nearby, House at lake Båven is painted a striking red — a color long embedded in the Swedish countryside landscape. The cozy interior is divided by a central fireplace, with the kitchen and dining area on one end and the living space on the other. Two large round windows were built in order to feed light through the entire attic.

© Dakro Todorovic

© Dakro Todorovic

© Dakro Todorovic

© Dakro Todorovic

© Dakro Todorovic

© Dakro Todorovic

Exhibition House by Innauer Matt Architekten, Bezau, Austria

Exhibition House is a temporary exhibition pavilion used as a tool for showcasing wood construction, craftsmanship and architecture. Visitors are encouraged to tangibly experience the space by touching, smelling and feeling it. In addition, doors and windows are round, which not only resemble magnifying glasses, but also invite visitors to hover closer and take a look inside.

© TROPICAL SPACE

© TROPICAL SPACE

© TROPICAL SPACE

© TROPICAL SPACE

© TROPICAL SPACE

© TROPICAL SPACE

Terra Cotta Studio by TROPICAL SPACE, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam

Terra Cotta Studio is the working space for artist Le Duc Ha. The project is a cube-shaped building that encases structural bamboo scaffolding used to dry terra cotta products. Through a dramatic central opening, the artist and his various creations may be exposed to the sunlight from dawn to dusk. While still achieving privacy, the artist may feel the wind from the river against his skin, and experience the various natural sounds of the surrounding landscape.

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

Teshima Art Museum by Ryue Nishizawa, Takamatsu, Japan

Opened in 2010, the Teshima Art Museum was designed by Tokyo-based architect Ryue Nishizawa and Japanese artist Rei Naito. The open gallery space features a 10-inch-thick concrete shell, with two elliptical openings that expose the space to the elements. The grand cascading form appears otherworldly, encasing the visitor in an unfamiliar universe.

Have your say in the world’s best architecture: the 10th Annual A+Awards Public Vote is now open! Cast your ballots in the largest awards program for architects and designers before May 27th, 2022!

The concept for this article came from Kaelan Burkett.

© Johan Jansson

The 7th room // Snøhetta

Edeforsvägen, Norrbottens län, Sweden

© JYCArchitect + DCDAssociates

M.Y. Village Baptist Church // JYCArchitect + DCDAssociates

Taichung City, Taiwan

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