Faking It: Simulating Daylight With Luminous Interior Walls

Like plants to the sun, most of us possess the innate desire to bask in — or just have access to — nurturing natural light. But in the deepest of building cores or lowest of subterranean floors, true openings or daylight harvesters might not be feasible or affordable. So architects and interior designers have found ways to simulate daylight, whether through faux skylights, cove lighting or strategic material and color palettes.

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

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Like plants to the sun, most of us possess the innate desire to bask in — or just have access to — nurturing natural light. But in the deepest of building cores or lowest of subterranean floors, true openings or daylight harvesters might not be feasible or affordable. So architects and interior designers have found ways to simulate daylight, whether through faux skylights, cove lighting or strategic material and color palettes.


Norwegian film company office by Studio Vatn; photo by Einar Aslaksen

One common way to achieve this effect is by replacing ordinary interior walls with translucent ones that allow light and movement to pass through either side. These luminous elements still function as space dividers, provide just enough visibility to let occupants see that there’s something beyond and feature just enough opacity or textural diffusion to provide some amount of privacy or conceal, perhaps, a conference room or equipment closet.


Offices for an advertising agency in Warsaw, designed by MFRMGR; photo by Grzegorz Sztybel


Clinique D diaphane: Light Therapy in Montreal by L McComber; photo by Raphaël Thibodeau

Obvious solutions for such walls are etched glass, window film or even switchable glass that allows users to dictate when visual privacy is needed. An example of the latter, Guardian’s Reveal is float glass that’s been laminated with liquid crystal film. In a non-powered state, the liquid crystals are dispersed, creating the translucent and milky appearance. Applying a small electrical charge causes the crystals to align, which, in turn, makes the glass appear transparent.


Guardian Industries

While this option is a popular choice for offices requiring the occasional private meeting space, it’s also become widely used in hospitality and residential settings for everything from corridors to bathrooms. As early as the 90s, some trendy lounges of the time boasted toilet stalls, for example, that went from clear to opaque when occupied. This same “trick” was more recently incorporated in late architect Zaha Hadid’s 520w28 condominium project in New York City. Here, she specified Innovative Glass’s LC Privacy Glass product for the bathroom walls in a model apartment.


Zaha Hadid’s 520w28


Innovative Glass


TGP

More architectural and structured in appearance, channel glass is an attractive option that’s beginning to move from façades to interior wall applications. Bendheim Wall Systems and TGP each offer channel glass (Bendheim has LINIT by Lamberts, while TGP has Pilkington Profilit) in a variety of textures depending on project performance needs and aesthetic goals. Bendheim additionally offers different opacities and stocks a selection of enameled channels for when the project could use some color.


Bendheim’s LINIT installed in Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, designed by Steven Holl Architects


Bendheim

Seves Glassblock has a wide range of offerings that also produce an architectural aesthetic and luminosity. In addition to standard light-diffusing glass blocks, Seves manufactures some stunning dimensional ones including Diamante and Doric. Injecting some color into spaces, its New Colour Collection consists of vibrant hues that can be used to create pixelated graphics and logos in walls. Available in a 19-centimeter-square size, New Colour is produced in a total of 16 standard hues.


Seves Glassblock

Lightweight yet viable alternatives to glass are plastics including Panelite’s Bonded Series, which features a honeycomb-like cellular structure sandwiched between panels for stability. Bonded Series is ideal for interior walls and partitions and can even be specified curved.


Panelite

3form’s Varia Ecoresin doesn’t have the cellular structure of Panelite’s Bonded Series, but it’s still a worthy alternative to glass when installed properly and with the right hardware or framing systems. These translucent resin panels are suitable for partitions and multi-panel walls, screens, doors and more. What’s more, the material can be customized further with logos, graphics, texture and interlayers such as botanicals and textiles.


3form


Bendheim

While we’re on the topic of more decorative options, we would be remiss to leave out some additional products that can achieve the luminous wall effect with a little more panache. These include: Bendheim’s Decorative Laminated Glass Collection by KOVA; Skyline Design’s Collection in Whites by Suzanne Tick; Skyline Design’s Glass Gradients by Scholten & Baijings; Pulp Studio’s Ombra insulated glass with architectural mesh or honeycomb; Nathan Allan Glass Studios’ Josiah J Collection; and Forms+Surfaces’ Joel Berman Plank kiln-cast glass.


Skyline Design


Pulp Studio

Looking for more ideas? Click here to learn how Architizer Source can help you find the right material and hardware options.


Nathan Allan Glass Studios


Forms+Surfaces

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