Light is an ephemeral material. Teaching how to work with light requires experimentation and testing. What are the consequences of shifting from a hands-on experiential environment to an online setting? Are there lessons we should retain as we return to in-person teaching? As an architecture educator and light artist, I have been teaching an experimental lighting seminar in different settings – a conventional in-person classroom with a black-box component; an abroad site specific seminar in Rome and during COVID as it morphed to an online format. With the change of setting, the class’s interactions and learning potentials radically transformed. What initially presented as a compromise in an online format also held hidden advantages. In this paper I would like to investigate the pedagogy for creatively teaching architects how to work with light as a material, investigating how different settings change the seminar’s focus and embedded lessons: A black-box setting allows for live, in-person experimentation. An abroad setting prioritized site specific relationships to architecture. And an on-line setting produced insular student investigations, that were communicated remotely. In a surprising revelation this remote format allowed students to personalize their studies, bringing tests into their own homes and personal environments. Students constructed Camera Obscuras projecting their outdoor environments on the interior spaces of their homes, created light installations in basements and constructed experiments with smartphone flashlights. This Guerilla version of the seminar held unexpected benefits, and I would like to explore how to insert this personal approach back into the classroom.
Yael Erel is an architect, educator and light artist. She interweaves light optics research with academic teaching and practice. She is a registered architect and co-founder of lightexture, where she designs and constructs light fixtures and installations. She graduated with honors from The Cooper Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute . Erel has been teaching architecture since 2004; she taught at Harvard GSD, Columbia University, Pratt Institute, The Cooper Union, and is currently an Assistant Professor at the Rensselaer School of Architecture.