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NATURAL LIGHT Mattia Atzeni – Architect and Building Engineer


Natural light in hospital subterranean spaces


This article investigates the issues surrounding natural light in healthcare facilities, with special attention to underground spaces. The goal of a study was to offer guidelines on how to design with natural light, to illuminate areas of hospitals that would normally have to utilise artificial light. The study looked at natural lighting solutions used in six hospitals designed and built in Spain.


Humanisation for a better hospital design is a subject that is receiving a lot of attention now. The construction of more comfortable spaces is the goal of many designers. Natural light is the biggest player to help achieve this goal.


Light maintains our biological rhythms.


For this reason, even if artificial lighting was developed that could compensate for the lack of sunlight radiation, manmade alternatives would lack the tone needed to satisfy our need for frequent exposure to natural light. For the proper adjustment of a body’s biorhythms there is a need for natural light. In architecture, light works on three levels – At the material level, the light is a formal element of the spread of light. Aesthetically, however, it relates to a refined sense of space that can be influenced by the composition and colour of shadow. Finally, on an emotional level, sensations are caused by the effects of light.


Materials and methods The relationship with natural light will be defined in each project. Practical experience and a look at the history of architecture enable us to understand that the amount of light, and its regulation, are closely related to the intended use of a building. For healthcare architectural design natural light is essential. Illuminating the spaces of the hospital in as natural a way as much as possible, avoiding artificial light, which can be cold and uncomfortable, is an objective that the designer must realise. This will bring many advantages – visual comfort, a positive mood, a warmer environment, domestication of space, and energy cost savings. Greater attention needs to be paid to the


76 St. Catherine Hospital in Salt, Girona (Architect: Albert De Pineda Álvarez, Manuel Brullet Tenas).


Quiron Hospital, Madrid (Architect: Albert De Pineda Álvarez, Pinearq).


underground spaces of healthcare facilities where only artificial light is usually used. It is necessary for the


architect to ask how they could improve these areas and whether technology can help? The answer is ‘yes’. There are a variety of different systems available to collect natural light, these include: • Holographic film. • Heliostats. • Fibre optics. • Light pipes.


Holographic film is a plastic film. Heliostats are devices that are able to follow the path of


‘For the proper adjustment of a body’s biorhythms there is a need for natural light.’


Mattia Atzeni


Mattia Atzeni is an architect and building engineer. He graduated at the University of Architecture and Building Engineering in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. He specialised in Design of hospitals and health care buildings at the Polytechnic of Milan and in architectural and environmental acoustics on healthcare facilities at the University of Architecture in Rome.


He is a member of SIAIS, the Italian Society of Architecture and Engineering for Health.


IFHE DIGEST 2014


Photo: © Fernando Guerra/FG+SG.


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