Sky Frames, University of Maryland, 2007

The central studio space of the University’s architecture building is daylit by 24 large, square skylights. A decision to replace the aging, original plastic domes with more energy-efficient glazing presented an opportunity to explore alternative approaches to lighting and enclosure as well as teaching.

The concept of the building as an instrument, inhabited by observers and connected to the infinite scale of the universe by a light-pierced threshold, guided the development of this scheme. It proposes an array of faceted, translucent pyramidal volumes occupying the roof over the assembly space. Each pyramid is oriented either to catch low-angle sunlight at twilight or to align with a specific, critical solar position. The design strategy transforms the building into both an instrument of measure—marking the position of the sun during critical times of the year—and an instrument of play, a dynamic scaffolding to support ongoing investigations into the material and immaterial realms of architecture.

Credits: Duncan McIlvane and John Li, design assistants