2022 Daylight Awards

John Hill
19. May 2022
L: Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell. R: Anna Wirz-Justice (Photos © The Daylight Award)

Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects and professor Anna Wirz-Justice have been named the 2022 laureates of The Daylight Award in the Architecture and Research categories, respectively.

The Daylight Award, presented by the Villum Fonden, Velux Fonden, and Velux Stiftung philanthropic foundations, "honors and supports daylight research and daylight in architecture." The biennial award "acknowledges and encourages scientific knowledge and practical application of daylight, which interlink disciplines that are usually addressed in separated, monocultural spheres, professional circles or practices." As such, The Daylight Award is given in two categories: The Daylight Award for Architecture, "awarded to one or more architects or other professionals who have distinguished themselves by realizing architecture or creating urban environments that showcase unique use of daylight"; and The Daylight Award for Research, "awarded to individuals or smaller groups of scientists who have distinguished themselves as outstanding contributors to internationally recognized daylight research."

Each award is given €100,000. This year's awards were announced on Monday, May 16, aka the UNESCO International Day of Light.

"The laureates exemplify common themes. Not only do they represent international excellence in daylight research and practice, but they also embody a generous and humanistic spirit regarding the celebration of daylight. The contribution of daylight to enhance quality of life – even to celebrate life – is an intrinsic quality of their work. It is remarkable how they have applied this humanistic approach with a depth of knowledge and breadth of intentions that belies their humble and detached vision of their works' importance."

The 2022 jury*

University Campus UTEC Lima by Grafton Architects (Photo © Iwan Baan)

Grafton Architects is receiving The Daylight in Architecture Award because they have "mastered the use of daylight throughout their wide and exceptionally varied design production." A statement on the award further states: "Daylight is employed in their design process as an integrated and irreplaceable quality, along with the spatial arrangement, structural frame and technical systems." Such projects as Institut Mines-Télécom in Paris-Saclay, University Campus UTEC Lima, and Town House – Kingston University London (recipient of the EU Mies Award this year) are singled out as indicative of "their [remarkable] skill to direct daylight both vertically and horizontally into often thick and layered building volumes." Ultimately, according to the award, "natural light in Grafton Architects’ projects has a relaxed, generous, and calm presence."

Town House – Kingston University, London (Photo © Dennis Gilbert)
"We describe our architecture as physics of space, physics of culture. What we really try to do is capture the environmental conditions of location, for people to enjoy it. It is a cultural relationship. Our relationship with light starts with looking at the angle of the sun, one of the aspects that we look at very deeply. As we move to the future times of sustainability, we should be aware that light is an extraordinary energy, it is not just a visual delight."

Yvonne Farrell

Anna Wirz-Justice at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale

Anna Wirz-Justice is receiving The Daylight Award for Research for her "pioneering research on how human circadian rhythms and sleep are regulated by light." Wirz-Justice is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatric Neurobiology at the University of Basel, and former Head of the Centre for Chronobiology at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Basel, where she "appreciated the connections between abnormal light exposure, circadian rhythm disruption, and the impact this has on mental health" and in turn "introduced the use of light therapy to Europe and studied its use in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), non-seasonal depression, Borderline Personality Disorder and dementia." Her work, and that of others in her field, led to the establishment of "both the scientific and therapeutic application of light as a treatment for different areas of mental illness," according to The Daylight Award. "This holistic approach led Anna and colleagues to write a manual for health care professionals, thereby guiding evidence-based light treatment to improve mood and sleep disorders."

"Research on light’s widespread effects on humans, independent of vision, has changed architecture in the last decade. It has initiated new lighting standards to incorporate non-visual effects of light as necessary for health. It has re-awakened interest in the huge potential of daylight to complement artificial light."

Anna Wirz-Justice

*The 2022 jury:

  • Anne Lacaton, Principal of Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, Paris; associate Professor of Architecture & Design at ETH Zurich (laureate of The Daylight Award in 2011).
  • Dorte Mandrup, founder of Dorte Mandrup A/S, Copenhagen; Adjunct Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
  • Marilyne Andersen, Professor of Sustainable Construction Technologies at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (laureate of The Daylight Award in 2016).
  • Gerd Folkers, Professor for Pharmaceutical Chemistry at ETH Zurich; director of the Collegium Helveticum.
  • Russell Foster, Director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford (laureate of The Daylight Award in 2020).
  • Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish architect, writer, teacher and practicing architect.
  • Koen Steemers, Professor of Sustainable Design, The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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