Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lighting features in Japanese traditional Architecture


Japanese Architecture has always shown an intimate connection with nature. Most materials are as natural as possible, like kaya vegetal roofing, wooden trusses and rice-straw mats (tatami). Disposition around the place, follows a clever strategy of natural balance often related to geomancy like Feng-Shui and to the observance of deeply rooted environmental rules. In this paper we would like to outline all of the former, but also stressing the role of day-lighting in architecture. Unlike Spain, day-lighting is a scarce good in Japan as the weather is often stormy and cloudy. Maximum benefit has to be taken of the periods in which the climate is pleasant, and a variety of approaches has been developed to deal with such conditions; latticed paper-windows (shôji), overhangs (noki) and verandas oriented to the South (engawa), are some of the main features that we have modelled with the aid of our computer program. The results have been validated by virtue of on site measurements. The cultural aspect of this paper lies not only in what it represents for the evolution of Japanese and Oriental Architecture but also in the profound impression that those particular lighting systems had for distinguished modern architects like Bruno Taut, Antonin Raymond or Walther Gropius and the contemporary artist Isamu Noguchi, a kind of fascination that we may say is lingering today.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item