Ideas for Contemporary Living

Tag: Light in Architecture

Tropical Modernism

Posted on December 20th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Knowledge. No Comments

I’m excited to experience a bit of tropical modernism in Southeast Asia. While I’m extremely excited for the food, culture, world heritage sites, beaches, and down time half a world away, I’m also very excited to see how modernist respond to the climate, materials and culture in a tropical zone.  Here’s a couple of things I’m hoping to see.

Inside Out. Adapting modernism to a tropical climate pushes the integration of indoor and outdoor (average LOW temperatures never fall below 75 degrees F in Singapore, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City).  Pilotis supporting columns free the perimeter of load bearing walls, allowing expanses of glass, moveable walls and shutters to open spaces, blurring boundaries. Pavilions, patios and expanse of water really do connect one to the elements.

Garden Spaces.Corbusier’s preference to rooftop gardens can be interpreted as gardens, everywhere.  Many local architects respond with vertical gardens, and multiple landings creating a vertical oasis.

Great circulation.  Did I mention the abundance of floating and spiral staircases in the work of Tropical Modernism that I’ve studied? These are great for allowing air to circulate.

Open Floor Plan.Open spaces to allow tropical breezes, blurring distinctions of room and usage.  Interior passages ways allow heat and air to rise, creating soft breezes.

Sun … Read More »

Moving Light

Posted on December 4th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Knowledge, The Moment. No Comments

I’ve recently designed several stained glass windows and skylights for windows. While color abounds, this is not a requirement, and there is absolutely no reason to veer from a modern point of view. To begin these projects, I referenced a few of my favorites projects and designers for inspiration. Here’s a look at a few of these.

A new point of view. Architects, designers and artists having been rethinking the possibilities, the idea of a stained glass window.

Shifting light. The effect of light tracking across a room can provide animation, and reveal the metaphysical passage of time.

Private spaces. Bathrooms are a natural location for stained glass window, which can obscure while providing transcendent light.

Stairwells. These are a natural location for stained glass windows and skylights, providing much need light, and a does of design into a transitory space. Color here is great, as you don’t need to live with it all day long.

Introspection. Translucent glass, arranged in a geometric pattern, can provide light and style in spades, while setting the stage for serious concentration or relaxation.

Creativity. Artist continue to employee stainless in their work, introducing contemporary ideas into an old art form.


David Bjørngaard, December 2018

Check out what I’m up to at Bjørn … Read More »


Posted on January 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. 2 comments

2017 was blur…great projects and clients, a growing business, and some amazing travel. One of the highlights was the debut of my powder room at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase House. A small, windowless room, the smallest room in the house.  Low ceilings, and no architectural details to salvage, this was not much more than a closet when I started.

The challenge was to make this enclosed space feel larger.  Inspiration came from a simple Roman fountain, with execution and detailing influence from trips to Rome and Milan. The result is a self-contained, immersive space that is quiet, reflective, and exquisite…in a way the anti-jewel box powder room. Like many of my projects, the design focused on the confident handling of materials, the detailing of which are revealed in the soft light animating the space.

Here are some of the techniques that I employed to expand the space:

Trick the senses. The rounding of all inside corners not only highlights the thickness of the materials, but also results in a lack of shadows. Our peripheral vision, lacking the vertical shadow lines that define space, is tricked into perceiving the space as bigger.  I like this about the work of James Turrell, using light-spaces … Read More »

Little Details

Posted on March 28th, by David Bjorngaard in Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

I sit with a copy of several of John Pawson’s books at my desk…I love the detailed, expressive work produced by his firm. At times his work has a warmth found in vernacular architecture of Scandinavia, the rigor of a Donald Judd sculpture, and the restraint of Italian and Northern European modern architecture. His work provides a master’s class in elegant detailing. So when I opened up my latest edition of Architectural Digest and saw a home by Pawson featured, I saw some of the lessons come to life.

Less but better. Instead of lots of stuff, surround yourself with thing things you really love. Don’t love your lounge chairs? Then live with a comfy sofa and some great art…or floor cushions.  With minimalism, the key is to find pieces that have a sculptural quality, and that speak to each other.  In time, you can accumulate more things on trips and through people you encounter, and these objects will have a greater impact because of the memories and connections.

Think in volume, not just floor plan. Volume is one of the most under used aspects of design. Entering a double height space from a narrow hallway adds drama, and makes even a … Read More »

Snapshot 26

Posted on January 17th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, The Moment. No Comments

If you attended the Fog Fair last week, you most likely noticed three works by the Dutch duo that makes up Studio Drift:  Shylight and In 20 Steps at Pace Gallery, and Fragile Future at Carpenter Workshop Galleries.  These two designers are working to create site-specific installations and interactive sculptures that deal with space and light, utilizing an understanding of geometries and movement in the natural environment paired with the latest in technology and craft. This is worth checking out.

I first noticed Skylight  in a video of the installation at the Rijksmuseum. Mimicking the metamorphosis of flowers from day to night, this is a dynamic interpretation of lighting, which are normally static in the form of stationary pendants or chandeliers.  I think this is perfect for a temporary installation or public space…a little bit goes a long way.

In 20 Steps expresses the movement and “ultimate freedom of flight” in brass and glass, LED and microchips. Simple elements become dynamic, and capture light as the sun sets.



My favorite, perhaps the most easily integrated into the above-average home, is Fragile Future. I love that dandelions were hand-picked, with their seeds individually glued to LED lights, becoming something both fragile and exquisite. Perhaps I just remember playing … Read More »

Building Art

Posted on December 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

On my travels this summer, I took as a little light reading Frank Gehry’s biography (haha, only an interior designer or architect would call this light reading!).

For me it was an unlikely choice, as I am not a huge fan of Gehry’s work. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of his best work in person.  My understanding is from impressions made over twenty years ago when I stood on the banks of the Mississippi River as a young college student.  The “Standing Glass Fish”, at the Walker Art Center, with its’ internal structure supporting the fish scales, is fabulous;  the Weisman Art Museum, with its’ impractical gallery spaces, is a mess to my mind.

But long ago impressions and prejudices can be overcome by new encounters and gentle persuasion by others. While in Paris, artist Daniel Buren provided that persuasion with his “visual tools”: acrylic colored paneled applied in checker board fashion.

At Fondation Louis Vuitton , Buren transformed the Gehry designed space and its’ context to create Observatory of Light.  Now Gehry’s twelve glass covered sails, or “icebergs”, are defined in thirteen colors and stripes. This intervention gives physical presence to light, as the light shifts and moves throughout the day.

My … Read More »

Snapshot 25

Posted on September 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

Design is about turning fantasy into reality, dreams into inhabitable spaces. The work comes from turning ideas into something that can be built. As summer came, I tasked myself with an ultimate task…starting my own firm, a client focused firm built on my professional (and personal) experiences, knowledge and dreams. The timing of this was perfect, in that it coincided with a long planned trip with Sean, my mom and sister to explore Paris, the Loire Valley, Normandy, and London. Seventeen days to daydream, seventeen days to explore what design and life can be. This trip ended up being a great reprise from the work that was about to come, and a time to reconnect with family, while being inspired by great design current and historical.

While in London, I revisited the Serpentine Gallery, which yearly invites one architect to build a summer pavilion. This years architect is Bjarke Ingels, of BIG, who is known locally for designing the new Google campus in Mountain View. Known for architecture with expressive gestures which are joyful, Ingels took his starting point of a brick wall, and worked to create something beautiful out of this ordinary structure. Instead of clay, Ingels  stacked fiberglass blocks to create a cavernous cave.  The blocks shift forward … Read More »

Oslo Opera

Posted on April 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I have big expectations for the new SFMOMA expansion. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to see first hand the work of the architects when I visited Oslo. I was so excited! It was an architecture pilgrimage. I dragged my poor dad across the city, and together we roamed around and over and throughout the Oslo Opera House. It was early summer of 2008, and my dad and I were just beginning our heritage tour, during which my dad would introduce me to places and relatives that he knew well. But on the first days of our trip, I was able to show my dad the things that excite and animate me in my work: good design, great art. This meant exploring Stave churches, museums and the opera house.

What makes the Oslo Opera House so unique and visually interesting is the seamless integration of art and architecture. Due to a art-sales tax, the architects were able to incorporate the work of several artists into the bones of the building. Four particular pieces shine bright.

Roof (2007). The building is like an iceberg that floats on the edge of the bay, with one lip emerging from the water and rising to large, monolithic structure. The … Read More »

Snapshot 22

Posted on October 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

An installation at the Victoria & Albert Museum plays with our perception of light and space, using colored acrylic panels and ceramic tile in a color gradient to create a visual passage of compression. Situated in-between the Renaissance galleries displaying drawings and glass, this installation plays gently with the historical concept of line drawing in the form of the cut out shapes, and the literalness of the stained glass windows on display nearby. I think this is very clever, with excellent execution.

The title of the show furthers the Renaissance reference: “The Mise-en-abyme”, which means “into the abyss”, is a representational technique in which a scene is depicted within the scene which is depicted within that scene. The installation was created by London designers Matteo Fogale and Laetitia de Allegri.  The show was installed to coincide with this year’s London Design Festival. Very cool.

David Bjørngaard, October 2015