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Experiencing the Parthenon: Temple illumination using 3D physically-based rendering
Sacred architecture is one of the most intriguing forms of art because of its emotional and experiential implications. World architecture has shown that designers of religious and ritual spaces were conscious of the need to ‘materialise’ the sacred, and very often this was achieved via light. Despite this general character, there has been little discussion about whether the interior of Greek temples in the Classical period of the fifth century BC made use of prominent strategies to manipulate human sensorial experience to religious ends. Some studies of buildings like the Parthenon, however, suggest a very thought-out design particularly attentive of light: the orientation of the building towards the rising sun, the placement of windows, barriers and grills, translucent ceilings of marble, skylights, or even ‘reflective’ pools of liquid—all devices that alongside polished materials, may have been used to enhance the experience of a visitor to the cella of such a temple, and their encounter with its contents, most notably the cult statue. Were temples gigantic dark shelters where the eyes had to grow accustomed to reveal a jewel hidden inside—divine figures whose flesh was of ivory and whose robes were of gold? How did architects translate the sense of liminality through the transition from the vast openness of the sky to the interior of the temple? Although much has been written on Greek temples, there is virtually nothing about what it was like to be inside, and very little discussion of what it meant. In this talk, Juan de Lara will present part of his PhD research, and will analyse and compare spatial and phenomenological interpretations related to the dramatisation of the sacred by means of light and architecture in the Parthenon, along two other major Classical temples, well-known for the deliberate uses of these visual strategies in their designs: the temple of Zeus in Olympia and the temple of Apollo Epikurios in Bassae.

Nov 8, 2021 07:00 PM in Athens

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