For James Carpenter, working with glass means designing with light. Reflection, refraction, luminosity, and transparency are the natural phenomena of light that he explores through the medium of glass, ultimately shaping the surrounding architectural space. Carpenter’s mission has been to make light visible, and he draws from architecture, engineering, materials science, landscape architecture, and sculpture to accomplish his goals.
When James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) worked with HOK to develop the winning entry in a 2005 design competition for the redevelopment of the new Pennsylvania Station on the site of the James A. Farley Post Office, across the street from the existing Penn Station in New York City, it harnessed and redirected natural light from the outside, transforming a dark interior into a light-filled, animated atrium. In reestablishing a central train hall, they covered it with a glass grid roof comprised of vaulted shells which illuminate the concourse hall below. The lattice columns that support the roof redirect sunlight down to the track platforms. The original Penn Station relied on an abundance of light and air, and JCDA’s design embraced the same concept in an entirely new way.
Light and glass are fundamental to the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design of Seven World Trade Center, for which JCDA designed the podium’s interactive skin and cable net entry and collaborated with Jenny Holzer on the lobby wall. Pedestrians are an interactive part of the base volume, as a camera-recognition system is able to track them and signal the LED bars to follow their path. The LEDs between the two prismatic wire layers of the podium’s skin also allow for the programming of a blue volume of light to visually lock the podium and tower. From the podium to the curtain wall, the light appears to be projecting from the building itself.
JCDA employs LEDs in a special installation for the Triennial, Landscape/Light Threshold, and reinterprets the conceptual idea of the window as a light and information threshold. Similar to Reflection Passage, Landscape/ Light Threshold uses LED circuit boards and live video feed from a camera located in the Museum garden to explore and redefine the relationship between the interior room and the garden landscape. This work abstracts and isolates defining qualities of light and information as glass transforms light pixels into diffused images that traverse the glass surface.