A bunch of us were out cycling this morning in the Wicklow hills and I got talking to a lighting designer about the critical importance of light in an architectural project. It is as important as the physical materials we build with - yet its intangible, delicate and takes real feeling, skill and experience to handle.
We got on to talking about how important the shadows and darkness are too. You can't feel, sense and appreciate one without the other. It brought me back to one of my favourite little books - In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.
Comparisons of light with darkness are used to contrast Western and Eastern cultures. The West, in its striving for progress, is presented as continuously searching for light and clarity, while the subtle and subdued forms of oriental art and literature are seen by Tanizaki to represent an appreciation of shadow and subtlety, closely relating to the traditional Japanese concept of wabi & sabi.