Bending Light and Slowing Time

General / Places / September 28, 2010

Laura Joines of California’s Domu Architects works from the inside out, designing spaces that make people happy.

“As architects, we want people to have a satisfying experience,” she said.  “It’s not about the flash or the outside – to me, it’s all about the inside.”

In the case of an extension to the Teixeira House in San Luis Obispo, she applied Rudolph Schindler’s use of sectional L’s to work through that  “It’s about upside down L’s, L’s that bend around a corner, and walls that move around light.”

She’s an architect who starts our with a simple watercolor painting of a project, striving for a basic understanding.  She then muses over complex spatial vortexes, pointing out that if an architect focuses on empty space, it can be caused to move.  She likens it to Einstein’s theory of relativity: light can be bent if put through a photonic crystal.

“When you bend light, you slow time,” she said.  “I experienced it a Chartres Cathedral – the Rose Window is a photonic crystal.  It’s a manipulation of light, of how it comes in a high window.”

In the Teixeira House, she reflected light from the upper floor to pour through an open stairwell and wash over walls and give a glow to the room below.   She used honest, authentic materials to transform the 1,200 square foot, 1960s ranch into a state-of-the art sustainable home with its new 1,000 square foot bedroom, living room and stairwell.

Its radiant-heated floor is a highly a polished concrete that extends inside to outside on the exterior patio.  Countertops are concrete too.  She utilized walls of burnished concrete block, natural cypress and a few painted gypsum panels for accents.

Sustainable features include passive solar heating backed up by the radiant heat in the floors, natural cooling (and no air conditioning), natural daylight, and solar panels for lighting and hot tub. 

But its sustainablity is just one more element to help its occupants feel good while they’re inside.   “It’s experiential,” she said.  It’s about sustaining someone’s soul.”

For more on Laura Joines and Domu Architects, go to

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Michael Welton

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on August 4, 2014

Laura is a graduate of Vassar College and NC State School of Design

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