The Prayer Pavilion of Light boldly denounces Semper’s taxonomy of vernacular building. In this desert climate, the courtyard building is traditional. DeBartolo Architects started with a different premise however: How do you create a glass box in the desert? After many trials, the best solution was to use glass to screen glass, creating a double façade that allows for transmission of light but not heat. The inner layer of glass is triple-insulated and translucent to provide ample resistance to the desert sun. The second glass skin sits 1.5 meters [5 feet] out from the interior surface. The channel of space between the two skins “serves as a natural convection chimney, channeling hot air to lovers up top.”[1] As the air in between the layers heats up during the day, it rises and draws in cooler air from below. The movement of air through this double skin dissipates the heat and cools the surfaces. The quality of the desert light experienced in the Pavilion is diffuse but ever changing. The structure is a celebration of both glass and light and could not exist in any other construct besides this one.

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Image | © Chad Schwartz

[1] Jenna M. McKnight, “Prayer Pavilion of Light, Phoenix, Arizona,” Architectural Record 198, no. 6 (2010): 173.