Solar design For Wellbeing and Expression

Louis Kahn’s Psychiatric Hospital Addition

  • Clifton Fordham Temple University


ABSTRACT: Immediately before completing the Yale Art Gallery, Kahn built a psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia which is a relative footnote in accounts of his institutional work. Although the subject of the building is burdened by stigma and access limited, the Radbill addition to the Philadelphia Psychiatric Hospital warrants renewed attention in light of a sophisticated design that introduced architectural order and deft detailing to a demanding building type. The hospital is organized so that spaces warranting more privacy are at higher levels, corresponding with glazing that is proportionally shorter than at the lower levels. Horizontal shading devices of three different depths are shallower at the upper levels in acknowledgement of a reduced shading burden when windows are shallower. The psychiatric hospital was built at a time when the effects of post-war material rationing was still resonant in the planning of buildings, and institutional buildings were still designed for natural ventilation and conditioning. In this context, passive strategies to counter excessive solar heat gain when daylighting was desirable, since thermal discomfort could not be completely offset by mechanically. As mechanical conditioning became standard in the United States, passives solar control strategies receded and building facades flattened. Despite a scientific basis for shading devices provided by academics including the Olgyay brothers, solar design remains largely an intuitive process. With the advent of digital modeling and analysis, predictability of solar device performance renews cause for exploiting their potential and maximizing daylight while minimizing corresponding liabilities of glazing. Digital analysis also permits better understanding of solar impact on existing buildings allowing for expanded methods of historical analysis and understanding of architectural significance. It advances a position where unseen characteristics of building design are given standing alongside visible characteristics. Central to this is the use academic study of the health benefits of daylighting.


KEYWORDS: Daylighting, Shading, Glazing

How to Cite
Fordham, C. (2018). Solar design For Wellbeing and Expression. ARCC Conference Repository.