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The illumination of Greek temples: A comparative approach to lighting strategies in the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, and the temple of Apollo in Bassai using 3D physically based rendering

De Lara, Juan; (2024) The illumination of Greek temples: A comparative approach to lighting strategies in the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, and the temple of Apollo in Bassai using 3D physically based rendering. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis analyses and compares spatial and phenomenological interpretations related to the dramatisation of the sacred by means of light and darkness in the architecture of three key classical temples: the temple of Apollo in Bassai, the temple of Zeus in Olympia and the Parthenon. This objective is achieved with the aid of a suite of 3D digital technologies to recreate the ambient and architectural conditions present the original designs of the temples. The temples are modelled three-dimensionally, with sufficient details to show how they were constructed. Subsequently, a detailed, rigorous and novel computational approach tests physically-based lighting simulations over the resulting models, accounting for the correct solar position on their construction dates. Such a setup allows for the replication of the behaviour and interplay of artificial and natural light across complex volumetric spaces. Quantitative and qualitative analyses address several unresolved hypotheses and aspects of interior lighting: the illumination of the statues via the morning light, pools of liquid as reflective tools, windows, ceilings of translucent marble, skylights, apertures in the ceilings, and finally the use of lamps. The results reveal that these temples, contrary to the longstanding belief of ‘bright marble spaces,’ were generally dark and dim. The transition from sunny exterior to dark interior was gradual, and light was filtered through several material and immaterial veils, such as diaphanous grills, gate thresholds, curtains, parapets, and ultimately darkness. The sporadic gleaming of the embossed gold and metals, combined with the interplay of stone, hues, shifting shadows, and the dynamic interposition of smoke, established an immersive environment well-suited for revelatory experiences. It is deduced that the illumination of the statues’ materials through the glow of a lamp, and on rare occasions, the sun, possibly represented the pinnacle of the viewing encounter—the wonder in realising the unseen.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The illumination of Greek temples: A comparative approach to lighting strategies in the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, and the temple of Apollo in Bassai using 3D physically based rendering
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2024. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10188043
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