This story was originally published in Architectural Lighting.


The Trustees of the Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Fund (JSSF) have announced the recipients of its 2017-2018 scholarships: Katie Corr of Queen’s University, Belfast; and Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer at the University of Michigan.

JSSF Scholarship recipient Katie Corr
Courtesy JSSF JSSF Scholarship recipient Katie Corr

Katie Corr
Corr is currently a Masters student at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her interest in working with light “lies in rediscovering the ‘alchemy of light,’ a term she uses to describe a rich understanding of how light evokes mood and influences the experience of space–something she feels has been lost in our obsession over light levels and performance,” notes the press release.

Courtesy JSSF

While at university, her work has focused on “modelling a scene from a seminal Ingmar Bergman film, in an effort to deconstruct the lighting composition, distilling the relationships that produce the mies-en-scène and give the film such character.” In order to analyze Bergman’s approach to scene setting she has “studied the work of James Turrell and Luis Barragán and the way in which they carefully control light and use it to manage the effect of a space on people.” This research and analysis has guided her in a school project for the design of a small concert hall and an accompanying custom luminaire designed for the space. Her thesis project—the design of a music school on the north coast of Ireland—looks at how the gray, even light, along with landscape and views impacts the design. Corr will put her scholarship towards the completion of her thesis project and Master’s degree.

JSSF Scholarship recipient Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer
Courtesy JSSF JSSF Scholarship recipient Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer

Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer
Sawyer is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, where she is concentrating on “how we can improve our approach to daylighting design, to balance occupant comfort and interest with sustainability concerns.” She completed her Master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Her thesis explored the use of “advanced modelling technologies, such as computational fluid dynamics and a 5-axis robotic arm and castings, to create integrated ornamental façade designs that increase indoor daylighting.” Her thesis was recognized with the Daniel L. Shodek Award for Technology and Sustainability at the GSD.

Courtesy JSSF

For her doctoral work at Michigan, Sawyer has focused her attention to people “exploring the relationship between the objective quantifiable characteristics of daylight and the occupant’s subjective visual impressions.” In assessing existing techniques, such as Conceptual Cognitive Content Mapping, she has “developed a new simulation method to calculate the annual spatial luminance distribution through building facades without the need for HDR renderings, and applied this to several buildings across diverse climatic settings.” The next phase of her research will explore how HDR renderings and virtual reality can be used to understand people’s impressions of and interactions with daylight spaces, and how this data can be sued for façade design with the goal of reducing a building’s energy consumption. Sawyer will use her scholarship to cover travel costs so that she can visit, in person, the buildings she has modeled as part of her research.

The Fund
John Roake, chairman of the JSSF said in a prepared statement, “This year the other Trustees of the Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Fund and I wanted to broaden our ability to assist potential scholars. The additional generous support we have received from our Benefactors, Sponsors and Contributors has allowed us once again to award two scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year.”

He went on to note, “There were some particularly glowing reports from the tutors that accompanied the submissions this year, which made shortlisting the candidates all the more interesting. Despite the extremely strong competition we are happy to choose one worthy student from Queen’s University Belfast: Katie Corr and another from the University of Michigan: Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer. Whilst they come from different approaches, both scholars have that ‘special something’ we are always looking to find in the way they expressed their passion for light and architecture coupled with a clear financial need. We therefore heartily congratulate Katie and Azadeh and their respective institutions on being awarded the JSSF scholarships this year and look forward to following their future development and career progress.”

Updates on past recipients and their current work can be found on the Scholars page on the JSSF website.

The JSSF’s mission is to provide support to students of architecture who wish to enter the architectural lighting design profession and to honor the legacy of architect and lighting designer Jonathan Speirs. Funding is made possible thanks to the generosity of donations made by companies and individuals in the architecture, lighting design, and engineering communities. The scholarship intends to make one award each year until 2023. However, in order to maintain that commitment, fundraising efforts are ongoing.

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