There is an intense sense of wonder that can be found when staring up into the sky. Whether watching for shooting stars or imagining the shapes of clouds, the mystery and majesty of the open sky is hard to capture. More and more spaces are incorporating open to the sky architecture, creating skylights or transparent ceilings to public, commercial, and residential spaces in order to allow the daylight and spectacle of the night sky to decorate and accentuate the space.

Santiago Calatrava's Oculus, New York

First opened on the 15th anniversary of the devastating events of 9/11, the skylights at Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus at the World Trade Center allow light to fill the massive space, in memoriam of the attacks on the twin towers. The design was intricately calculated in order to allow a beam of light to pass through the opening of the roof and project across the full length of the Oculus floor, occuring at 10:28am precisely every September 11th (the time of the collapse of the North Tower).

The Oculus in New York creates a beam of light in memory of the September 11th attacks. Image source

The position of the Oculus is such that it is in contrast to the neighbouring buildings, and even the entire grid of the city. This allows the light to shine directly overhead, and for the sun to move across its axis exactly on September 11th each year.

Pinecone-shaped treehouse, Dolomites

A pine-cone-shaped treehouse seems like the perfect place to feature skylights that open its guests up to the sky. Designed by architect Claudio Beltrame, this treehouse in the Italian Alps allows the occupant to gaze up into the night sky as they sleep like a squirrel in a tree.

Architect Claudio Beltrame was inspired by growing ecotourism to create a retreat in the heart of nature. Image source 

Inspired to create the treehouse in response to the growing popularity of ecotourism and retreats, this unique guesthouse is located in the town of Ugovizza in the Dolomites, and is let out to visiting tourists.

"Shelter in a tree has always been the best place to dream," said Beltrame. "[They're] man's primitive place and a place of liberty and reflection."

All the wood is sourced from the Alpe-Adria area, and the house is arranged over three levels, with 360 degree windows on the ground floor providing views out over the mountains.

Guest can stare up at the night sky as they sleep nestled in nature. Image source

Edwardian home, North London

Not all open to the sky architecture needs to be on such a monumental scale, and a creative use of transparent materials can help to bring light into any residential space, no matter their size. Mulroy Architects has added a glazed extension to this house in North London, which features interiors and bespoke oak joinery by local studio Manea Kella.

Open sky architecture can add a feeling of space and light in smaller properties. Image source

Space is at a premium in costly and compact cities such as London, and the architecture studio made the most of what was available by opening up the ground floor of this Edwardian home with an extension. A glass roof was integrated over the combined kitchen and dining area to allow natural light to flood the space.

One of the walls of the house was removed and replaced with a stock brick cavity wall and joined to the rest of the house by a sliver of glazing, and directly outside the glass passageway, a raised flowerbed acts as decoration for the house, adding greenery to the kitchen space without taking up any space.

Iceland competition series

Iceland has a vast, wild landscape, with some of the most unique and incredible natural views in the world. Appropriately known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland’s volcanic fields blend seamlessly into gigantic glaciers and tumbling waterfalls. Iceland is also an ideal location to view the iconic Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.

Explore our Iceland architecture competition series and dream up new and exciting ways in which architecture can enhance the Iceland experience.

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