Sunlight is the fundamental driver of Earth’s ecology, energy, and economy. Heliomorphism – the explicit entanglement of solar energy and form – has recently re-entered design discourse as a clear link between thermodynamics and ecological performance in the built environment.
Ralph Knowles first proposed the solar envelope as a novel regulatory mechanism, designing buildable volumes with the sun’s rhythms to ensure access to light, air, and energy in future urban environments. Since cities’ energetic performance relies on the coordination of localized impacts across complex, uneven systems, the solar envelope o ers the critical advantage of being necessarily collective.
Situated between the complex foundations of zoning practices on one end, and contemporary design heuristics on the other, Solar Frameworks proposes a solar envelope as a generative tool for a counterfactual reconception of collective urban form in Chicago. Heliomorphism is a fundamentally ecological paradigm: regulating energetics through collective form exposes the cultural entanglement of architecture, socioeconomic structures, technological ‘progress’, and public space.
Christopher Reznich independent thesis completed at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, advised by Charles Waldheim with support from the Office for Urbanization.