Sleep, Light, Architecture

thumbnail logo  sleep and the rhythms of life

Sleep, Light, Architecture

Inaugural seminar of the Sleep and the Rhythms of Life Network

Monday 14 November 2022, 4.30pm - 6.00pm

Online and In-person event


This inaugural seminar of the TORCH network “Sleep and the Rhythms of Life” features Russell Foster, Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford and author of Life Time (Penguin, 2022), and Ian Ritchie, the architect who created spectacular buildings such as the Sainsbury Wellcome Center at University College London (pictured on the poster). From different yet connected disciplinary perspectives, Russell Foster and Ian Ritchie cut to the heart of how light impacts sleep and architectural practices.

A drinks reception will follow the talks.

Everybody is welcome. 


Russell Foster, “Body Clocks and Life Time

In the twenty-first century, we increasingly push our daily routines into the night, carrying out work, exercise and our social lives long after dark. But we have forgotten that our bodies are governed by a 24-hour biological clock which guides us towards the best time to sleep, eat and think. New science has proven that living out of sync with this clock is not only disrupting our sleep, but leaving us more vulnerable to infection, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.

In this talk Russell Foster draws on his research into circadian rhythms to reflect on the role of light in governing our health and social functioning.


Ian Ritchie, “Life is the Opium of the Architect and Shadow its Form”

Without light and shadow there is no architecture. The history of architecture can be interpreted as the story of light as its essential material - first by allowing light to penetrate through openings in solid walls then through small openings in the roof. The 1851 Crystal Palace’s envelope became almost entirely transparent. In 1981 building transparency became the metaphor for the political mantra of President Mitterrand when we invented structural glass for the Bioclimatic Facades of the Cité des Sciences in Paris.

Having had a significant influence on the evolution of glass envelopes, and consequently on the global explosion of glass buildings I regularly asked a question: If glass is the answer, what was the question? There seemed to be such a lack of thinking and understanding.

Our experience of the world is predominantly through light, and it conjures the atmospheres of our emotional existence, from the 480nm wavelength in the morning sky that triggers our biorhythm to the romantic and kinetic candle-lit dinner.

What of darkness itself, without which no discourse on light is possible? It brings every other sense we have alive. Our bodies are not simply functioning to allow us to ‘see’.


thumbnail sleep light architecture poster


If you are interested in the Network, please contact Sebastian Klinger (

Find out more about the Sleep and the Rhythms of Life Network here.