Archives de Catégorie: Articles

In Praise of Shadows and dark toilets.

Dear friends and family;

I have some news. We would normally think that the organ responsible for the perception of light is the eye. Well it’s not. It is the brain.

James Turrell


Chiaroscuro and the absence of light.

Dear friends and family,

Long long ago when I was still a displaced first year student in this completely different world called Virginia, I had to take a series of required classes in order to pursue my journey of becoming an architect. One of them was Architecture 102, the mythical Lessons in Making class historically taught by Professor Sanda Iliescu. In brief, that class was a series of ten assignments supposed to teach us something about architecture; a mysterious subject for all of us first years.

One of them changed forever my achitectural perspective and perception. It was assignment 7, the Chiaroscuro chambers. At first, the project brief seemed rather odd for me: we were asked to design and build a small, enclosed box out of cardboard. This box had to have a series of small apertures in order to let light in. We also had to make apertures for our eyes, so we could see what would be happening inside. It was basically an exercise in creating thoughtful, quality lighting.

Concept Drawing of the Chiaroscuro Chamber by Victor Hugo Azevedo

concept drawing by Victor Hugo Azevedo

So we were first asked to make some concept drawings of how these chambers would look like. I was very much interested in creating a mysterious source of light that would reveal interesting internal surfaces.

This assignment has been very inspirational for me ever since. I became fond of chiaroscuro-like rooms; drawings and photographs. The chiaroscuro has a paradoxical character. The darkness makes everything look mysterious and unknown and the different sources of light makes us aware of what is inside. It hides and reveal at the same time. But it is a special kind of revealing. It’s a didactic revealing. It makes you see more carefully and analyse the space since it’s not shown with clarity.

I started to explore this character with photography; one of my many passions. I am always looking for these chiaroscuro moments in everyday life like in the picture I took below:

Victor Hugo de souza azevedo Self portrait: Chiaroscuro in everyday life.


I have the habit of carrying my camera with me everywhere I go. Last december I took the self portrait above. I was having a late afternoon meal in a bistro called « revolutionary soup »

Chiaroscuro in Caravaggio’s Painting

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Psychrometric Charts: A Guide For Beginners

Dear friends and family,

Today I want to talk about something really useful for all architects; a graphic system called the Psychrometric Charts. Let us first take a closer look on the term Psychrometric.  When I first came across it, in the beginning of this semester I just assumed it had something to do with psychology, or the state of mind. I was completely wrong, [even the though the prefix psychro does look like psycho…]The word is formed by the adaptations of the words psychro  and metric, that means « cold » and « measurement ».

The most important information a psychrometric is something called the thermal comfort zone of a building. But let’s see how it works:

Psychrometric Chart at sea level


In the image above we can see that a pasychrometric chart shows the relationship between humidity (in the vertical axis) and Dry Bulb Temperature (Horizontal Axis). A certain combination of these two variables will create a thermal comfort zone for a specific kind of weather.

The Culture of Indoors

Dear friends and family and pets,

We generally take the systems that surrounds us for granted. Ask yourself, what is an air conditioner? The answer would be rather childish: « It is a magical machine that can turn any room into a fridge » ; « it’s a winter maker. » But do we really know what an air conditioner or heater does? Well, as rising architects, we definitely should.

Let’s first think about the culture of living indoors. Our bodies evolved and became adapted to the external weather variations. But around seven generations ago, we the human kind became fond of  living in constructed shelters, the buildings that we build, that are nothing more than a re-interpretation of the cave we once have inhabited. In class we talked about the ways humans used to control and create new indoor temperature. In medieval times we would just make a fire in the middle of the room. Then, we actually created a little enclosure were the fire would be lit: the fireplace.

English House Engraving

In the image above we can see various niches on the wall’s thicknesses: this is where the fireplaces are placed. We can always notice that almost every single room in that building in particular has a fireplace. This is due to the human nature of wanting to control indoor temperature.

We evolved and technology evolved and the human being created something called a boiler, which is nothing more than a steam generator. It is a device that creates steam by adding heat energy into water. It basically heats water and makes that heated water circulate through a building by pipes.

Diagram of Central Heating

The diagram above above shows us roughly how a boiler works. There is the actual boiler (in black) that is often hidden down below in a dark basement or outdoors. and it heats up the house

Air conditioners, on the other hand, it’s a device that moves heat out of a room. It sucks. I mean, it sucks the heat out of the room, and dumps it somewhere else, outdoors. In between that process the air goes through a refrigerating mechanism. This mechanism manipulates the pressure and the consequently the boiling temperature. Let’s take a closer look at the refrigeration machine:  There are two basically two kinds of coils joined by a bulky, heavy compressor and an expansion valve. The evaporater coil transforms a cold liquid into a cold gas. Then you compress it. Then the cold gas become a high pressure gas that becomes a high pressure liquid in a condenser coil. This liquid goes through an expansion valve and the process restarts. It is a closed loop.

Airconditioner Diagram

The thing that needs so much energy is the compressor. That is why your energy bill is so high. This is why the energy bill back at my hometown of Manaus is so high. This brazilian city and many others  are really air conditioner dependent.

Strategies for cooling

Air conditioners, though are not the only forms of cooling a space; dry and hot weathers shoud taker advantage of a process called « evaporative cooling ». Below is a diagram of a Evaporative cooler. Evaporative cooling takes advantage of the water great enthalpy of vaporization. The temperature of hot dry air can be diminished significantly when the phase of water goes from liquid to vapor. This is because vapor requires much less energy.

Evaporative cooler diagram

Another system takes advantage of the peak loads during the course of a day. It is a strategy of not using energyduring the peak load.  You run a refrigeration during the night and it creates something like a big block of ice. This block of ice will be used to cool the building during the day. That way it won’t be necessary to run a compressor during the day when everybody else is doing the same. This concept really struck me during the lecture, I have never though about that before.

Peak loads during the course of a day in Germany.



Apartment for a Visiting Professor

Last system’s class session we were talking about ways to ventilate a building through design. So now I’d like to share my first studio project this semester and show the ways I found to deal with that issue.

In the beginning of this fall semester we were asked to design a small apartment for a visiting professor on the campus of the University of Virginia.  Our potential client was the department of religious study, so we were asked to incorporate a small, non-denominational chapel in the program. The building would be sited somewhere next to the department of reliogious study main Building; Gibson Hall, on the newly-built South Lawn Development project.

Apartment for Mr. And Mrs. Visiting Professors

In this project I was very much interesting in providing the maximum level of comfort to its users, by incorporating some key design elements. I had long conversations with my Studio intructor Michael Petrus on ways this thin glass tube would work best, insulation-wise. The following sectional renderings reveals some of the mechanisms we came up with:

Sectional Rendering of the Building and Immediate context

I believe the most compelling thing is a section that looks closer on the main building structure itself:

Close-up Section; Design by Victor Hugo Azevedo

In the image above, it is noticeable the way I treated the rooftop. I was interested in creating a in-between zone, so that the sun radiation would not touch the building envelope directly. A similar thing happens vertically on the walls; I was trying to avoid creating direct thermal bridges. Every window is composed of two panels of glass in order to create that same air in-between zone. The interior of this building is never directly touching the exterior world. Besides that, I also created a system of movable wood panels in the exterior of the building in order to purposefully block the sunlight. Every window panel is also movable  so there is the potential of opening up the building and access the implied porch that is created between the wood panels and the glass.

(re)Interpreting the Vernacular: Jean Prouve’s Maison Tropicale

French architect Jeam Prouve has something to tell us.

Images of an interconnected world. am a subscriber of a design blog called « inhabitat » (link on top of this article) and this week they featured this series of very compelling sattelite images depicting the various network systems on our planet. It gives us an idea of how our world is organized; where the most influential, populated, industrial areas are and so forth.