The natural light from the oculus in the Pantheon adds a sense of mystery and importance. We can put this same centuries-old technique to work in our houses today.
Zenithal light is a historic notion that continues to be reinvented in creative ways. A skylight can get a modern twist through simple shapes or bright colors, as in this one in the Kent Modern House, photographed by Michael Biondo.
Beams can turn one large opening into a succession of openings, giving the light source a more approachable scale.
This living-dining area is defined by a succession of small openings. Locating the apertures near a wall gives the light a surface to fall onto, adding another layer of visual interest.
Skylights not only allow light in, but they can provide a visual connection to the exterior — in this case views of branches arcing overhead.
This unexpected skylight allows zenithal light to illuminate the head of the bed during the day and provides a visual portal to the stars at night.
There are two benefits of using overhead natural light in a bathroom: It provides a tranquil ambience, and it provides privacy, whereas a regular window might not.
On an overcast day, a soft wash of zenithal light cascades across the surrounding walls, as in the back of this shower.
Shadows create a dynamic, ever-changing pattern here.
Filtered light suffuses this room, creating a sense of play and mystery as it reflects off walls and pools of water.
Natural light can help define areas of a home. Here a built-in bench is illuminated by a linear skylight directly overhead.
Gradations of light wash over this textured stone wall. Ascending a stair into a luminous zone is a very poetic (some might say heavenly) notion.
Playful shadows can result when architectural elements like these beams slice through a long strip skylight.
Looking up toward the source of zenithal light can be a pleasure, too. The smooth reflection of cascading light here is both soothing and mesmerizing.
Placing a skylight on the upper deck of a roof (previous photo) makes it easy to access if maintenance is needed. Skylights can also offer an interactive experience between an upper deck and the interior below; here they let viewers peer inside.