Henry Plummer

Henry Plummer is an architectural academic who has devoted his career to the research of daylight in architecture. Through extensive critiques and photographic investigations, he provides a thoughtful and evocative assessment of countless buildings through history. He received his MArch from MIT, studied light-art with artist, photographer, educator and art theorist György Kepes, and was a photographic apprentice to Minor White.

During 2005-2006 Henry Plummer was an Associate at the Department of Architecture at the Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His project included research and writing of a new book entitled 'Masters of Light. Second Volume: Contemporary Experiments'. A twofold work of theory and photography, this book explores how natural light is currently being used as a creative medium in architecture, and manifests new ideas on the art and science of light that define our modern world.

Henry Plummer has published numerous remarkable books revealing the transformative power of daylight in architecture with notable publications including the early contributions to the Japanese journal ‘Architecture + Urbanism’, such as “The Poetics of Light” (1987), “Light in Japanese Architecture” (1995) and “Masters of Light” (2003). The latter is an extensive (420 page) catalogue of over 50 twentieth century architectural masterpieces and provides the first comprehensive and compiled analysis of daylight in projects by architects ranging from Aalto to Wright. This work was followed by books including “The Architecture of Natural Light” (2009), “Stillness and Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture” (2009), “Nordic Light: Modern Scandinavian Architecture” (2012) and “Cosmos of Light: The Sacred Architecture of Le Corbusier” (2013).


Henry Plummer’s unique approach to revealing the transformative, metaphysical qualities of daylight is to combine his power of narrative analysis, with his outstanding skill as an architectural photographer. In this way, his extensive body of work has inspired generations of architects to reveal and rejoice the experiential aspects of daylight in architecture.
Plummer emphasises the role of these two forms of media: “Words examine ideas and thoughts, observations and analysis about light, while images present the phenomena themselves. It is with this in mind that the photographs are intended not as textual illustrations, but rather to form their own mode of enquiry, one that tries to carefully examine the metaphysical aspects of architecture whose significance lies, to a large extent, beyond the domain of words.”

As is evident from this output, Plummer is unique in having studied and photographed architectural light in varying cultural, climatic and geographic contexts. This cross-cultural engagement ranges from the role of light in Japanese architecture – complimenting Tanizaki’s classic book ”In Praise of Shadows” – to its significance in Nordic and Shaker architecture. In addition, he has succeeded in emphasising and mediating multi-sensory experiences – evident from his recent book ”The Experience of Architecture” (2016) – in his images and writings, especially the interplay of silence and light. Plummer’s studies catch the ephemeral, spiritual and metaphysical phenomenon of light for future generations.

In summary, Henry Plummer´s research is characterized by the humanistic, artistic, analytical and metaphysical. The depth and quality of his analysis is based on rigorous studies, embracing experiential and phenomenological as well as intuitive and artistic attitudes towards investigations of daylight. His photography is exceptional and his writing has brought a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the quality of light to the academy and the profession.

His words and photographs are an inspiration to the study and practice of architecture.


Photo by Henry Plummer, The Daylight Award 2020 Laureate, Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, by Le Corbusier
Photo by Henry Plummer, The Daylight Award 2020 Laureate, Mission San Francisco dE Asís, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, US
Bourges Cathedral, France
Monastery of Sainte Marie de la Tourette, Eveux sur l’Arbresle, France by Le Corbusier
Kimbell Art Museum, Ft Worth, Texas, USA by Louis Kahn
Tuskegee Chapel, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama, USA by Paul Rudoph
Santa Maria Church, Marco de Canavezes, Portugal by Alvaro Siza
Photo by Henry Plummer, The Daylight Award 2020 Laureate, Church of Light, Ibaraki, Japan by Tadao Ando
Photo by Henry Plummer, The Daylight Award 2020 Laureate, Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, Kentucky, US
Le Thoronet Abbey, France
Catholic Church, Den Haag, Netherlands by Aldo van Eyck
Mannisto Church, Kuopio, Finland by Juha Leiviska
Thermal Baths, Vals, Switzerland by Peter Zumthor

The Daylight Award 2020 Laureates


Read and download the booklet about Juha Leiviskä, Russell Foster and Henry Plummer, including the introduction to the inspirational documentaries.

Download the press release videos and photos