Courtesy of Kalina Mladenova

Yale undergraduate students organized an architectural conference — “Light as Material” — which featured renowned architects from the East Coast and abroad.

The conference took place on March 29 and 30 in the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media and the Yale School of Architecture’s Hastings Hall. The conference featured skill-based workshops as well as lecture-style events led by impressive architects based in New York and Paris. Speakers included B. Alex Miller, Markus Fuerderer, Jenny Ivansson and Marine Rouit-Leduc.

“It’s material exploration,” said organizer of the conference Kaia Mladenova ’24. “Especially for the architects that are participating, [she hopes they learn to] find ways to illuminate their projects in a better way. Or someone who is not art-involved at all to have some fun and have some hands-on experience.”

Rouit-Leduc facilitated the conference and workshop. She is the founder of Meaningful, a Paris-based design consulting studio and creative lab. Her work with the company has garnered multiple awards, including the Bourse Agora pour la recherche, or Agora Research Grant, and the Mondes nouveaux, or New Worlds Award. 

Rouit-Leduc has experience leading various workshops and lectures and teaching at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, ENSCI-Les Ateliers and other prestigious institutions.

The conference at the University, specifically, was inspired by Rouit-Leduc’s collaborator and intern Mladenova.

Mladenova is an engineering and art student at Yale. She has a passion for exploring the intersections between creativity and STEM but felt that there were limited opportunities at Yale for her to express these interests.

“I definitely think one thing that I’m missing from my curriculum is that intersection between creativity and science,” Mladenova said. “But I do think there are opportunities throughout the semester where you can use both.”

The workshop portion of the conference allowed students to gain tangible experience in an emerging form of architecture and engineering that examines the nuances in the use of light. Participants designed a prototype object inspired by a particular word, such as “fragile,” “soft” or “energetic.” 

The conference was open to all Yale students who were interested, regardless of skill level or major.

“What is difficult in this kind of workshop is that I don’t know what to expect from the level of knowledge of the students. It’s really a divergent view,” Rouit-Leduc said. 

Participants in the conference ranged from experienced graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture to undergraduates at Yale College hoping to explore new avenues of interest. Those who attended the conference received tools and connections that will help them on their design journeys.

“I learned how to solder wires for the first time,” said conference attendee Tian Hsu ’26. “But more importantly, I learned a lot about the human perception of color and light — how different hues will make us concentrate better or how different shades can make us feel. Color is subjective and makes people feel different ways.”

The conference culminated with a project presentation in front of a jury. The presentation aspect of the workshop was intentionally used to motivate participants to think critically and try their best, as their work would be reviewed and critiqued by a panel of judges. 

Judges of the presentation included light architects, designers, engineers and other members of the Yale faculty.

Luciana Varkevisser covers theater and performances. She is a freshman in Saybrook College planning on majoring in history and psychology.