Windows: Light, View, & Air

Windows are too often treated as nothing more than rectangular openings in walls. The window establishes a relationship between inside and outside for a variety of reasons. Windows may be used for light, views or ventilation – and they may developed to deal with these aspects individually or in combination. The size and form of a window also frames the relationship between in inhabitant and the exterior. A small opening may be used to frame a specific view; a horizontal window may relate to the horizon; a vertical one may allow the entire body to feel connected to the exterior. Some windows may be used for nothing but light, placed above eye level.

The placement of the window within the thickness of the wall also has consequences. Windows flush with the surface of the exterior tend to flatten the exterior wall possibly making the wall feel like a membrane. A window set towards the inside of the thickness of the wall helps the mass of the wall to be sensed and hence gives the wall a greater sense of weight. The placement within the wall also has particular effects on the interior.

Conceptually windows can be treated as: punctures in walls, preserving the integrity of the wall surface; cracks or gaps that interrupt wall surfaces; horizontal strips that sever the verticality of wall surfaces; etc.

Reading:

See Constructing Architecture, Materials Processes Structures, ed. Andrea Deplazes, Birkhauser. There is a section on ‘Opening’ (p.200) which includes a discussion of the debate between Le Corbusier and August Perret on the horizontal versus vertical window, plus an outline of window types based on their formal properties (opening as a hole, opening as a horizontal strip, opening as joint, opening as a transparent wall).

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