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Window to the


Since the dawn of civilization, architectural design has as actively impacted our sense of self-awareness as it has our environment. No matter what form, the buildings we create in turn create a statement of ourselves, from overwhelming and complex to simple and inviting. Historically, our expression of space has often come in the form of sequential separation— from one room to the next, space is divided according to planned purposes.

When we examine our past, we often witness that these structures share a very common ancestor: the multi-level rectangle, much like a layered wedding cake. Such buildings express a strong sense of horizontality; a single-story level is often repeated over and over again, on top of itself. To divvy up light into these structural cubicles, single-level windows are often stamped into exterior walls like a ritualistic methodology. The example shown here is an office building, which has the specific intention of assigning the employees’ allotment of space like a utilitarian regime.

Buildings such as these leave very little to the imagination and do not apply a ‘holistic’ approach to design. When the principles of comitas, firmitas and venustas (commodity, firmness and delight) are not applied to architecture, the result is a building which has been designed with minimal care in mind. If the building is neither inspiring nor worth caring about, what feelings will be generated by people while inside? More importantly, they suggest that there is no relationship and subsequently no harmony between the inside and outside, where in fact there ought to be. This relationship is essential to the livelihood of humanity: the purpose of a building is to shelter us from the elements while enhancing our relationship with the existing environment.

I would like to highlight buildings which have been designed to both enhance this relationship between indoors and out while concurrently utilizing available natural light to carry life from the outside inward. The creative ways in which these windows are placed into the design in fact express that natural light itself has its own momentum—expressing flow and life—which is essential to the public realm where people interact together.

Size Matters At left, a 19th century building shows a typical entrance with a modest transom window around the doors. The weight of stone surrounding it creates both a literal and figurative heaviness, expressing a daunting approach into the building. The long, dark hallway of the restaurant here, however, is fortressed by large exterior windows which allow light to travel seamlessly from the building’s front all the way to the back.

Old Dogs with Timeless Tricks A similar building of the 19th century brings its windows from floor to ceiling, surpassing human height and allowing light to flood the interior. With subtler lines to box it in, these windows are more like ‘voids,’ creating a sense of continuity inside and out and delivering a desirable balance. The pattern in the metal stair risers enhances this flow from level to level.

Like a paper hole puncher, these square clerestory windows dramatically punch light onto the entire interior wall of this elementary school. Their reflection is just as effective at providing light as the gigantic windows which flank the entire passageway. The size of these windows is effective over an area where several people will come and go at any given time; continuity trumps a need for a cozier scale at intersections such as this.

As the sun travels, lines of light in this library produce pathways throughout the interior. First, reflections bounce off the walls and lead directly into the entrance. At left, a wide clerestory beams light directly onto focal points such as this plant.

Walls of Glass allow light, and subsequently a sense of spatial flow, to reach the deepest interior aisles of the library while maintaining acoustic privacy.

The warmth of the fireplace just under this chimney is enhanced by the bright light on the ceiling of this Boy Scout building, which permeates the entire interior during cloudless mornings like a rising sun over the entrance of a den. At right, a large wall of glass warms two stories of a government services building on a cold winter day. Its floor-to-ceiling seamless transition provokes the feeling that the inside is in fact outside.

two birds, one stone The enclosed walkway along the north side of this clinic provides shelter from blustery winter winds and hot summer sunlight. Running the full height and length of the hall, it delivers the impression of an arcade, as if it had no windows at all. A similar design at left enhances a connection between inside and out, allowing this structure’s negative space to speak more powerfully than the walls around it.

The long way down doesn’t seem so long when light guides footsteps safely to the bottom, where a window strategically prevents descent into the dark basement of this church. At right, light travels from top to bottom through an expansive skylight. A balcony carved from the floor between levels sends light onto the lower level, debunking the idea that the middle of a large building might be the darkest.

In a massive hospital entrance, A round skylight beams light throughout all seven levels. A waterfall feature follows the vertical path down to a pool at the bottom, and various entrances into the building propel specks of three-dimensional light into the center.

Replicating the outdoors In the upper-Midwest’s largest sporting goods store, huge skylights, resting on a white metal roof, imitate the outdoors. An opportunity arises with this implication of a space-within-a-space: a cabin-like structure draws attention inward where merchandise hangs in a very unique setting. Here, similar wood slats rest above a balcony, which nestles into a large swim area. Walkways, clerestories, hotel room windows, and floral features accentuate the feeling that this space is actually outside.

All Photos taken by and Š Ingrid Fullerton 3.2014 VCL Darren Zufelt

Window to the World  

A Photo Essay by Ingrid Fullerton

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