Bring in light, and some style

The shape and size of the windows can totally transform the look of a building. By Nandhini Sundar

It is a part of the structure that is taken for granted, yet it proves to be the soul of the space, its absence leaving the space in darkness, literally dead. We are talking about the ubiquitous element, windows, sans which any enclosed space ceases to be habitable. An element that can totally transform not just the language of the space but also the energy it effuses, making it workable, liveable.

Interestingly, many a time windows are used not just to serve their functional purpose but as an aesthetic component of the space, be it as a connect to the exterior landscape or as a unique façade element. This has been so not merely in contemporary buildings, but in structures of the past too that date back a few centuries.

The earliest expression of windows dates back to 13th century BC where they prevailed merely as openings to permit light. Over the decades these were covered in cloth, animal hide, wood which was thence followed with the introduction of openable shutters. It was Rome that first witnessed the use of glazed windows. The large windows that prevailed in the Baths of Rome had bronze frames that enclosed smaller segments of glass panes.

Use of stained glass in windows, which gave a unique beauty to the space, came about in western and northern Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, spreading its presence to other regions eventually. Some of the Gothic cathedral windows are renowned for their exquisite pictorials. While the Baroque period witnessed ornamented windows, the French windows, which are a universal phenomenon in contemporary buildings, came about as large casement windows during the latter half of the Renaissance.

The Indian scene

The Indian subcontinent has not been far behind when it comes to windows and their due place in its spectacular architecture. One has to merely peep into some of the buildings of Rajasthan and Mughal architecture to find the stunning Jharokhas, which are essentially stone windows that served as sightseeing platforms, especially for women in purdah. The Jharokhas of Rajasthan also brought in character to the façade besides serving as a defence element if the situation called for.

The ornamental jaalis or latticed screens seen both in Mughal and Rajasthan architecture, besides ushering in beauty, also had a functional element of cutting the harsh summer light and heat while permitting cool air into the interiors. The patterns used were floral, geometric and were intricate in detailing, where beauty was given equal importance as functionality.

Traditional houses in Kashmir likewise reveal multiple windows and wooden balconies on their façade, where windows permit not just more light and ventilation, but also serve as an adornment for the building. These windows in most buildings face south to absorb more sunlight, unlike in the rest of the subcontinent where latticed screens prevail to cut the heat ingress.

External connect

Cut to the contemporary scene and the manifestations of windows are multiple, yet a factor that stands out is the use of windows to bring in a seamless connect between the interiors and exterior landscape. This is especially so with the presence of greens in the interiors increasingly sought in contemporary buildings.

Even in the absence of a sprawling landscape to connect to, given the space constraint in the interiors, contemporary buildings are increasingly using expansive windows where the exterior space is visually borrowed into the interiors to lend a feel of expanse.

For instance, a triple-storeyed structure in a tight 30×40 site does not have much scope to incorporate a lush garden within its boundaries. Yet, if surrounded by a thickset of trees, the same structure, with the right placement of windows, can appear expansive, free flowing and structured amidst greens. Here, the windows need not necessarily be only the conventional type, but can serve as large incisions on the walls, closer to the ceiling too to permit visual connect to the trees outside. A step-out balcony on the side where the trees prevail can usher in the feel of greens into the interiors.

Opting for an expanse of windows in place of the wall on the side of the trees can connect to the greens effortlessly. Bay windows are again a fine option, especially in smaller spaces, where they offer the function of windows while the window sill becomes a fine seating element that opens on to a green exterior.

Windows are perhaps the best picture frames for a space, especially if the scene they are opening on to is picturesque. Placing picture frame windows on all the walls of a living area can serve as the natural art of the space. Similar picture frame window can be placed over the cot in the bedroom, dispensing with the customary wall art. However, the orientation of the windows needs to be addressed as windows opening on to the western sun, especially when placed over a bed, can prove to be disastrous.

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