sometimes, it can take what seems like forever to write something, or do something for that mater, sometimes the words just don’t appear, and then sometimes they do, sometimes out of other people’s mouths, and about things other than what you were thinking about. sometimes they come out of the ether, and sometimes words just fit. and most of the time, kind of like windows, they need to be tailored to the thing they are there to describe the limits of.
i had written an essay on why i built the windows for our house, and how, but right now it doesn’t seem that relevant. suffice to say the whole design for them went through numerous changes like other parts of the house, and where i ended up, was wanting to use windows that worked sympathetically with the style and design of the building. i looked at a lot of different designs, and, eventually, either i realised something, or i understood that maybe there are reasons for window style and placement beyond aesthetics or utilitarian function. what i wanted to achieve with the choice of glazing design was the addition of grace and elegance, or the addition of more of it.
the glazing needed, very much, to compliment the building, not detract from it, or undermine its aesthetic. in my opinion, to achieve either grace or elegance, you need to have a sense of form and an understanding of proportion and how they both relate.
looking at the size and shape of windows in the early colonial period of american architectural history, specifically the existing stone ender houses of rhode island (the overall design basis for what i’ve built) one thing becomes very apparent, the original windows were tiny.
(Arnold House, Lincoln, Rhode Island, 1693)
more recent windows in the same and similar buildings are larger as glass became cheaper, and window tax repealed. windows become architectural features, more than portals thru which light and air were relayed. in designing a building i think the scaling and layout of windows is crucial. partly because of the way light plays inside the building as much as how openings shape the rest of the form.
small windows seem to cause or require a kind of participation in a way that a large sheet of glass doesn’t. kind of, the difference between looking at a giant landscape painting or a miniature. it requires an effort to look at a view thru a window rather than no effort to be immersed into a landscape that exists only the other side of a huge glass wall. it is also the difference between a place that is private and one that is public. out of each window in our house is a different view, a different story. its like the difference between living in a snug or living in a public library. whilst this is the land of light, its also the land of hiding away from it in the summer, when it is too bright.
the design i chose was a simple side hung casement with half a dozen lights (that’s pane’s to you), an ultra traditional window style, in keeping with the rhode island stone enders,
that was easy to duplicate in numbers. the one thing i will say about the construction process is how imperative it was to try and maintain sequences of construction that allowed me to manufacture in batches.
“batches? we don’t need no stinkin’ batches!” you may say, but i say repeating things accurately is a process you need to do in sequence, and if you have a lot to do its imperative you try and minimize the risk of error or discrepancy between same items.
you have to be as systematic as you can be, and window construction is a good object lesson for this. stairs similarly. making windows needs to be about replicating a clearly defined idea. you could call it a plan. you could call it anything you like so long as you can reproduce it.
maybe in the future i will make the opportunity to manufacture my own glass panes, and reglaze the windows. what i wanted to achieve was what is known as a ‘lively’ look with the glazing, and not the flat dull and lifeless reflection of sheet rolled glass. in the preindustrial age when glass was blown and spun, and panes were much thinner, there was greater colour in the glass and more imperfections, bubbles and flecks, and as a result of age slumping, as glass is always in a partial liquid state. why i would like it glazed this way isn’t nostalgia, or a wish to recreate a historical piece, but because light refracts differently with blown glass, it creates a very different feeling inside and out the building, it imbues the building with something else. spirit.