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Windows, the Eyes of the House

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Poets have described eyes as “windows of the soul”.  Architects describe windows as the “eyes of a house”.  In fact, “windows” descends from the Anglo Saxon, “wind-eyes”.  Manifesting the obvious, architecture has traditionally lavished careful consideration on the arrangement of windows on a house façade.  Nota bene, the word “traditionally”.  The regrettable fact of the matter is that the anti-traditional, aka “modernist” architecture ignores or violates this reality. This ignoring perhaps results from ignorance, both words sharing the same root.  Modernist architects often acknowledge weaponizing windows (see Frank Gehry’s remarks on the design of his own house’s chain link, corrugated steel street front*), a form of deliberate misanthropic malevolence.  Regardless of motive or lack thereof, the end result is a violence against the legibility and aesthetic harmony of the street.
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Windows, the Eyes of the House

Rue Cremieux, Paris. credit: lamourdeparis.com

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The best streets are harmonious aesthetic wholes of traditional architecture whose window placements have been carefully considered and composed.  Traditional streets around the globe share an aesthetic regard for windows, in a multitude of different architectural styles. To prove that these streets are the “best”, one need only follow the tourists.  Tourists swarm the old centers of Paris and Rome to view traditional old buildings with their traditional windows in traditional compositions.  The rings of monotonously modernist apartment buildings surrounding the old city centers, with their boring window rows or crazily misshapen windows, are ignored or avoided.  How people spend their vacation time and vacation dollars speaks volumes, for a man puts his tourist money where his heart is.

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* “The neighbors got really pissed off,” Gehry recalled.
One neighbor from across the street came over and said,
Why did you do this to our neighborhood?‘”
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Of a window’s fine lines, see Milton Grenfell’s Muntins article.
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Featured image, “Piazza Navona, Rome“, Kirk Fisher.

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