Thursday, July 7, 2011

Window pleasures, window design patterns

"But it is just this refinement, down to the last foot, even to the last inch or two, which makes an immense difference. " - see Pattern 221 at the end of this post.

I first mentioned this teardown in May. This is one of my very favorite construction projects. It's not an intellectual thing, but I might eventually find words to explain it.

It's by Rutledge Alcock Architects, Decatur, Georgia.

I talked with principal Andy Rutledge today. Andy says there is a lot more goodness yet to come. He's keeping a special eye on it as well he should. It's in a prominent place on one of Atlanta's great streets. It can only be seen in context with it's neighbors. There is no hiding, no separation as there might be on an estate lot. This is Morningside.

Oh those windows: the Auburn "School" filters Lutyens. My architect friend Carl Bridgers told me that is it doesn't feel good during construction, it probably won't feel good when it's completed. This is feeling good right now.



Have a look now. Window pane heaven.

The driveway facade faces north-northeast. The light will be indirect and diffuse reducing shadows and glare. Recesses and bump outs will maximize light in the interior. There are plenty of niches and bumps on the south side too.


Now that I've done a mind-meld with A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein, these come to mind:

When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.


A street without windows is blind and frightening. And it is equally uncomfortable to be in a house which bounds a public street with no window at all on the street.

Rooms without a view are prisons for the people who have to stay in them.

One of a window's most important functions is to put you in touch with the outdoors. If the sill is too high, it cuts you off.

When plate glass windows became possible, people thought that they would put us more directly in touch with nature. In fact, they do the opposite.
They alienate us from the view. The smaller the windows are, and the smaller the panes are, the more intensely windows help connect us with what is on the other side. This is an important paradox...
This one is quite challenging in our value engineering environment---
Finding the right position for a window or a door is a subtle matter. But there are very few ways of building which take this into consideration.
In our current ways of building, the delicacy of placing a window or a door has nearly vanished. But it is just this refinement, down to the last foot, even to the last inch or two, which makes an immense difference. Windows and doors which are just right are always like this. Find a beautiful window. Study it. See how different it would be if its dimensions varied a few inches in either direction.
I'm really enjoying this one.


  1. Windows! Love them - the more you have the better. Reading through your list from A Pattern Language makes me realize what a great job Brad Heppner did on my house - all of the above apply. I think low sills make a huge difference and having light on two sides of a room. My house is filled with light and it's a very happy place to live.
    Great post!

  2. Yes Helen, I think our eye and brain recognizes window goodness without knowing why.

  3. Going to get the book! It sounds like it belongs on in the home of all good Architectural Tourists.

  4. Sounds like an interesting book will have to check it out. I loved multi paned windows on the house, always drawn to those types of windows. It is amazing to me how so many people do not get the scale and necessity of it/importance in terms of length of windows in proportion to the facade of the house, which is where low window sills come into play. There is nothing ugliger (and I see it all the time) where you see two rows of windows both too short and there is this huge gap of stone/brick or wood in between and the proportion just kills the house and no matter wahts done from that point forward it will never ever redeem the asthetic of the house. Thanks for sharing, look forward to seeing more!

  5. Windows are a very important element that cannot be over emphasized. And the concepts of framing a view and giving scale with panes are always worth mentioning.

  6. This looks like it'll be a worthy successor to the previous home. It really seems to take advantage of its long, narrow lot!

  7. Why was the previous house torn down? It didn't look like it was in bad shape. Sad.

  8. Terry, I just can't get past all of the grids on the windows. Why? I ask myself. There is a green house here in town that built a whole interior wall out of old windows. It is priceless. I'll see if I can dig up a photograph of it for you.

  9. That is probably going to be the most eye-catching house on that street once the project is done. It looks very spacious inside. Have you decided what type of window to apply? The idea of putting up two lights on the sides of the room is great!


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