European Architecture Design Element – Windows

European Architecture Design Element – Windows

Window generally refers to the opening in the wall or a building for the admission of light and air as well as for the purposes of architectural decoration. Windows in different ages presented different characteristics especially in terms of functions and materials. In addition to the normal ventilation function, the windows also bear the protection function and aesthetic function of the overall appearance of the building. Even its light transmission function is considered in the religious field. Throughout each period, windows reflected the psychology, sociology, and economic thinking of the society to a great extent. The style of the window can be roughly divided into: ancient Greek style, ancient Roman style, Baroque style, Gothic style, Byzantine style, Renaissance style, classical style, neoclassical style.


Houses in the ancient Greek time were generally very simple. The main building material of the ancient Greek-style buildings was stone. Due to material restrictions, many ancient Greek buildings, consisting of four walls and a roof, are quaint and simple, with doors to the street, but no windows.


Ancient Rome architecture was an extension of ancient Greek architecture. It continued the ancient Greek architectural style and materials, and developed a unique decorative carving art. The windows of ancient Rome are simple and elegant, adopting a uniform and symmetrical form to match the overall architectural appearance.


Baroque windows are very elegant and lively and have various shapes. Most of them are slender and center symmetrical sash windows. They are often decorated with a segmental, pointed or square pediment with delicate cartouches and consoles. Human figures, animals or plants figures are also greatly used as decorations. Openings are filled with transparent glass subdivided by frames into many small lattices. There are also square or round windows without any extravagant decorated, simple and neat. Below the window, there is often a small arc-shaped or calyx-shaped balcony decorated with beautiful balustrades or cast-iron railings with spiral curves.


Gothic-style buildings value height, intricacy and sizable windows. Windows are generally tall and large, and they structurally bare some function of the wall. Decorated with s-shape curve, floral sculptures, stone window tracery, they are known to be flamboyant and delicate. Stained glass technology obtained from Arab countries was also applied to showcase colourful religious stories. Stained glass is mainly red and blue symbolizing the blood of Christ and heaven respectively. According to the geometry, the kaleidoscope windows can be classified into tall and arched “lancet windows” and round “rose windows”.


It is well known that Byzantine building craftsmanship and technology is largely based on patterns found in Roman architecture, through which it also inherited other building and construction patterns dating back to even more ancient times. Byzantine windows are generally with pointed arched and usually appear in pairs, or in groups of three. Some of the pointed arches are also adorned with round clerestory windows with some simple decoration and pilasters. In some grandiose church buildings and cathedrals, the bottom of the dome is usually closely lined with dozens of lighting-windows, which not only guarantee the natural light, but also form a psychedelic religious atmosphere creating a wonderful feeling.


The Renaissance windows favoured square and semi-circular arches more than pointed arches. The windows are normally central symmetrical and divided into many small grids. Square windows look relatively neat, decorated with some simple lines around it. Sometimes there are human statues forming in groups on the both sides. Segmental arched windows are more decorative than square windows. Supported by circular pillars and pilasters engraved with flora and scroll ornaments on both sides, this kind of windows also have statues of people on the arch. Some windows are strictly confined to rectangular spaces and the window frames of the building are delicate and exquisite.


Classical architecture emphasizes the beauty of proportions, geometric composition and symmetry. Conciseness, integration, and unification, these characteristics are also reflected in classic-style windows. The classic-style window adhering to the principle of symmetry and harmony of classicism and are often divided into many small grids. They are generally rectangular or arched with diverse ornaments. Some are neat and simple; some are intricate and complex. The upper sill of the window, the frame and the feet, normally go with straight lines rather than curves which can be seen at various corners adorned with decorative sculptures, mountain flowers and scroll patterns.


The windows of the neo-classical building are simplified, encompassing classical architectural elements and concepts. The pediment, flora ornaments, decorative curves and the sculptures vividly reflected the elegance and exquisiteness of neo-classical architecture.


2013.European Architectural Materials Vol.1. 1st ed. Huazhong University of Science & Technology Press Co., Ltd.

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