History of a Window
What’s a house without windows? It seems impossible to imagine. For centuries, the window has been an integral architectural element in our homes, our buildings and our community centers. Without them, we’d be starved for sunlight, clamoring for the feeling openness and desperate to see and feel the beauty of our outside world. For centuries, the inclusion of windows has blessed our dwellings, but where did it all begin?
The purpose of a window is simply for the admission of light and air, but for designers and builders, window additions are opportunities for architectural creativity. Over the centuries, architects have discovered new ways to play with window designs from their opening sizes, construction materials, sash patterns and shapes. This makes windows one of the most expressive features of a building.
Where Windows Began
But before modern thought and the conveniences of our new-age tools, ancient windows spurned as an afterthought to doors. We know this from the early wall paintings remnant of ancient Egypt, depicting openings in the walls of homes covered with a protective matting, like the doors themselves. These wall paintings coincided with the development of enclosed houses, and so the natural creation of windows around this time makes sense.
We can confirm with certainty that the window appeared in Roman imperial times, introducing its new form as the glazed window. Expert historians surmise that the baths of Rome were enclosed by glass windows in order to retain the heat. This divides one vast area into smaller subsections, each with its own pane of glass. Evidence shows that these glazed windows and the materials used to construct them were impressive in their own right during the Roman times.
Beyond Functional: An Expertise of Design
For Christian and Byzantine architecture, windows became an obsession. Churches were outfitted with numerous glazed windows, filled with marble frames and smooth panes of glass. Mosques used faithful to Byzantine techniques, changed out cement for marble in their frames, allowing Islamic architects to explore the use of vibrant colors in their glass.
As far as stained glass was concerned, the technique wouldn’t reach its peak of mastery until the 12th and 13th centuries, seen in buildings across western and northern Europe. European glaziers used strips of lead, called cames, to separate the various colors of glass instead of marble or cement.
The malleability of the cames allowed glaziers to mold them into any pattern desired, ushering in an era of incomparable, awe-inspiring architectural design. Gothic cathedrals, already astonishing in their structures, now were fitted with windows depicting haunting biblical scenes and images created purely from glass. The introduction of stone mullions, thin vertical supports that divided glazed areas and tracery systems in 1250 allowed architects the ability to widen windows. This makes their stage of artistry larger and even more impressive.
The shape of the window was in part, a trend which served as reflection of the time and place. The Romans, partial to symmetry that produced eye-catchingly clean buildings and structures with airs of grandeur, demanded no less from their windows. These square-headed windows were practical, segmented, and organized, a mark of the Roman way. Arch-shaped windows were the eloquent finishes of the Byzantine period, cropping up in Islamic and medieval European architecture.
Glass reached a stage of cost-effectiveness in the late Middle Ages. It allows windows to become a ubiquitous feature in domestic dwellings and not a privilege saved for important community and governmental buildings. Rich folks and commoners alike enjoyed the luxury of natural light, a fresh breeze and inclusion to the outside world with the cheapness of glass paired with newly developed fixed glazed sash.
The 15th century saw an uprising in popularity of solid shutters, replacing the hinged glazed sashes. With this came the standardization of rectangular openings in buildings, either to outfit them with framed casements or easily manufactured shutters. Speaking of casements, the French put their own touch in creating a large casement window during the Renaissance, still called the French window.
During this time in Italy and France, window openings trended towards classical proportions, divided by the simplicity of a single mullion and a single transom.
Architects and designers grew increasingly creative in the mechanics of the window. Iron railings and stone balustrades were added for safety the outside of windows. In 17th-century England, double-hung windows were developed and soon took over as the standard along with vertical sliding sash windows. This makes their way over to the United States by the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Modern Window
For the modern homeowner, replacing windows and getting new windows is made easy thanks to the centuries of standardization, experimentation of design and streamlined manufacturing process for window materials. Older, historic homes might demand special treatment, but homeowners can install and replace windows with ease by contacting a reputable window company.
Today, wood, fiberglass, and vinyl are the materials we’ve landed on as most effective in window construction. Wood, is perhaps, the oldest material that we still utilize in today’s construction. Its natural look has allowed it to retain its popularity across centuries, but its durability and insulation has made it a choice material for windows no matter what age. Vinyl, having sky-rocketed to popular use in the 1970s, is cost-effective and proven in efficiency and insulation. Fiberglass, relatively new to the market, is considerably expensive, but demonstrates superior aesthetics, durability, low-maintenance management while holding its integrity in extreme temperatures.
Energy efficiency has become the name of the game in windows, an objective shared between businesses and residences in an effort to reduce costs and lower energy waste. Gas-filled, Energy Star certified and Low-E glass window options are among the top considerations in modern windows. Thinking back on where it all began with the history of a window – an opening similar to that of a door, covered by matting – this energy-saving technology is truly remarkable.
For homeowners, there are nine distinct styles of windows to choose from:
The style of window will also affect how well it insulates. A double-pane glass window will insulate nearly twice as well as its single-pane counterpart. A triple-pane glass window will maximize energy efficiency.
New windows will reflect harmful UV light, protecting your home’s materials from fading, and insulating your home during summer and winter months. Newer windows will also stave off potential water damage by resisting condensation.
Aside from a few customized windows or windows in special shapes like circular windows, most windows are standardized in their size and shape. For building construction, this makes windows not the costliest feature on the project. Instead of special ordering, homeowners can turn to manufacturers with standard sizes and shapes, having new windows installed either by themselves or by professionals in no time at all.
As we’re sure you’re well aware, new windows aren’t always affordable. Thankfully, many reputable window companies offer financing to help pay for the windows. You’ll want to make sure you have a decent credit score to ensure that. You can also use a personal credit card to earn points (assuming your credit limit is high enough).
After centuries of trends, toying with designs, experimenting with features and trying material after material, it seems like it was leading us to highly energy-efficient, sleekly modern-yet-classic designs that are cost-effective for every homeowner. We’ve come a long way with windows, but today, we’ve managed to finally reach the perfect point of balance between functionality and design.