This first post of our Apertures in the Wall blog highlights the wide range of our subject, in time and geography, by spanning more than 10,000 years of human history and covering both worlds, the Old and the New. We give two pivotal examples: one from prehistory, Çatal Hüyük, and the other a recent text. The former is a sample of an ancient settlement—actually many layers of settlements—built in Anatolia from as early as 9,000 . These clustered dwellings were entered on the roof as a defense mechanism. The roof entry, gained by a ladder, had the purpose of defending the residents from possible intruders or floods. It would seem that there were no other openings, but we are informed by James Mellaart, the archaeologist author of a monograph on the settlements:
As the buildings rose up the slope of the mound in serried ranks, lighting would have been difficult but for the fact that each house had its own walls and its own roof level different from those of the surrounding buildings. By stepping the roofs light could be brought into the rooms through a series of small windows set high up in two of the four walls below the eaves (in the excavated area in the south and west wall, so that the light fell on the platforms along the east and north walls). It may be surmised that in buildings on the east side of the mound the windows were in the east and south wall and the position of the platforms was reversed. The position of the platforms is probably conditioned by the necessity of bringing light into the room and would differ according to the location of the building on the mound (Mellaart, 1967, 61)
Here, we are not certain about a pane for the small windows; whether or not there even was one, but it is important that there was a rudimentary opening nonetheless.
In the context of discussing primal windows, be they fixed or movable, the first example dated far back to 9,000 . Fast forward to 2012 and find ‘thoughts on a walking city’ in the Oranges of New Jersey. Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample are the architect partners of their group MOS and in a poetic text for their MoMA exhibition project have the following to say about a window in urban space:
In cities, the most public space is not the street or the park. It is the compressed space of the window. The window is our urbanity, nothing else can come close to it. Its effects are what artists have been trying to produce over and over again for centuries. We love that impossible space of the window, the thing we cannot occupy (Meredith, Sample, 2013, 261)
And one way of altering the suburban “American Dream” is to
…inhabit them in new ways. One example is our project’s treatment of private space by exposing it directly to the street through a “window.” Where in existing suburban models public space is collapsed into the thin, two-way surface of the window—which often looks onto empty parlors or other unused spaces—our approach toward windows exacerbates the relationship between the private and public spheres to the point at which the window can be claimed as a legitimate space in itself. We’ve enlarged and repeated the window as a recognizable unit of space because we believe that the space of the window (where the individual and the collective confront each other) is central to our urbanity and to our identity as individuals within a collective. (Meredith, Sample, 2013, 72)
Only yesterday I discovered a definition of window with a tag similar to Apertures in the Wall: James Stevens Curl, in his A Dictionary of Architecture (Curl, 1999, 736-737), defined window as an
1. Aperture in a wall to allow light and air to enter a building.
While Curl used an indefinite article and I use a definite one, we seem to be on the same wavelength: Curl and I contend that windows are pivotal in determining how the elements affect space and also, as MOS concurred, they jostle or hover between the public and private spheres in rural and urban situations.