My gravatar image, pictured just below this post, is set within a sea of windows which is appropriate for its theme, but it is rather ironic. These referred to windows are that sealed and do not open for internal or external passage of air, contrary to a major reason I selected the topic in the first place. If we seal ourselves from experiencing the outside of our dwelling, whether residence or business, we submit to the tragedy of our contaminated climate. The air outside is not propitious “so let’s just make sure it doesn’t enter the building.” The makers of these buildings rely on curtain wall construction probably because it’s cheaper, but they also succumb to a distrust of our environment.
The windows of the Reliance form the most striking feature of the building. They represent the fullest development of the “Chicago window,” in which a single large pane of glass fills the whole bay except for narrow movable sash at either end, immediately adjacent to the columns. The movable sash of the Reliance lies in the diagonal planes of the projecting windows and at the extreme edges of the openings lying in the main wall plane. (Condit, 1964, 110-111)
Then Condit recalls what Sigfried Giedion said:
Ten years’ experience lies behind the understanding treatment of the horizontally proportioned “Chicago windows.” In earlier office buildings of the Chicago school the bow windows tend somewhat to be independent and isolated parts of the design. In the Reliance Building they project no more than they are required to in order to pick up light. They are wholly incorporated into the glass body of the building. (Giedion, 1941, 385-386)
But let’s be real; it doesn’t seem to matter to most people that windows move open or stay shut. If we wanted a sealed window which has roots in the Chicago window-type of tri-partite rhythms, a beautiful example is the Art Deco, or Art Moderne, building on the southwest corner of 84th Street and Broadway: the Broadway Fashion Building by Sugarman and Berger (1930-31). Before 1975 it had operable windows (Robinson, Bletter, 1975, plate 83)—air conditioner units are inserted in the windows, but after that an internal forced air system was installed. I pass it daily early in the morning—5AM in fact, and the generous size of the windows are scintillating–eye-catching. It isn’t a public building and I’ve not license to enter, so it remains a street icon and a worthy candidate for preservation. Hopefully, you will see it as I do!