Outward Looking is Forward Looking: The Importance of the Window
Windows Are The Eyes of a Home...
The word window has an etymology that expresses looking, as you might imagine...roots include "wind-eye," "eye-hole" and "eye-door." That shouldn't surprise anyone, but we can overlook the importance of windows in our designs, treating them merely as holes in the walls or code satisfiers rather than corridors that work both ways, allowing light inside and allowing us to keep our surroundings in mind. Perhaps it's a logical outcome of our technology based life that we are forgetting to look through our window screens in favor of all the other screens vying for our attention. Don't fall prey to this focus on the interior only when you are designing your home!
In rural landscapes, it goes without saying that bringing the view in is desirable. For those wanting to keep their footprints compact, window placement lends a hand when trying to design a small but elegant and functional space since windows allow expansiveness without increasing square footage. Many rural homes are designed exclusively with the view in mind, so in some senses, this article is more about less obviously "natural" locations.
The View is Wherever We Are
Urban and suburban view isn't just about coveted mountain, lake or other "classic" views. While a suburban or urban location might not have quite as much abundant nature around - the view is everywhere, and we shouldn't underestimate this. All properties are view properties. There's plenty to be seen up close and at a distance just by noticing. Many specimen trees are planted in cities and neighborhoods, shops often put out planters or fill window boxes with seasonal colors, little parks are tucked into the tiniest of spots and the sky is always up there somewhere, even in the slot canyons of downtowns. Even a little easement can host some color. Whoever hasn't yet read one of the studies showing our positive and measurable responses to natural surroundings will find them fascinating and abundant. Try paying attention to your mental landscape next time you spend time in any natural place - park, tree lined street, deep woods or some other place of non built beauty. It takes only a few minutes with some deep breaths and attention for me to feel worry retreat as I walk along a woodland path. With this psychological need and benefit in mind, rural, suburban and urban areas alike are working hard on preserving wetland and green spaces as part of smarter development incorporating ecological awareness. Planning that focuses on conservation and building more efficiently in terms of density is doing something to ensure that beautiful surroundings can still find a place in our ever increasing sprawl. This intentionality in design is something we can take on as well - it's not just for municipal planners.
All this is a long way of saying that when designing, developers and individuals alike benefit themselves and their surroundings by looking around outside the building site before going to the drawing board or finalizing plans. Remember the value of the outward looking home - windows are for us and help us. Rather than only consulting catalogs emphasizing interiors, remember to walk your site - if you've got time on your hands, luxuriate in being able to assess seasonal changes that you might want to see from inside, maybe even plan your landscaping in advance. Letting our site get a word in edgewise is one of the most important aspects of design; perhaps it is vital to restructuring communities as a whole so that our homes can take care of our surroundings as well as us. Good consideration of the landscape can help us orient ourselves to the wider world and will hopefully favor more sustainable growth. The size of the human population is certain to increase while the world cannot become larger. Every cottage, home, development and new suburb can be a statement - and our eyes, our senses, and our window placement can have a role in making it a good one.