Post 246 – by Gautam Shah


Caldarium of the Old Baths at Pompeii

A window in its most primitive form was an unglazed hole in a roof, provisioned mainly for ventilation and illumination. The hole in the roof was ‘windy’ to cause air-change and discomfort. The word for window derives from two separate words ‘vindr = wind‘ and auga = eye, which together literally vindauga‘ mean a ‘wind eye’. It replaced old English eagþyrl, (eye-hole), and eagduru (eye-door). The hole in the roof in its glassed version, was called fenestra (Latin version -in other languages, such as, German Fenster, French fenêtre, Swedish fönster, and English fenester).


Japanese word for windows, Mado carries similar meaning. Mado consists of two morphemes; ma and do, where the former relates to eye (as well as mi– the root of the verb to see) and the later can mean a place (in sense of place, such as fushi-do (lying or bedroom + place) and kama-do (cauldron or cooking + place). So Mado means a place to see –a window.


The windows transited from the roof, to upper and then lower sections of the walls, and truly became the auga or eyes, to look out. Doors for many centuries were used to look out, but now windows were an option. There was another divergence in place. Doors were points of entrance, and so placed towards a familiar and negotiable terrain like a known street, a courtyard, a neighbourhood, etc., but windows as an opening, could be placed over a lesser known territory, such as side or back of the building. In a dwelling, a door is absolute necessity for entry, but window for ventilation have been avoided in buildings with loosely tiled or thatched roofs.


Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Doors need an anthropometric confirmation, but windows remained small apertures. The small size provided security yet a connection to the outside world. Windows had solid plank shutters or heavy tapestry cover, so a closed window was as good as no opening, and an open one, true to its original name, a windy and uncomfortable aperture for many climatic zones. The windy window manifests when there is a chance of cross ventilation or stack effect. Both occurred due to the presence another ventilation system in the room. The door or another window were the cause of former, whereas the later was mainly due to the chimney used for cooking or as fireplace. But in tropical climates, the simultaneity of door and window in space was very desired.


Windows at lower levels, have been used for strange uses. Romeo preferred a window for surreptitious or secret entry, Adfenestratem or adfenestration, to see Juliet. Some jump out of the window (autocide or suicide or auto-defenester) on not able to do things they would like. Enemies are better defenestrated, thrown out of a window, rather then a door, leaving no doubts of their return. Defenestration is also an act of throwing something out of a window, like garbage and night soil into the backyards, as was a common practice in many medieval cities.

Back yard window to window clothes lines

Windows on familiar territories, such as the front face, tend to be full size. The full size is lintel at head level or more and sill level at belly button height. This size allows reasonable illumination up to 2 to 2.5 meter depth, making the most active work zone. A window seat in a aeroplane, train or bus and worktable near a window are desired places. A window of opportunity will not let anyone jump-out of the window (defenester), but rather persist on trying. Window shopping is compared to a Camel, who can survey every thing but eat (buy) few things. For Window dressing one needs a large glass front and passer-by on a busy street. A launch window is a very narrow or circumstantial opening, only with pre-planning one can push through it.


Windows provide a sense safety and security to an enclosed space. A person viewing out is able to survey the outside world, but unable to intervene. The windows are elements of frustrations and limitations in jails or palaces. The windows occlude the identity of the person inside, through lattices, structure of the surrounds, curtains, and the comparative darkness of the interiors. Windows frame a view. The masking changes the perception of the view through it. It scale reference helps size objects, and judge their positional depth. Windows frame as a stationary and known object, allows one to note the change or movement occurring in the scene.