Post 636 –by Gautam Shah
We are more concerned with the width and height of openings. Width and Height are primarily functional derivative, and secondarily a matter of proportioning. The proportioning works intrinsically with width versus height, but more importantly with the schema of the building. The schema also takes of aura or grandeur of the openings like doors, gates, etc. Over-engagement with width and height of the opening can be reduced by use of surrogate like shadows (Sciography from Greek σκιά ‘shadow’). This technique creates a metaphoric depth of very high contrasts. In this the contrast is between black and white (or presence and absence of certain colour). Such contrasts are difficult to fully visualize in scale models, as the subduing effects of reflections from surroundings or floors, or counter balancing by internal illumination.
The openings gain a third dimension due to the shadows, and shadows occur due to differences in depths. But depth of a door or window regulates the field of view and amount of illumination. It governs the changes occurring in transit through the opening. These include disciplining the passage of goods and people. Depth forms an intervening space and time for mechanisms like filtration, funneling, release, mixing, direction, etc. of air and illumination.
The depth of an opening derives from the structures like walls, partitions, domes, etc. but in few cases it is achieved through architectural manipulation. External walls of the buildings, till about the Gothic period, were heavy offering two choices for showing the depth on the external face or internal side. Both of these were done in several ways. A chamferred edge on outside, enlarges the size of the opening, view of outside worlds, net illumination gain for the interior and weather protection. A chamferred edge on inside cut the glare, diffused the illumination, reduced the wall surface requiring mural or other treatments.
Gothic buildings’ thinner walls, however, did not allow such a play. So instead the Windows were elaborately segmented. The mullions, muntins and traceries did not divide the story line running through. Gothic glass unlike modern glass was opaque so did not allow interiors to be visible, but during daytime the segments and colours both compensated lack of wall murals and mosaics (of an earlier era). The third dimension of the opening was completely eliminated with glass curtain wall buildings. Mies van der Rohe was yet criticized for using very emphatic mullions.
The Depth of openings enhances the dual character of inside and outside. The architectural depths of the openings are, however, changed by bevelled edges, chamferred sides, introduction of pilasters, intrados, extrados, sloped sills and opening heads. A bottom taper brings the light to the floor, and a sloped interior head illuminates the ceiling.
One of the most fascinating aspects of openings is the threshold. It may be informal, just a marked significance by small change of elevation, colour or texture. The greater depth of the opening bestows a formal change of a domain, due to marked elevation, changes of treatments and side treatments like seating place, alcoves and chambers. A threshold has two distinct worlds on either of the sides, one or both of which could be real or notional. Such elaborated depths of the door elements become resting zones, zone for transition, point of decision making, celebration, welcome or separation.