Post 685 –by Gautam Shah


6 French door in thin wall httpspixnio.como

Walls are chiefly load bearing entities. The thickness is the third dimension to the nominal planner structure. The third dimension has a functional depth, and architectural character. The Architectural expression of the wall-depth modulates the facade and gives a massing flavour. The functional depth frames the view, and regulates the illumination in the interior space.

2 Squared edge openings in Thick walls 32723717541_b24cbfb0ca_z

Openings in thicker walls have external or internal ‘reveals’ surrounding the frame. The bottom section forms the ledge of the sill. Openings placed on the outer face create deep an inner side or intrados (originally intrados meant, the inner curve of an arch or vault). Similarly openings placed on the inner edge form exterior side or extrados (originally extrados meant, the outer curve of an arch or vault).

15 Siuntio._In_the_halls_of_the_manor._-_panoramio_(1)

The deep interior sides, ifsquare-edged (at a right angle to plane of the window), made the perceived size of the opening smaller, then it actually is. This type of setting on interior sides, was not a major issue, where the room spaces were comparatively narrow, and so reflection from opposite walls was available. The narrow spaces were due to the technological restrictions and for functional requirements, such as in long halls and church buildings. In squared buildings the illumination was balanced from windows in the drum perimeter of the dome.

3 Abbaye_de_Silvacane_-_galerie_nord_06

The deep exterior sides, if square-edged (at a right angle to plane of the window), made the perceived size of the opening smaller, a desired arrangement to enhance the wall area and de-emphasize the presence of gaps of openings. It reduced the ingress of winds and snow-rainwater. To emphasize the presence of gaps, portals were added as the opening’s treatments.

9 Squared edge window_shadow_open_window_window_sill_wood-89674.jpg!d

The square’ edged openings have high contrasting brightness. Such windows require counter illumination to reduce the glare. To distribute the light better in the interior space, inner sides (-intrados with the window fixed on the outer edge) and an outer side (-extrados with the window fixed on the inner edge) were splayed by chamferring. The angled side surface was further carved, fluted with ornate borders or architraves.

1 3 M thick walls and chamferred internal edges of Guard room at Burg Meersburg on Lake Constance in southern Germany Wikipedia Image by Tobyc75

4 Canterbury_Cathedral_11

5 Norwich Cathedral 5987419099_94fe78d27d_z

Inner vertical sides, window heads and the sill, all were sloped to enlarge the reflective surface area. The chamferred sides on the outer face allowed more light by increasing the sky component, and allowed wider view of the outside.

20 Murals need evenly distributed illuminated wall Basilica di Sant Apollinare in Classe Wikipedia Image by Flying Russian

The effects of square and the chamferred sides of openings were well known to the mural artists (working with different mediums such as tempera, mosaic and frescoes painting), who accordingly composed the stories, shading in the scene, perspective angle, colour’s  hue and tone of artwork.

18 Dunstaffnage_chapel windows

14 Romanesque_church. panoramio Wikipedia Image by More pics than views…

In Romanesque and early Gothic architecture the windows were fixed on inner face, creating a plain and undisturbed interior surface. But by the time this was perfected, the Gothic walls were completely diminished, and windows were as wide as the gap between two columns.

Stained Glass in Windows

19 Basilica_di_aquileia,_interno,_navata_centrale_02_controfacciata

13 Exterior flush windows deep set on interior side Santa_Maria_in_Cosmedin-templom_belso

Side walls of Gothic buildings became thinner due to the arrangement of flying buttresses and use of load-bearing columns. But the same advantage was not available in case of un-buttressed Front wall. The entrance doors of Gothic churches were flush-set on the inner face, and that allowed better view across and fuller distribution of light. But the doors set deep in the thick walls, needed chamferring with serrated sides.

21 Chartres Cathedral serrated door portal .flickr.comphotos69184488 N061189397807

In Baroque architecture the depth of opening was concealed with the projected facade elements like columns, pilasters, cornices, or pediments. In Italian Renaissance the facade had an applique lattice like a pattern that united several openings. In post medieval period, windows began to protrude out of the buildings, over into the narrow street. Bay and oriel windows, Mashrabiya openings in the middle East, and Zarokhas in India transgressed out, mainly to gain sideways view and air. The multi sided mass of the projection became a personal statement.

8 Deep set openings Hindola_Mahal,_Mandu,_India

In post medieval period, window projections created serious fire hazards and issues of encroachment of public lands. Both of these were corrected through improved fire laws and defined easement rights. Fire laws required windows to be within the wall (without any projections like ledges or hanging shutters). Later the Window tax curtailed the number of openings in a building.

22 Openings

Gothic architecture had already shown how to divide large openings with traceries of mullions and muntins. Large windows in thin walls require framing and masking, but small depth did not allow formation of integrated architectonic elements, or scooping out for niche creation. Architectural add-on elements such as half columns, extrados, porticoes, etc. were additives placed to frame and highlight the opening.

24 Gothic window surfave articulated by Mullions, muntins in tracery 5987964570_01c2171afd_z

The surface of the window was strongly stated by articulated divisions, contrasts between glazed and other surfaces like rusticated masonry. Windows were also placed in inward or sunken bays. The mid-wall between the windows was treated as very shallow niche or bordered frame for murals, paintings or placing a fireplace or library cabinet. Building’s facades of thin walls were also undulated by outward bay windows, ledges and other projections.

10 Protected Opening Tim 1965 1601_I_Street_NW_-_Washington_DC_-_window_detail

Thick walls accommodate the shutters of doors and windows within the gap. But shallow window gaps offer no shading. Some form of external shading system is required. Such shading systems have been used for creating architectural facade system, as in Chandigarh Secretariat building.

16 Chandigarh_Secretariat

Glass curtain walls are thin body construction, often without any projections for solar protection. This now sought through the glass technology, and the ventilation through separate HVAC system. Thin walls save floor space, and so are economic in spite of the compulsory recourse to other compensatory facilities. The nominal architectural play of depth and shadows for 3rd dimensional visual depth is not available with openings in very thin walls. This is now recreated by volumetric play of the building mass, or by variegated surface finishes. For such surface modulation, other means include visual reflectance and glows (illumination from within).

Modern Windows Exterior Building Architecture

23 Industrial Age Window 6064685431_fd7d7b189c_z

The vividness of stained glass windows or the colourful lanterns of Gothic eras are now recreated through see through LED glass. At another level the touch screen provides the same fare. The mix of the two will become part of architectural and interior face of buildings.

26 Virtual Window 15370207660_617f953a34_z



DYNAMIC CURVATURES -Issues of Design 24

Post 684–by Gautam Shah


13 Barcelone - Detail of a Gaudi building

A curvature is the synergetic dynamism of a line and the external forces, unlike a straight line which is the path of a force. Antonio Gaudi stated that ‘The straight line belongs to the man, the curve to God.’ All curvatures on earth manifest under two basic forces, the gravity of the earth and the current stresses resetting the earlier status. The curvature reflects the forces, form and ensuing functions. But Dynamic curvature is a live story, telling us How a form changes under stress. Dynamic curvatures are found in spiral coils, serpents, water ripples, plasticity of wet clays, free movements of flying birds, bending of bamboos, sand-dunes, clouds, etc.

14 Gaudi-Casa-Batllo

A line occurs across two things. As per Euclid’s definition ‘The extremities of a line are points’. A ‘line’ in literary sense, had no distinction, It needed an appendage ‘straight or curved’. In this sense a curve is a generalization (stressed or stress-free?) of a line. Historically, the term ‘line’ (perhaps from linen, lino or flex) was used for, rope, hawser, series, row, rule, direction, rope, flaxen cords, thread, cable etc. -many indicating curved forms of line. The difference between a line and curve is of scale.

Curvature, in mathematics, is the rate of change of direction of a curve with respect to distance along the curve. At every point on a circle, the curvature is the reciprocal of the radius. For other curves (and straight lines can be regarded as circles of infinite radius), the curvature is the reciprocal of the radius of the circle that most closely conforms to the curve at the given point’.

11 Golden Gate Bridge. Most suspension bridge cables follow a parabolic, not a catenary curve, due to the weight of the roadway being much greater than that of the cable. Wikipedia Image

Over a longer distance, all lines are parallel or meeting in infinity. The earthly spatial geometry has latitudes as the parallel lines but longitudes converge at poles. Latitude and longitude both at smaller scale are ‘straight’ otherwise curved. Such spatial geometry lines are implied, but their curvatures are real and experience-able. A line, Earth’s horizon is seemingly straight, but in reality a curvature. A plane travels between two points, in shortest and a straight path, but following the curvature of the earth’s surface, an implied line.

12 at Broadway and Cortlandt Streets in New York in 1883, shows a nation exploding with its first communications.

10 Puentedelabarra

A line is a connection, where the intrinsic transfer of energy makes it straight, but extrinsic or abutting energy deforms it to a curved line. All types of energy transfers are revealed in the direction. Lines and curves with substance get stressed due to their own weight, and yield to the gravity. Materials yield or resist tolerable deformation. Such visual flections also occur over short distances. Our eye visually bends a straight line, and so facade of the Parthenon required several calibrations. In reality the tops of the towers of a suspension bridge or transmission pylons are further apart than at the bottom, due to a curved surface of the earth.

15 Shadow of a straight line on curved surface Wikipedia Image by Sten Porse

There are many different forms of line. The transition from one to another medium reveals as an angular bent. Water-submerged section of a stick is a visual aberration of a line. Crystals are molecular level entities with the linear-angular structure. If the same are formed over a curved surface such as a liquid droplet, the crystals take the shape of the surface. Gravity has a tendency to distort the way crystals form. Outer space with nearly zero gravity allows creation of complex, three-dimensional proteins. Here the gravity and convective forces do not interfere in crystal formation. It is always advised to aim ‘higher’ to let the ‘bent’ trajectory reach the spot. So nature has both, the lines and curves, the former as intrinsic, and later as the extrinsic effects of forces.

5 SpiderCatenary

6 Manhattan Bridge in New York City with deck under construction from the towers outward

Curvatures, like the lines, also have a direction, as measured for the angle of the straight line formed by connecting any two points on the curvature. Such a presumed line could have horizontal, vertical or inclined angle, with reference to the earth. Curves that have a known or mechanical method of origin are Geometric, but if irregular or complex and cannot be defined using any equations, are Phantomastic.

7 Natural or real contours of Materials Arizona mountains

8 Angular or linear formation of Red rocks https pxhere.comenphoto552984

Curved lines come back to their point of origin to form a closed or determinate form (circle, ellipse). Closed curves have no beginning or end, but could be spiral, where the ends merge but in some other time or space. But, it could go to infinity to form an open or indeterminate entity, losing the essence of the curvature to a parabola, and eventually become a straight line.

17 Different types of coils

18 Dawn Eases Into Orbit Around The Dwarf Planet Ceres

Circles have easier sense of movement, but spirals give a sense of completeness, but without any restrain. Spirals are natural shapes in shells, snails, water-whirls, cyclone or tornado. Spirals are boundless and open, going to outward or inward eternity. Spirals arrive back, but bring in positional and temporal change. Spirals represent the notion of growth, evolution and often confusion. Spirals move in clockwise of anticlockwise directions, that perhaps the persistence of initiating and sustaining energy. A spiral as a curve represents time, metaphorically better then lines do. A spiral curve is not a closing circle, but turns around to arrive back at a different elevation (or position). Essences of spiral are the pull and push, and both are linear. Structurally a spiral is linear entity for compression-tension. So spiral, a curve, is a line.

19 City_Hall,_London,_Spiral_Staircase_-_1

20 Geological_time_spiral

Curves with a single stroke can have one bridging line passing over any two pints on it, but multi-strokes curves can have as many bridging lines. Single stroke curve, create forms open on a single side, with an area asset on one side of it. Multi-stroke curves, on the other hand, create alternating open side form area assets that alternate on either side of it.21 Optical,_Corrections_in_Architecture_95

Silhouette, outline, skyline, horizon, shadows or contour lines, are all edge lines of real or ephemeral entities. The silhouettes are accumulative projection of several objects. The outlines define extremity of an object, if strong, subdue the object by framing and limiting its extent. Skylines are the human formations, a unique horizon-impression of the urban scape. A horizon is an ephemeral line between the sky and terrain. Shadows follow the object but occluding the details of the object-body. Contour lines are curvilinear, unless of man-made mass like roads and trenches. Borders demarcate the domain differences in terms of social, political, beliefs, but usually reinforced by the terrain. Borders are linear dividers or closed ended protectorates (if, squared framed or full curved forms).

The Lines start and terminate to a point, whereas the Curvatures have uncertainty about their ends. Lines as edges of angular planes show cleaved faces (diamonds, crystals), but curves of a streamlined product have ‘continuity’.

A streamlined shape lowers the friction drag in the medium it moves, air or water. Drag is a force that slows down movement. Many animals, birds, and machines, such as aeroplanes, trains and submarines, have streamlined bodies to reduce friction drag’.

1 Open_area_at_the_Johnson_Wax_Building,_headquarters_of_the_S.C._Johnson_and_Son_Co.,_Racine,_Wisconsin

9 Oak Park Il Hills House

During the Great Depression of the 1930s America had new style of Art-Deco architecture (late), product and graphic design. The Streamline Moderne or Art Moderne, favoured the curvilinear edges, accompanied by horizontal lines (parallel to gravity rather then up against it). Industrial designers stripped the Art-Deco design ornaments to implement the aerodynamic design. Long ribbon windows and cylindrical forms were new vocabulary of the ultramodern. All consumer products such as clocks, radios, telephones, cars, furniture, and other white good appliances were redefined to fit in the new concept. But these were sought to be replaced with modern materials of the age, steel, concrete and glass, and these had angular traditions.

2 Toaster

3 Tatra_77A_dutch_licence_registration_AM-44-01_pic10

4 Dutchess of Hamilton, re-streamlined https www.flickr.comphotosbiscit19723558479803

This is the 24th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN



Post 683–by Gautam Shah


Design for a Stage Set_ A Dungeon with High Vaults and a Staircase at Right.

A space is either real or abstract. The Real one is contoured in geometry and so well founded. The Abstract one is coalescence of many perceptions, or a fuzzy imagination, and so transient. Spaces have a natural affinity for location and environment. The location related factors are static like the spatial character, size, shape, ergonomic accommodations, and connections with the outside world. These are substantiated by structures, amenities, facilities, utilities, tools and enrichments. The environment endows many variations. As the environment is substantially directional, the orientation becomes a key determinant of the space lay. Other important factors are the energies affecting all things on earth. Gravity endows the stability.


Spaces derive their purpose with the users’ concerns, like: sense of belonging, ownership, access, privacy, security and safety. A space for an individual, becomes functional, by the distance from edges, interpolation (of other spaces), connections and presence or absence of others (beings). A space, is relevant to an individual and groups, by the preferment of the core or verge. The core is intensely purposive to the ‘idea of space’, whereas the verge has many non-spatial connections and so motives are tempered.

36520624965_cfbfd6514b_zTo concern a space, one needs to possess it, by way of perceiving or occupying it. For both of these, one needs to possess it through a position in it. The possession of space is an indication that it is amenable to changes like size, shape nature. The position in a space makes it possible to explore a space consistently and differently. It reveals new potentials of the space. Possession and position are followed by the ‘next move’, the conditioning of the environment.

office-1094826_640Spaces are set of perceptions or experiences. Some are of real conditions, but many others are supplemented by the mind. Perceptions occur from positions in space and sequences of change between positions. Real positioning is framing in time and space, and the abstract one may have cause and effect (cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is totally dependent on the cause). Space positions are taken for greater reach and cognition in space. Positioning is a biological as well as circumstantial conditioning. Spaces are places that reflect the necessity for gaining and maintaining a commandeering position. Positioning in space ultimately gets reflected in the cultural inclinations or biases. People prefer left or right preferences for turning, reading, sleeping or social interacting.


Spaces are occupied for two main purposes, for various actions, and to keep materials and means to conduct the same. Actions are closely connected to spatial features, such as the environmental facilitations, architectonic elements amenities and facilities, and to other people. Activities relate to our being a biological entity like the metabolism, safety, security, privacy, comfort, rest, communication, expression etc. Actions are either routine or unconventional but productive or satiating. Routine activities occur with predictable spatial features, but compulsions of space size and group behaviour dynamics force unconventional settings for the actions.


Routine purposes of spaces are day to day affairs. These are fixed to spatial segments, time schedules, environmental conditions, and utilize the same amenities, facilities, utilities. Spaces used for routine purposes reveal little that is exciting or new, because there is no need or time for exploration. Such spaces are predictable but very productive. The location related attachments are maintained, because these offer some flexibility for the spread of activities. Such segments due to their consistency and permanency are marked or named architectural units (bathing area, hay chopping area, etc.).

Kyoto Houses 353035587_cd41ec24df_z

Unconventional purposes of space emerge due to the compulsory and explorative shifting of activities. Such shifts occur only occasionally, because space-efficiency occurs when wait for the right occasion or search for the right location is minimal. Unusual purposes of space are realized first within the same space segment and when scheduled in the same time section or sequentially. In single room dwellings, tents and non-formal work areas the schedules and space requirements are well matched. But when one or both come under stress, unconventional means are sought or results delivered. Inconvenience of non-functional spatial or environmental features may be ignored, if group behaviour dynamics demand it.

geograph-4053627-by-Ben-BrooksbankActions occur at places from where some degree of command can be continued over a larger domain. These places are geometrically centric and environmentally favourable. Places of actions have strong cultural association, like public versus private, allowable versus sanctimonious spaces, or orientation taboos of directions.


Casual repositioning and deferments of activities are required to relieve the tedium, and for experimentation. Activities due to their scale, required amenities, unfavourable weather or group dynamics require different space spread. Such activities need spatial shifting or time switching, or both.


Customs and taboos result from the local perceptions and experiences, and so same activity could have different time and space setting (ethnic variations) across societies. This is apparent in satiating work like craft, than productive jobs.


Spaces derive their purpose with the postural flexibility (capacity to gain and leave). The number of sub-processes, which can be handled without shifting, depend on the physical reach. The dependence on tools, equipments, structures, amenities, facilities though enhance the spatial purposiveness, do restrict the variations a space can offer. The expectations for the next lot of work, preempt the purposes a space offers


To an outsider, the purposes spaces serve seems intermingled or chaotic, but real users know the order of sequencing. The processes occur in lots or streamlined movement. Spaces with streamlined purposes reflect the high efficiency through optimized postural changes, minimal location shifting, coordinated use of amenities.



Post 619 –by Gautam Shah










ARCHITECTURAL WINDOWS and MECHANICS of VISION https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/architectural-windows-and-mechanics-of-vision/







Post 562 by Gautam Shah



Space is a built or territorial expanse around a person. The personal measure for the expanse is the fathom (human size) and yet it is fathomless. The space is reached through sensorial affectations. The reach is finite, but with technological tools it can be stretched manifold. In recent years, technologies like satellite remote sensing, geo positioning, electronic enlargements, ‘seeing’ through energy facsimiles; have encroached our spatial domains. The invasion of our privacy occurs whether we are in built space or open territories. The invaders know that reach in space does not mean the capacity to own and control the depth.


Layers for privacy of different levels > Street view of Faza Kenya House Wikipedia image

Spatial privacy encroachments affect our personal actions and our connections with other people, objects and environment. Very often such observance or data collection is not intentional but the same may be used for malicious interpretations. The spatial privacy is for a person to manage, but surveillance by others may be used for altering our actions and responses to other things in space.


Surveillance alters freedom of action Wikipedia image

Privacy is related to location or position, tracing of movement routes, a micro moment capture of changes in posture-gesture, environmental and body functions (temperature, perspiration, metabolism, respiration, blood pressure etc.). These are imperceptible, and would not be noticed, but can be enhanced by technologies like slow motion capture, high resolution, and colour or energy imaging tools. Such processes occur without the person’s knowledge or awareness. Privacy is the right to act without surveillance. Surveillance alters action.


Public spaces under surveillance Wikipedia image by Quevaal


Aerial view of Osama Bin Laden Compound Abbottabad Pakistan by CIA

Privacy has many different interpretations. Spatial privacy for humans in built forms or open territories has been a concern for all designers. Designers consider privacy as an act of isolation by way of obscuration. Privacy means control over space occupation, time protraction, task execution and social interactions. The isolation from people, things and environment is achieved by controlling various sensorial perceptions and expressions. One may close the eyes, block the ears, pinch the nose, reduce the visibility by merging with the background, simplify variations in surroundings, control the exposure in time and space, camouflage with high contrast elements or exploit the barricading situations. Sense of privacy results from traumatic experiences and could be seen as inhibition to certain situations. This can be adjusted to by mental isolation or behavioural counseling.




Confession in privacy Wikipedia image from ru.wikipedia

Privacy and Intimacy are closely related. Intimate conditions reflect interference by others, and so a threat to privacy. Though both, could be expressions of individualization or branding of unique personality. And, whenever these are compromised, one tries to distance from others, adjust the posture and reorient the self. To achieve privacy, a prime attempt is to find a ‘safe’ place in a domain. The safe place could be an anchor of spatial (architectural) element, a person or even a suitable environmental realm. Safe places are familiar, assuring, with a possibility of escape, or occluding. Safe places are transient in time, like a moving object does not allow clear perception. Privacy is perceived in company of a senior person, people of same sex and in a group consisting of both sexes. Environment offers privacy by reducing the clarity perception of the self and of other things.


Privacy as expression of Individualization or Branding of unique personality Wikipedia image of Beyonce Knowle by Tony Duran

One requires many different types of privacy: Physical privacy -against someone making a close approach (touch or near approximations), Visual privacy -to limit others’ view of oneself, Audio privacy -insulation against being overheard and interference from background noise, and Olfactory privacy -that limits to reveal own physiological state or experiencing someone else such a state through hormones-odours. Other privacy parameters are, one tries to conceal the body temperature, breathing rate, heart beats, pulse rate, vibrations of the body, sweating and perspiration, as these reveal the inset fear.





Privacy from distraction Wikipedia image of Michigan State University Libraries USA



Post 512 by Gautam Shah


Spatial behaviours of human beings are in response to the spatial environment and in spite of it. Space is the setting where environment and its cognition occur. Cognition is universal, but has personal endowments and so environment has subjective significance. In a space the spatial features remaining static, environment is continually varying, and so the spatial experience is ever expounding. Environmental conditions and spatial features, manifest in concert. We expect the presence of one to trigger the other. And this becomes a great tool for designing spaces and thereby infuses desired behaviour.

Barber shop Brazil, Wikipedia Image by Author Fabio Pozzebom/ABr

Nature of cognition is one major factor that governs the Space experience. Space experience results from cognitive systems, their capacities, and physiological needs. It is also affected by the inherited (intuitive) and learnt (intellectual) knowledge. Space experience is also formed by the presence of other beings, recognition and acknowledgement.

Texting, a way to keep engaged and be private Wikipedia image Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja Author Jason

As designer, we exploit both, the environmental features and facilitations by space elements, to condition specific behaviour. Space elements such as amenities, facilities, support structures and reach extension tools, along with environmental conditions that offer comfort, security, safety and survival, are used for infusing desired nature of behaviour. The behaviour is intended for place occupation, acclimatization, dimensional accommodation, sensorial and physical reach, and task functionality of a space. The behaviour gets primarily reflected in human body-limb language of postures, gestures, stability and mobility, and secondarily in sensorial vulnerability and degree of congeniality (privacy and intimacy). At another level, the overt expressions like speaking, writings, painting, also reflect the space and environment.

Street Play India, Wikipedia image by Author Jugal Bharali

For a Designer, space, environment and human behaviour indicate how a person will respond to a given space+environment setting. Alternatively one can predict how an individual or group will behave in certain setting. At individual level the human behaviour is governed by age, sex, level of adaptation, familiarity, consistency, variability, limb capacity, body-limb coordination, etc. But the social-contact mechanisms regulate what we share and empathize. The interactions with others depend on the awareness about sex, age, stature, need, social position, degree of familiarity, distance and recognition (through cognition). The behaviour (even of lone beings) and the forms of interpersonal relationships of various races and cultures are different. Here the lifestyle or cultural values that has been passed on from one generation to another as ethnicity or ‘cultural ethos’ play an important role.

Thimpu Bhutan, Wikipedia-Flickr image by Author laihiuyeung ryanne

Behavioural responses nominally occur for the co-occupants that are present, but sometimes through the metaphoric presences. Metaphoric presence of others is reinforced primarily by the historical context (what we have been told or learnt) and associations.



Post 431 – by Gautam Shah



Translucency of a fabric for has been an important factor how curtains sensorially affect us. In ancient times when heavier tapestries including rugs were hung on openings, little light seeping through the weaving or worn out gaps was very much pleasing experience. Light through the woven material gets refracted by the surrounding fibrous texture of threads at the gap point. It not only diffused the glare of outdoor light but created a warm glow due to the unbleached warp yarn.


Nominally our experience tells us that heavy fabrics are more opaque, and light weave fabrics are translucent. Though there are many exceptions to these, due to the nature of fiber, its post spinning treatments, use of colourants and nature of the weave. For the favour of anyone (heavy-opaque or light-translucency) the others can be redefined. Fabrics are lighter, because the fibres are naturally thin, can be spun to a very fine count, filaments or long staples in nature, and woven with a single weave or similar techniques. Fabrics or fibres dyed to lighter shades seem less heavy. Fabrics with finer warp yarn tend to be tightly woven rendering it to be opaque.


The substantive determinants for perceptual and actual transparency or translucency of a curtain material depends on Treatments over a fabric, mode of hanging and pleating, presence or absence of a liner-layer and the secondary treatments over the opening itself.

Window_curtain_view_picture HK

The illumination conditions of the interior space, and the viewing position in the interior or exterior location, substantially affect the perception of transparency. A bright exterior or one that allows greater proportion of ‘sky component reflection’ (the reflected light from the sky) such as clear sky days, openings on sea coast, very vast open grounds, on the upper level windows in tall buildings, and very bright or highly a reflective frontage of urban streets, all contribute to the brightness over the windows’ plane (an exterior side). A bright exterior side and a glare-less interior, both add to the translucency. A curtain fabric shows the glow of exterior daylight when the interior glare is less dominant. Such conditions also arise when areas besides the curtain are not highly illuminated, or furnished in lighter shades. A direct sunlight exposure of the window makes the curtain seem opaque (at least from outside) where as a deep shade or awning makes a curtain ‘see-through’ entity.


The perception of transparency is governed by the construction of the curtain, such as design and density of pleats, presence or absence of back-layering, and the direction of the weave. The natural way of fabric orientation for curtain is the warp forming the vertical orientation (and the weft the horizontal position). A curtaining system, called Railroading, places the fabric, with weft forming the vertical orientation (and warp the horizontal position), which makes the fabrics seem more opaque. Curtains are also formed with multiple fabrics of synchronized colours or textures. The mid sections are formed with lighter (or white) fabric, allowing more light, feeling of lightness and view-through facility.

Fabrics of Filament yarn (very long fibres) such as of silk and synthetics and naturally very thin and uniform section, allowing lighter density weaving. But filament yarns of synthetics provide fabrics with a glossy finish, which takes away the ‘glow from back’ effect. Compared to these yarns of natural staple fibres of cotton, jute, wool, etc. and Rayons, have variable section and micro fibres jutting out, after spinning. Such yarns create weaves with many small gaps, and the micro fibres diffract the light.

Balcony Early In The Morning Curtains Yang Guang

Silks have been the first choice for sheer curtains due to fineness and natural ‘fall’ it offers. Sheer curtains are known as privacy curtains. Some of the best sheer fabrics are of pure silk, but most of the commercial materials are made of synthetic filament yarn (long length fibres). Very fine count cotton yarn fabrics such as lawn, cambric, chintz, voile, Malmal, muslin, etc. are also translucent, but have a tendency to creasing, and the quality of ‘fall’ is not natural.


Fabrics in lattice or net forms are created through weaving, knitting, netting, crochet and such other constructions. Embroidered fabrics were used in Dutch and Swiss dwellings. Sheer fabrics flourish with their pleats and resultant folds, whereas the embroidered constructions brandish their self-patterns. Such constructions are very pliable and semi-transparent like a sheer fabric curtain.

Net woven fabrics of cotton and synthetic materials are soft and of substantial to flimsy body. It is net density (or lightness) and the pleat formations that add to its hazy see-through charm. Net patterns are created by singeing fusible weft or sections of fabric, or by selectively pulling out the weft yarns.


See-through curtains nominally form the first layer in multiple curtains’ system. Such curtains allow a fuzzy view of outsides during day time, but at night may require an opaque topping of a curtain. Such fabrics or constructions must not be used with a lining fabric, to maintain the translucency. Similarly such curtains not embellished and embroidered for patterns. Such extra work increases the weight of the fabric at the cost of graceful fall. These types of curtains are commonly heavily pleated or hung as a plain panel (such as a roller or horizontally folding curtain) and so the total quantity of cloth required for must be pre-considered.

Victor Mottez zeuxis -use of sheer curtain