ARCHITECTURAL OPENINGS in LITERATURE

 Post 608 by Gautam Shah

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Samath Naur Door

Doors, Gates, Windows, and Gaps express the concept of transition from one state of existence to another. Likewise Passageways, Bridges, Ducts, also serve the chief function of transition, and other functions of openings by means of barricading, demarcating and framing. Some words, such as in and out, from and to, through, etc., denote entry-exit from a space. Similarly components like portals, jambs, lintels, arches, door-heads, thresholds, eves, gateways, sill, etc. singly or with their natural affinitive relationships also represent the opening system.

Lord of the Rings --War in the north

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Masai house door Flickr image by Kenya John Atherton

The openings have a natural simultaneity of two faces, and so are dilemmatic in affectations. Janus, the Roman God of doors was a two-faced person. In literature the duality has been used to elaborate or prolong the process of conclusive action. The openings are natural or enforced edges. The openings manifest over the edges recognizing the domains of distinctions on either side. The division, is made recognizable through superlative structures like fort-walls, abutments, portals, dykes, bunds, piers, moats, barricades, etc.

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In literature, on crossing an edge, change manifests. The change is seen through the scenic depiction, and also by psychical referencing. The literary-constructs present 3-way experience, of being on one or the other face, and the state of being into neither of these. The paired reality of inside and outside, or existing on one side versus the other side, creates a threshold or a Rekha (a line). The line is so thin that one has to be on one or the other side of it. But architectural entities have three-dimensional constructs, and so provide an intervening space or an Antarvedi*.

Hemchandracharya, (a Jain saint and scholar of Patan, Gujarat, India, 1088-1173) referred to such a situation as Antarvedi* (a space between two realms or a verandah). Such a condition occurs in case of Doab (a land between two water bodies -such as Punjab-India). Antarvedi is also a village situated at the Bay of Bengal and Vashista Godavari, a tributary of the Godavari River in Andhra, India.

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Antarvedi -a verandah at Kalleshwara Temple Hadagali, Bellary district Karnataka India > Wikipedia image by Dineshkannambadi

 ‘Often crossing a threshold, real or implied, shifts us between safety of the known and anxiety of the unknown. Thus, working on literal and symbolic levels simultaneously, the doors and other openings offer, both, the physical reality of protection, and represent the psychological idea of safety. To stand upon the threshold permits contemplation before committing to circumstances, which once taken, may not be undone. On crossing a threshold, there is no going back to what was.’

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Pax ingrangibus salus exeuntibus (peace to those who arrive, safety to those who leave) Tyntesfield Wraxall N Somerset England Flickr image by Peter Reed

A Latin phrase, ‘Pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus’ (or ‘Intrantibus pax, exeuntibus salus’) is an ancient inscription, seen at the entrances of Benedictine monasteries, schools, inns, on gates, and at the front door or vestibule of private homes. This is translated in English: ‘Peace to those who enter, good health (or safety) to those who depart’. It states that whatever is within, is familiar and so likely of security, in comparison to what exists beyond the unknown and dangerous. This is at a complete variance from Tolkien’s (author of Lords of the rings, etc.) as he inverts the usual association of ‘being inside’ with safety, and ‘being outside’ with danger. The insides are friends and relatives who could be treacherous, but on outsides one must be on guard of the enemies. It is only by venturing outside and crossing the edge that we come to know our true selves.

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In the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other writings, the expansive Greenwood the Great was called Mirkwood > Wikipedia image by Dominik Matus

J R R Tolkien frequently refers to a door, window, gate, or other passageways to convey a change in a character’s physical, metaphysical or metaphorical state. Tolkien’s dark woodland imagery is tunnel-like juxtaposed with the open land forest. Entering a forest (as is entering into water, caves, and barrows) is like going into a dark unknown, and coming out, is gaining knowledge and confidence. Tolkien gave as much attention to literary descriptions as much to visual treatments (sketches and paintings) of the doorways, gates, windows and thresholds. In his landscape sketches, the focal point is almost always a doorway or other opening.

The Lord of the rings Doors

An opening is perceived to be parallel to the gravity entity so in-out or exit-entry occur on a horizontal plane, but never up-down or over-under. Going down (or up) a stair or hill, do not signify the ‘door or the gate’. Even for the gate to heaven or hell the door is always parallel to the gravity. Going down is compared to entering a womb. The transition is never up (to heaven) or down (to hell). Going down happens for the burial tomb or dungeon for imprisonment. But openings may not take one outside or inside, such as the Japanese Torri Gates.

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Japanese Torri gate at Itsukushima shrine > Wikipedia image by Rdsmith4

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Going down ‘in to a womb’ > Wikipedia image by Alex Proimos from Sydney Australia

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MEANING of a WINDOW SILL

Post 564 by Gautam Shah

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A sill is the bottom part of a window opening and is relevant till it serves some functional purpose, such as a protective barrier, for resting hands, or works as a reflector of light or rain. It has dual reference, to the outside and inside faces of the window. Functionally it is valued for its height against the floor level, its profile (shape in section), and its depth from the face of the wall. Sills have specific profiles for the intended use.

Sills Ledges Extrados Rue des Hallebardes windows in Strasbourg

Sills also serve the function of a ledge. A ledge is a horizontal projected band, running over the external walls. It indicates the edges of floors, but sometimes represents windows’ bottoms. Window ledges other than decorative function serve many functional needs, like protection to the floor and wall below, and act as a support base for servicing. Window ledges provide a baseline for pilasters, half columns and engaged columns placed on sides of a window opening. Ledges, as projections called ‘label-stop’ work as a weather baffle, gargoyle, decorative carving or form the springing point for arches.

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Dawn Kramer Dancer and Choreographer / Wikipedia image by Buckdance

Sills are dominantly connected with internal faces of windows. Doors have sills in the form of thresholds. French doors have characteristic bottom ledges. Old shops-fronts were raised off the road level and from the shop interior floor level, by means of a stall-riser. Stall risers protected the shop-window from ramming by the cyclists. Bow or bay windows have sill-seats and ledges for flower pots and planters. Parapets have wide sill tops, to restrict view downwards. Banks and post offices’ windows have sill-shelves for transactions. These shelves are sometimes of sunken shapes to prevent the insertion of a gun nozzle.

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Sills for Second floor window Yasuda residence Tokyo Japan Image attribution Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

The windows’ frames on interior and exterior sides have articulated surrounds to increase the apparent size of the opening, which also accommodate a deeper sill. On the interior side, the deep-set windows-sill works as a shelf. It is used to keep small things like combs, hair oils, adornments, and importantly, an oil lamp for night illumination. Similar sill ledges are also formed over bottom of niches in the walls, and are called Gavaksh or Gokh (India). The Gavaksh as a form was the forerunner of the Indian window. Gavaksh with extended sills are used for installing minor deities on internal and external walls of the temple. A Gavaksh is like an aedicule (a minor shrine) of Greek or Roman architecture, a microcosm, an abode for the minor god.

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Chapel Notre Dame de la Medaille Miraculous Paris, Niche with base ledge / Wikipedia image by Mbzt

Sills of stones or wood planks, for doors and windows housed the bottom pivot. Sills maintained the width of the frame and provided integrity (square shape and the plumb-line) of the frame. Exterior window sills are often inclined and width-wise projects out to drain of the rain water.

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Head high sill in St Bartholomew Cathedral Plzen > Wikipedia image by Swales from Birmingham, UK

Ground floor windows have taller and lower sills depending on the conditions of the surroundings and the security concerns. Low sills are employed where openings are latticed for security. Low sills for upper floor windows require protection bars at least up to safe or half height. The protection bars are mounted on the outer face or even beyond, so that one can lean out and see sideways. A low sill in tropical building provides a body level circulation of air or laminar air flow. Low plinth buildings with low sill openings gain high reflectance of light and heat from the surrounding ground surfaces. Low sills on an interior side warm up the areas near the window. Sill and plinth level manipulations work better on some orientations then others. Ground surfaces on the South side (in Northern hemispheres) receive solar radiation nearly throughout the day, whereas East and West receives it only for a part of the day.

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Great Hall bay window with low sill level at Harlaxton Manor England

A low sill or zero sill window ‘opens’ a space as in case of traditional Japanese houses or upper floor windows of a glass curtain high rise building. Openings like clerestory windows and skylights have no functional sills.

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East window at church Netley abbey Nr Southampton, Hampshire England / Wikipedia image by Geni (GFDL-CC-BY-SA)

A high sill from interior space cuts off the view to the outside as in medieval cathedrals, and reduces the cold draft over the seats of congregation. A high sill in a high plinth building cuts off the interiors from the effects of high surface temperatures of surrounding ground surfaces. A high sill at any plinth level protects the user from cold drafts. Sill levels are also determined for the nature of privacy desired. Higher plinths to an extent compensate the need for a high sill over a street side in comparison with the buildings located within a private estate.

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Interior Flat sill as utilitarian shelf / Wikipedia image by Nieuw

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Inside tapered Sill for sourcing illumination at Santa Maria La Major Church, Morella, Spain / Wikipedia image by Etan J. Tal

Palatine chapel 3 Mosaic in the Palatine chapel (Palermo) Wikipedia Image by Kamares

Externally, window sills are chamfered to allow greater view, and add to the perceptible tallness. Internally a chamfered sill illuminates sections close to the floor. A rule-of-thumb is that the depth of daylight penetration is about two and one-half times the distance between the top of a window and the sill. Store and other minor rooms have smaller size of openings with raised sill level but with a tapered ledge. The outside tapered ledge allows clear view of the street below, and the inside sloped sill allows more floor level illumination. Confinement cells of jails have openings at very high level and with a flat bottom sill to cutoff the view across, but may have tapered top for greater sky-component. Windows for domestic use require a sill level that an infant cannot jump out that is at least 850 high. Window sills in this respect function like a parapet, barricade or a railing.

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Painting > A carpenter’s workshop 1855 by Christen Dalsgaard > Wikipedia image

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