the 1920s architect Le Corbusier developed what would become known as
The Five Points of Modern Architecture: 1) Supports, or pilotis; 2) Roof
gardens; 3) Free design of ground plan; 4) Horizontal, or ribbon
window, and 5) Free design of the facade.
These interrelated design considerations were responses to
industrialization, the use of reinforced concrete and making a break
with traditional buildings and are most evident in the architect's
famous Villa Savoye outside Paris.
Of interest here is point number 4, the ribbon windows that are an
expression of the facade being hung from the structural frame. This was a
break from load-bearing exterior walls that were together structure and
Because these long horizontal windows were impossible with
traditional heavy enclosures, they became emblematic of a new direction
in architecture. So then it was up to Le Corbusier and his followers to
explore how ribbon windows function, besides as a polemical statement
for modern architecture.
Decades later, ribbon windows are a fairly common element in modern
and contemporary houses. To be considered as extensions of Le
Corbusier's treatise, the windows should be part of a flat facade, an
opening within a larger wall (not above it, as in a clerestory).
The examples that follow can be seen as neo-Corbusian, but some have
divergent styles that still incorporate ribbon windows in some manner.
This house was designed by
Steven Ehrlich, one of the most capable architects practicing in a
neo-Corbusian manner. It includes many corner windows,
but also ribbon windows. One visible on the left side of this photo
doubles as a corner window. Note how the long window works in concert
with the awning below it.
The first floor of this house
in Westlake, Texas features full-height glass walls, while upstairs the
exterior walls are white with ribbon windows snaking around the
perimeter. This approach gives more openness to the living spaces
downstairs and privacy to the bedrooms upstairs, but it also reverses
traditional notions of weight, by placing the apparently heavier walls
above the lighter ones. Le Corbusier would be pleased with this design.
The horizontal window is
actually composed with a vertical ribbon window. Together they make an
L-shape as they turn the corner. Note that the eye-level horizontal
window uses translucent glazing for privacy.
This angle is not ideal for
looking at the ribbon window upstairs, but we can see how it extends
across most of the facade, in line with a trellis awning that provides
shade for the entrance walkway and pool deck. The integration of louvers
with the sliding glass windows in the horizontal opening is a nice
The ribbon window in this house
by Kanner Architects is on the first floor, next to a door to the
backyard. Unlike the Corbusian examples before that used whitewash
walls, this one is made from stone. Next, see what's on the other side.
This last example shows that a
ribbon window need not follow the other Five Points, resulting in a
Corbusian-influenced house. This house, called Texas Hill House but
actually in upstate New York, features a dramatic shed roof in metal.
The low end is clad in wood, and the tall end is open, with lots of
glass. Note the ribbon windows on the side wall. The next photo takes us
The louvered wall in the
previous photo slides away to provide access to one of the bedrooms.
(The plan is roughly symmetrical, so another bedroom with ribbon window
is found at the other end of the house, with living spaces in between.)
Here we see the start of the ribbon window, something that creates a
strong datum for placing objects along and on the wall. Another view of
the bedroom ...
... shows the extent of the
ribbon windows. What looked small on the exterior has a strong presence
inside. The window seems appropriate for the bedroom, since the bed and
other effects sit below it. It also brings in that much more light and
serves to define the length of the room much better than a blank wall or
traditional punched windows would have done.
This entry was posted on August 20th, 2011
| Posted in Vitamin V