An exhibition has opened that’s unusually timely as it looks at the impact of windows on architecture. The windows we’re being asked to open a lot at the moment to reduce covid infections.
The exhibition though focuses on Japanese windows, and the way they have come to form an integral part of Japanese architecture. From the famous sliding window/doors of classic Japanese homes to the modern design where buildings are designed to focus views through unusually placed windows.
Unlike houses made of bricks and mortar, Japanese architecture has traditionally made use of pillars and beams to create structures that allow for flexible, moveable spaces in which windows and openings can be created at will by the sliding of a screen. In a single day, the space within a Japanese building may be dramatically altered; an opening may be created to reveal hidden gardens, or spaces may be separated to create new rooms. This makes the concept of windows in Japanese architecture fundamentally different from that of other cultural styles.
As an exhibition, it’s mainly a lot of examples of how places are used, some small scale architectural models, and in the middle a really big architectural model, that’s actually a Yosuitei teahouse in Kyoto reconstructed from washi (Japanese paper). Famous for its 13 windows despite its small size, each widow is designed to enhance the experience of the tea ceremony via the control of light and breeze. It’s large enough that you can go inside to have a look around, although there’s not a lot to see when you are in there.
More informative is the video that shows how homes can adapt to the changing weather and needs of the occupants by having walls moved around to open up new windows or close off spaces for privacy. Our European houses with fixed walls may look at that in envy, although I doubt we’d be too keen on thin walls letting in the British weather.
It’s an interesting, but not a massively fascinating exhibition, rewarding to pop in and visit if in the Kensington area but may be disappointing if you had made a special trip to visit it. Unless you’re really into windows that is.
Dotted around are thought-provoking phrases on the walls:
“An increase in the size of windows in indicative of an increase in civilisation” Antonin Raymond
“A good Western door creaks open heavily; a good fusuma or shōji glides open silently with the touch of a finger” Maki Fumihiko
“If our eyes are windows to the souls, that means that windows are windows to the souls of buildings” Fujimori Terunobu
“The art of architecture is about making perforations in closed spaces” Hara Hiroshi