Look around any old town in the UK, and you will see the amazing inventiveness and effort which was put into the design and installation of the windows. By contrast, look around any new development and you are likely to see bland façades with ‘off the shelf’ windows placed in the walls, without any real care or imagination. What is even sadder is that when an effort has been made to try something different, the end result can usually turn out to be pretty ugly. Why is this?
We think that it has come about as a consequence of three things. Clearly one of them is cost, and if cost is king then there is always a limit as to what you can do, although even then, with a little imagination the industry could do so much better.
The second reason for this lamentable lack of care is because plain was fashionable. Now do not get us wrong, some of us are closet modernists and we love the clean uncluttered style of the modernists, especially when exhibited in the best examples of the lost and forgotten “International Style”, but sadly, and this is not only true of windows; this plainness was latched onto as a way of saving money and so was sold to the public as being “modern”. Less may be more, but only if the less has been very carefully positioned, designed and constructed otherwise it’s just cheapskate.
The third reason we would give is that the public and clients have just forgotten to ask. Over the past few decades our collective aspirations have fallen to an all time low. In the past there have been patrons of good architecture who would ask, and that is why we have all of this incredibly rich heritage, it is not because we do not have the skill. When the director of the company started to work in an Architects office it was common to produce a detailed drawing, sometimes at full size, for a joiner to use to make a window or door from and so the skills to design it are certainly within living memory and as for the skill of the artisan carpenter, it would not be too difficult to find the skill to make it if it is detailed carefully. Many joiners and even carpenters would love to be given the chance to produce something special. Of course, this comes at a cost. However, my contention is that there are people out there with a lot of money, spending it on lavish apartments with no costs spread, and it is these people that need to be educated in that with a bit of time and effort the building industry can still produce something beautiful. Not perhaps monumental or lavish but just beautiful or fun. We will attach some examples of windows which were photographed over the weekend.
Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.