windows ca. 1931

One of the Chicago book’s major themes is the role of windows in responding to functional needs (lighting) while dealing with serious functional and material issues (glass is a notoriously poor insulator, its expensive to make and transport, and it breaks–a lot).  I read an article today by architect Albert Frey from 1931 on “Windows” (Architectural Record, February, 1931) that laid out these problems as they existed at the time.  This is late in the book’s chronology, but it’s interesting to see how these played out when glass was relatively cheap.  Frey suggests that a workplace can’t have too much daylight, and that office buildings and factories ought to adopt the continuous strip windows and cantilevered construction that maximized the amount of exposed glass area on a building facade.  

Frey, of course, practiced in California, where the environmental consequences of glass walls were significantly less than in Chicago.  He noted that these windows needed shade in the summer, and acknowledged the need for heat in the winter.  What’s interesting is that his formula did become the universal standard, but not until the 1940s and 1950s, by which time air conditioning was in widespread use.

One more interesting point.  Frey thought that factories had it right, with gigantic planes of glass opening directly in to work places.  He explained the typical use of quite small panes by pointing out that windows were much more likely to be broken in industrial environments.  Larger panes would have been more expensive to replace.  Never thought of that, but it makes sense.

What’s on student’s desks

A colleague who is heading back into academia recently asked what ten books she should catch up on if she wanted to be up to speed with what students were reading/talking about. Here’s a quick scan of student desks, with a couple thrown in that should be part of the discourse:

1. David Leatherbarrow, On Weathering
2. Kenneth Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture
3. William McDonough, Cradle to Cradle
4. Bruce Mau, Massive Change
5. Richard Sennett, The Craftsman
6. Cecil Balmond, Informal
7. Farshid Moussavi, The Function of Ornament
8. Stephen Kieran, Refabricating Architecture
9. D’Arcy Thompson, On Growth and Form
10. Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture

I’m curious to hear what’s on student desks elsewhere–read, examined, or just serving as paperweights…