From our earliest times, the need for light has been central to our needs as human beings. Letting light into a cave or crude structure allowed its inhabitants to better perform tasks and navigate, alerting them to the day’s cycle and keeping them in sync with it, something we now understand is vital for human health, emotional health, and well-being.
In England, before the 16th century, most windows were made of stone or wood with unglazed openings that could be covered in various ways: rubber, paper, shutters, or even thin sheets of horn. Glazed windows were reserved for taller buildings and were generally small panes of glass placed in a lattice of lead strips. With the 16th century came the Tudor dynasty and a greater degree of prosperity. Windows got bigger and more prosperous families used window size and extravagance as a means of displaying their wealth. While glazed windows were still rare in smaller, more humble homes, their use was definitely on the rise.
In seventeenth-century Europe, the Italian Renaissance had a strong influence on the shape of windows; a trend that would come to England. The windows became taller than they were wide and were often divided into four by a post and a transom. As wooden frames came into fashion, the mullion and transom became narrower and the glazing was placed almost flush with the exterior window facade, allowing for larger glazed areas with less visible frames.
The sash window was also introduced in the 17th century following the introduction of crown glass. However, because corona glass was so expensive to produce, the most popular type of window was still the lead glass frame. However, over the course of the 18th century, sash design evolved, glass bars became thinner, and window sizes became more standardized, with six out of six being the most common arrangement.
cis_3 The 19th century brought with it a bit of experimentation in an effort to move away from simple grid-style arrangements. This included narrow-edged lights that were often filled with colored glass. The glazed bars also took a curved shape to imitate the Gothic design. Advances in glass manufacturing caused the size of windows to start to grow as well. The existence of glass plates meant fewer glass rods were needed and improved manufacturing methods meant that glass windows were more affordable.
Also notable in this century has been the rise in popularity of two window styles: Arts and Crafts and Queen Ann. Arts and Crafts brought with it a return to leaded lights set in wood or stone mullions, while Queen Anne preferred white painted sash windows, usually with the lower single-pane sash, while the upper sash featured various smaller glasses. By the turn of the century, the differences between the two styles were blurred and it became common to see both styles within the same building, and sometimes within the same window.
The Queen Ann and Arts and Crafts style continued to evolve into the 20th century. In residential complexes, the design was simplified, while public buildings favored windows that mimicked the style of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. All of this coincided with the emergence of the modernist window, which was a simplistic and functional “brilliant” piece produced with the latest technology.
cis_4 The use of glass itself dates back to our earliest history, where obsidian, a form of natural glass created by melting sand in the intense heat of a volcano and distributed during an eruption, was used to make spearheads. The existence of artificial glass dates back to 4000 BC. C., where it was used as glass for stone beads. The first glass container is believed to have been made around 1500 BC. C. It was built by adding a layer of molten glass to a core of sand.
From the year 100 a. C., glass blowing was the most popular way to make glass containers. The glass produced during this century was not suitable for window applications because impurities in the raw materials made it densely colored. However, by the end of the 1st century AD, colorless glass was being produced.