The Romans were the first to use glass in their windows but this expensive material was available only to the ruling classes – it wasn’t until the 17th century that advancements in manufacturing made glass windows a common architectural feature. Before then, openings were kept small and interiors were dark and mostly lightless. Take a drive through the Ibiza countryside and you’ll see plenty of ancient farmhouses with thick walls and tiny windows. Life in Ibiza was lived outside, so the window was only meant as an opening for fresh air. The lack of glass required them to be small to protect the interior from the rain. Animal hide curtains sufficed as window coverings, nailed in place with an iron hook. It’s hard to imagine living like that these days. Humans have become interior animals, taking their labours from outside under the sun to indoors under the glow of a computer screen.
Le Corbusier included the ribbon (horizontal) window in his ground-breaking manifesto The Five Points of Modern Architecture, claiming that ‘the history of architecture is the history of the struggle for light.’ Many historians connect advancements in architecture with the technological developments of window design. In Le Corbusier’s time, the ribbon window was a controversial addition to a building’s façade, only made possible when traditional load-bearing exterior walls and heavy enclosures were eschewed. Nowadays, the ribbon window is a dime a dozen, but still provides a unique entry point for natural light. Without it, our cities, towns and villages would look very different today.
These days, windows represent so much more than a conduit for natural light although that is their main purpose. Today’s technology has allowed windows, skylights and light wells to act as a light source and insulation, in addition to being an energy source with the advent of transparent solar panels. At Blakstad Design Consultants, light is an essential part of our design process. Not only is a bright but naturally lit home beautiful, it’s also vital to wellbeing by providing a connection to the natural world outside, a sense of spaciousness, and the healing powers of sunlight.
Here in Ibiza, almost every angle of a house has a spectacular view – whether of the sea, forest or farmland. The indoor/outdoor summer lifestyle requires rooms to be light-filled and provide easy access between interior and exterior spaces. Glass windows that slide into wall pockets, folding French doors, wood-framed sliding doors – whichever the style, the purpose is the same, to invite abundant light into our lives. Windows provide a frame that extends one’s style from the interiors to the exterior views.
When it comes to refurbishing Ibiza’s old farmhouses, finding ingenious ways to let light in is a Blakstad speciality. Skylights might be hidden between huge beams or cut directly into the ceiling while light wells let sunlight fall naturally over one, two or more levels, cascading down from top to bottom. Transforming those tiny windows into expansive walls of glass is always one of the first requests from clients. Experience has taught our designers how to attain the look while maintaining the essence of the farmhouse layout and history.
Modern life has taken us indoors and the home is the space in which we express our creativity, where we provide nourishment for our families and friends and a place to find sanctuary and comfort. The shaping of sunlight – the control of its direction and measurement – is critical to creating spaces where we feel nurtured. To paraphrase architect Richard Meier, a Blakstad house enters into a symbiosis with light, making this elusive material delivered to us by the sun another architectural form, every bit as important as bricks and mortar.