Columns and reports on windows in architecture, photography, art, etc.

January 11, 2018

Floors and Floods: Siem Reap, Part 1

Siem Reap is one of the cities in Cambodia, along with Angkor Wat, that is hopping with tourists who come to see the ancient ruins that lie there. After seeing some of the major spots in the ruins like many of the other travelers, I wondered what kind of homes the locals lived in nowadays, and borrowed a bike from my economically priced lodging to ride along the river. According to the calculations I had made earlier while studying a map, if I rode about an hour downstream I would arrive at the well-known Tonlé Sap lake.

Tonlé Sap is famous for being the largest lake in Cambodia, or one should say, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Like a "moving" lake, during rainy season it can grow up to 9 times deeper and cover 6 times as much land as other times of the year. This fluctuation in the amount of water makes for healthy farming and fishing industries, but the surrounding villages are inundated with water during rainy season, so there are many residences built above the water or on high pillars.

As I rode toward the lake, I started to see houses built atop tall pillars. They were around 1 to 2 meters high and made of wood with corrugated sheets for roofs, but the brick and larger houses used concrete.

  • The closer I got to the lake, I began to see houses held up by tall pillars
September 6, 2016

Tove Jansson's Window

Photographer Takashi Homma introduces some compelling windows spliced between his own photos and text. Part 1 of this series delivers five photos – one of which is never before seen – plus an exclusive sketch from Hommaʼs latest photo collection, A song for windows, which pays homage to author Tove Jansson.

This lodge is located on a small island among a group of islands just off the coast of Finland; it is also where Tove Jansson, author of the famous Moomin series, spent her summers for more than twenty years. The uninhabited island can be circled by foot in about 7 minutes; the lodge is 4 m in length with a diameter 5.45 m. It is 2.2 m high.

October 5, 2015

Before Being Maiko Kurogouchi of mame

The sound of air spewing out from the A/C grew louder and then fainter; the second hand of the clock on the wall resounded overdramatically as it dutifully ticked out the seconds one after another. From the window I could see browning mountain ridges and chimney smoke drifting by from some unknown source. I returned my gaze back inside the room, only to turn my eyes back outside again, but by then there was no longer any sign of the smoke.

She is always abrupt. On any day she might suddenly post onto social media a scene that seems to c0rrectly encapsulate all the worldʼs beauty. And from that I will learn that she has set out on yet another creative journey.

"Windows"—every one of them that she has captured during her travels appears to brim with pathos. This may be because she took them in the winter. Or because she caught a cold. Or because I am no longer by her side.

These are accounts from my trip with her through a still snowy Tohoku, travel memories that colored the days before and after, and tracings from the 10-plus years that we spent together.

December 7, 2017

The Red Earthenware Bowl: Eastern Tibet, Ser thar, Part 2

I descended to the center of Larung Gar, where it seemed a lecture or assembly had just ended, as priests were entering and leaving the building one after another. The sight of people wearing the same colored surplices getting sucked into the center of the space, and then dispersed into the surrounding areas was fascinating to me, since it seemed like a rhythm to life that matched the bowl-like topography perfectly.

  • Priests gathering together in the temple at the center of town. Their clothing was the same color as the buildings.
November 15, 2017

Part 3: Apertures for Walking Through

One way to use an aperture is to pass physical things through it. In most cases apertures are installed at the border between an inside space and outside space. Through them people and things go in and out. When a space that was closed off is opened up and the inside and outside spaces are connected, everything changes. For example, many different kinds of stimulation from the outside such as fresh air comes flowing in, birdsong and the sound of waves can be heard, and you can smell the fragrant scent of flowers from outside when an aperture is opened. Conversely, people at times erase the border between the two spaces by bringing their activities outside. Examples of this are when people eat, read, or play musical instruments outside.

The apertures I will introduce in this article are ones that seamlessly link inside and outside spaces when they are opened, and are made for the purpose of allowing people to go in and out through them. Glass, with its translucence, plays a big role in these cases by visually erasing the border between inside and outside, or linking them together.


This residence, a major characteristic of which is the stretch of large windows that run along the wall facing the garden, is called Kokfelt House, and was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1957. You can go in and out of the building by opening and closing the sliding and hinged glass door. The living room is a level above, and you can step outside to a wooden deck from there to gaze out at the sea. You can go out to the deck from each of the rooms on the upper floor, and you can descend to the garden from the deck with a set of stairs as well. One can imagine that they held garden parties and barbeques on the green lawn.

In Denmark at the end of the 1950ʼs many similar residences were built. Halldor Gunnløgssonʼs Own House (built in 1958) and Poul Kjærholmʼs Own House (built in 1963) are well known to use Japanese traditional architecture as references, but Jacobsen, who was always ahead of his time, integrated sliding doors and a garden facing deck into his residence even earlier than those two.

Not only in Denmark but also in other European countries the concept of sliding doors had yet to be invented. The Japanese fusuma, which allowed one to open up or close up a space flexibly, was a fresh, new idea for them. Many considered them modern and functional, and after the war they became quite fashionable. At the root of this phenomenon was the Japanese magazine "The Japan Architect," which was published abroad in June of 1956 in English, providing many more opportunities for people to see sliding doors. A deck from which one might appreciate a garden can be accessed when sliding doors are opened, creating a buffer zone, or a "between space" so to say, that connects the inside and outside spaces.

October 18, 2017

Part 2: Apertures for View

Apertures have many purposes of uses. They are used as light sources, as ventilation, and as portals through which people pass. In each of these examples, they are opened to allow some physical thing to pass through them. However, apertures do exist for different purposes. Windows that use the translucency of glass in order to provide a line of sight to the outside from the inside, in other words, apertures that have been installed to allow one to enjoy the scenery, are one such example. Since they are not intended to be physically opened or closed, some of them are fixed windows.

1."Windows that frame" – Cropping the View

1-1. Art Museum

If someone ask me, "What is your favorite art museum in the world?" I will no doubt answer "The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art." One of my favorite spaces in this museum is this exhibit room. The position of Giacomettiʼs sculpture never changes. What do change are the pictures on the walls and the scenery over the window. The view is framed so that it is just like a gigantic painting. Depending on the season, time of day, or weather, the scenery changes so that no matter when you go, it moves you and brings you joy. The "Walking Man"(Giacomettiʼs sculpture) is frozen in time for all eternity, but the scenery behind him is constantly changing.

September 20, 2017

Part 1: Apertures for Light

Fleeting and weak though it is, light in Scandinavia has a mysterious kind of allure to it. Could it not be that the peoples of Scandinavia worship the light of the sun precisely because it fades so easily?

I lived in Denmark for two years, from 2006 to 2008. Living there, I was surprised to find that most houses did not have curtains in their windows. People didnʼt seem to mind even if the inside of their houses were completely visible from the outside. Rather, they would decorate their windowsills with flowers or figurines and display their interior design with pride. That said, the most important purpose of this set up was to allow as much light as possible into the house.

July 19, 2017

Memories of a Skylight: Tashqurqan Part 3

The following morning when I arrived at Classyʼs house at the scheduled time, we met with another man who seemed to be about the same age as Classy. After finishing a cigarette the three of us left the house.

We arrived at a stone house covered with an ocher mud much like Classyʼs. There were people of all ages and both sexes all wearing decorative clothing, and the atmosphere was such that it seemed as if a festival were about to begin.

After being invited into the house, I found that people were gathered in the central room which I have often referred to (in this house pink was the base color), and in the back of the room a man and a woman were sitting dressed in the most ostentatious clothing of them all. I realized after noticing that everyone was surrounding the couple that I had been invited to a Tajiki wedding. I was surprised that a Japanese man like myself who had just been met the previous day had been invited to a wedding in the community, but there really is no better opportunity to observe the way they used the home than at such an event. The corner in which the newlyweds sat was hidden by a pink lace cloth, creating an only partially visible space.

June 28, 2017

Memories of a Skylight: Tashqurqan Part 2

After driving for about 7 minutes in Classyʼs car, the windshield of which had a crack in it, we arrived at a wetland area that was completely different from the field of rape blossoms I mentioned before. A river cut through the center of the thick, silky fields.

A portion of it was open to tourists as a scenic area, and though I did not see anyone who appeared to be a tourist, there were walkways, rest areas, and other such things, so that it was just like Oze Hiking Route. I walked along after Classy towards the back of the wetlands.

  • Walking through the thick wetlands
April 19, 2017

A Desert below Sea Level — Turpan, Part 3

What I learned from these grape-drying huts was that the key to a dwelling in a desert below sea level was creating shadows by bricks, poplar, and a few branches and leaves as well as ventilating the room.

I visited seven Uyghur settlements while in Turpan. I have marked the locations of six out of those seven settlements and the aforementioned grape-drying huts in the map below. It seemed as if there were many people from the Han clan located in the center of the city adorned with grid-like wide roads while the Uyghur settlements were located in the surrounding green areas.

  • Locations of the houses visited (Plotted by the author on Google Earth)
March 22, 2017

A Desert Below Sea Level—Turpan, Part 2

I came across a group of grape-drying huts on a hill just off the settlement. These huts I had seen the day I arrived in Turpan while taking a bus to my nearby accommodations some 10 hours after an exhausting train ride. On a hill under a harsh morning sun, those perforated buildings all faced in the same direction, attracting my sleepy eyes.

Cutting through the Uyghur settlements Iʼm heading to that bald hill lined with huts. Most of those huts, lined neatly on an incline, are made of sun-dried bricks. The huts have the same color as the hill they are standing on. A hill transformed into huts through water and sun. Some huts used burned bricks while some were empty lots whose foundation is all that remains.

  • Grape-drying huts. The transformation of a hill through water and sun
January 5, 2017

Zhangcun: The Needs of the Underground Part 2

Iʼve come to realize that meeting with elders is the best way to learn about their village. Walking through a loess land of beautiful green trees, I continued to develop this method Iʼve worked on throughout my journeys. Suddenly I came upon an older woman putting a handkerchief on her head while resting in the shade of a tree.

Does she live in a yaodong? Either way, I tried to communicate to her that Iʼm interested in architecture by showing my sketches. Naturally, I could hardly communicate with her in Chinese.

It seems I managed to get my intention across after a few minutes of struggling. She took me to her nearby yaodong, indeed her place of residence. There was a small hole serving as entrance to her underground cave located some distance away from a square hole in a courtyard. Because she had a bad knee, she guided me to her dwelling while leaning on a walking cane.

  • Approach yaodong
November 8, 2016

Houses beyond the Places of Scenic Beauty (2)

Repeating myself the phrase "your house" in Chinese, the old man and I walked for about 40 minutes through a town located outside of the scenic area. I saw a construction site for some new, large building and walked along unpaved narrow streets; I saw scenes from daily live different from tourist sites. We finally arrived at what seemed to be the old manʼs home. (Only later did I realize I had mistaken the phrase "your house" all along.)

The house was a closed-off, flat building with walls of painted white brick. The tiles of the roof was similar to the ones I saw in the scenic area, and upon closer inspection, the manner in which they were stacked also looked alike. Despite being located outside of the scenic area it seemed they had something in common. Nearby there were numerous buildings of a similar fashion, as if many of the buildings were constructed in one shot.

  • The old manʼs home (front)
September 21, 2016

Shanghai, Bars of Iron Sprouting from Windows (2)

My steps become lighter now that Iʼve decided what Iʼll look for. This is the beginning of a trip to search for bars of iron. Ten steps out and I find what Iʼm looking for. Immediately I discover a housing complex with countless iron bars sprouting from it. Iʼm a little concerned that those bars might fall onto the few cars parked directly under them.

  • Cars parked under numerous iron bars.
June 29, 2016

The Maniac Behind The Glasshouse

Kew Gardens is a botanical research institution situated in southwest London, and is home to the world's largest collection of living plants. Even though I can still recall the many occasions upon which I have visited the Gardens as a child, I realised that I had not yet had a chance to fully understand it from an architectural point of view. And so, I recently revisited the beautiful site to fulfill this modest wish of mine.

March 8, 2016

Into the Depth of the Window

The end of summer time, like the morning air which feels more and more crisp as the days go by, is one of those things that remind me of the coming of the long winter season. This "summer time" is a system that has been adopted in most European countries, where the clock is set forward by one hour during summer months. The idea of British Summer Time was first proposed at the beginning of the 19th century by an English construction entrepreneur, William Willett. He was convinced that sunlight was being put to waste, when early one morning as he enjoyed riding, he noticed that the entire town still remained asleep with all the shutters closed, even though it had already been hours since sunrise. He later came to publish a pamphlet titled "The Waste of Daylight", and throughout his life continued to advocate the benefits of utilising sunlight by means of adjustment of national time. However, it was only in 1916 that the system was officially introduced, when the First World War broke out and resource had become a serious concern for the government. At the time, the primary aim of the system was to cut back on the consumption of coal.

  • Hyde Park in the autumn season. In summer, many people can be seen sunbathing on the grass.
December 21, 2015

fear and pleasure, and as theater

The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. First arrondissement including the Louvre Museum is located approximately at the center of Paris. From there, the arrondissemens are numbered in a clockwise spiral, ending at  the eastern part of Paris.Among the 20 arrondissements, I started my architectural career in Paris at a university of the Belleville district. This district is located on the second-highest hill next to Montmartre and is always  vibrant as an immigration district today. There are cheap bars where students gather, and shops run by mainly Chinese or North African people. A lot of Eastern European people are living there. For this reason, I feel a different type of bustle and smell from that of the center of Paris throughout the day. At the top of the hill of Belleville Street, there is a Belleville park having a panoramic view of Paris. Since the view of Paris from the park was beautiful, the name of this district began to be called 'Belle ville' (beautiful town).

  • Arrondissements of Paris.
September 17, 2015

Tracing the urban brickscape

As surprising as it may seem, I feel that the true quality of a city such as London lies in its "disorderliness". Within the city, countless elements with various historical backgrounds coexist; their territories constantly overlapping each other. For instance, a single building is likely to have undergone multiple phases of reconstruction and extension in its lifetime, and it is never easy to distinguish the boundaries between the old and the new. Taking a step back and observing the city from a further distance, it is evident that the streets do not have a basic logic in their compositions. This is due to the fact that historically London has lacked an overall urban planning scheme, and as a result the streets form an almost organic network by sequentially linking one place to the next, rather than employing a strict geometrical pattern.

Strolling through the labyrinthine Georgian streets in the City of London, whilst the tall skyscrapers soar high above my head, I am able to enjoy a kind of pleasant disharmony. The image of this city seems to be formed by a sequence -an uncoordinated continuity of individual elements with ambiguous boundaries. It is only understandable that this city is often described as a collection of villages.

  • Old and new coexist in the streetscape
September 17, 2015

la fenêtre à la française

Six years have passed since I arrived in Paris. Although my daily life has been changing and evolving every moment, Paris has kept the skyline since it has been built. The scenery of the small windows through the walls on the other side of the Seine River and the street havenʼt changed their position since long before I arrived here. The busy traffic through the window has been unnaturally the same since the first day.

In the history and culture of the city of Paris, there is no doubt that the window has existed as a symbol and is an important part of the building. Meanwhile, it is well known that most of the things that happen around windows are everyday things or just slight changes in Paris.

What are the windows of Paris? I am not yet ready to straightforwardly provide an answer to explain the essence of the windows. I do not know whether the answer really exists. Anyway, in order to advance this question, I try to open up various cross-sections of the windows of Paris one by one. I expect to clarify the windows of Paris and aim to approach them.

April 1, 2015

Window Bookcase (2)

This is the second entry on the Window Bookcase Project. We at the Window Research Institute asked o+h, the architectural practice of Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda, to produce a furniture piece that can be used for holding a traveling exhibition of books in small bookstores and galleries across the country. The concept for the piece is "a bookcase like a small building". o+h present their ideas for the design in this entry.


Onishi: Today we will be showing our ideas through models. These are still in the making, but they are the two schemes that we are designing: the folding screen scheme, which unfolds to define spaces, and the building scheme.

March 18, 2015

Giving Color to Windows

Textile coordinator/designer Yoko Ando has been directing how textiles are used around windows in the work of many architects both young and old. Spaces can be enriched by adding color to their windows. Ando invites us to think about the significance of giving color to windows by showing us some of her past work.

  • SUS Corporation Fukushima Factory Dormitory, 2005
    (work done while at NUNO Corporation).
    Design: Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Photo: Daici Ano.
March 9, 2015

The Windows of the Teien Art Museum

Sumally is a social networking service that has been created from the concept of making "an ʻencyclopediaʼ for everything that exists in the world" by categorizing things into the two categories of "Want" and "Have". Kensuke Yamamoto, founder and CEO of Sumally, was formally an editor of a fashion/culture magazine. Still never one to miss out on an opportunity to experience the latest cultural trends, Yamamoto made a visit to the newly refurbished Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, which reopened in November 2014. Here he shares his thoughts on the relationships that the Art Deco-style building creates between windows and light.

December 17, 2014

Window Bookcase (1)

This project started when we commissioned o+h, the young wife-and-husband team of architects Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda, to design a bookcase for us. This is the first article in a series of entries that will be documenting the making of the bookcase until its completion.


Please make a bookcase like a small building…!

In 2007, we at the Window Research Institute initiated our Windowology studies, a research program focused on windows that is grounded in our philosophy: "The window is a product of civilization. Windows embody culture." We have now published five books domestically and three books overseas as products of our research.

The section for architecture books where these books are shelved in bookstores is generally considered to be an area full of serious books on engineering. This impression that people hold of it as a very academic section has stood as an obstacle to our wish to have many people read our books.

We need to devise something that will make people from children to adults want to pick up our books. But who would be the best partner for us to work with to give shape to this project? After careful consideration, we have commissioned the project to o+h, the architectural practice of Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda.

  • Double-Helix House (Japan, 2011)
December 11, 2014

Windows of Food, Clothing, and Shelter

Takahiro Shibata is an editor and executive director of Magazine Houseʼs quality-of-life magazine & Premium. Shibata, who has proposed numerous lifestyle ideas through writing books, such as TOOLS and Lisa Larson: Swedish Ceramic Artist, and through directing the online magazines LIFECYCLING and ONE DAY—A LIFE WITH DOG, writes about the windows of food, clothing, and shelter that he has experienced.