Notes by : Gautam Shah



Chapters in BOLD face are revised after 2009. Other chapters will be placed as soon revision is complete. CLICK on the CHAPTER TITLE -to go to.














To be revised and published

5.0 Grills and Trellis

6.0 Wall systems

7.0 Floors, Roofs and Ceiling systems

8.0 Flooring systems

9.0 Transfer systems

9.1 Stairs

9.2 Ramps, Walk-ways

9.3 Elevators, Escalators

9.4 Passages and Corridors

10.0 Food Preparation areas’ Systems

10.1 Domestic Kitchens

10.2 Commercial Kitchens

11.0 Storage Systems

12.0 Body Postures, Devices and Systems

13.0 Comfort Systems

19.0 Components Layout and Social Behaviour


1.0                BUILDING AS A SYSTEM




1.0.0 Building as a System

1.0.1 Building : A system for inhabitation

1.0.2 Categories of Building Systems

1.0.3 How Building Systems emerge

1.0.4 Building User and the Environment


(Click here to go to Next Chapter)


1.0.0         BUILDING AS A SYSTEM

(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)

Keywords: Parts / Components / System / a unique personality / a coherent character / a man-made system / natural system / a physical system / conceptual or non physical system / universe / user / independent or mutually less related systems / intense coherence / biological system / built-in capacities or reserves / strategical planning / synergetic devices / consume energy / byproducts.


A building is a very complex entity made up of many parts, components and systems. Some Parts of the building come together to form a Component. Parts and Components function in unison to form a System. A system has twofold identity: a unique personality of what it does, and a coherent character of how it carries out its functions. The ‘first identity makes a system substantially self-sufficient’, but the ‘second identity makes it a participant of a larger system’.

A building is a man-made system compared to many natural systems (such as weather, ecological, solar etc.). It is a physical system unlike many ‘conceptual’ or nonphysical systems (such as information, taxation etc.). Buildings are physical entities composed of many elemental units. Buildings have systems of form and size, which render subsystems like scaling, modulation, proportion, hierarchy, patterns, etc. These subsystems in reference to the Universe provide orientation, siting, location, etc., and in association of the User offer left-right positioning, sense of vertical and equilibrium, anthropometric functions and sensorial values.

A building can be perceived as a very large and complex system consisting of many different types of systems and subsystems. The systems are customarily categorised in terms of what they do: such as Structural, Architectural, Interior, Electrical, Mechanical, Air-conditioning etc. Some of these are fairly independent or mutually less related systems, and so can be installed, replaced or removed without many of the consequential effects. However, other systems have very intense coherence, and so once installed cannot be easily removed or replaced without affecting other systems.

Buildings have emulated the biological system of live beings. Buildings are designed with not only built-in capacities or reserves, but designed to be responsive, through strategical planning and synergetic devices. Buildings consume energy to be a functional system, and as consequence of it, generate byproducts.



(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)


Keywords: system for inhabitation / structural and nonstructural system swap their roles.


A building can be defined as a system for inhabitation. The building or the shell can be built exclusively out of structural systems, but for inhabitation many other subsystems must be incorporated into it. These incorporated subsystems have no or a very little structural role, though may depend on the structure to be operative. All subsystems of the buildings cannot be typecasted neatly as structural versus nonstructural entities. There are several reasons for this. Structural and Nonstructural systems swap their roles under specific conditions. For example a door or a window frame of opening systems may carry some loads in an earthquake like a situation. Inversely, a structural system may become latent or redundant, as for example a retaining wall of a swimming pool filled in on both sides may not be required to act as a retaining structure. In both types of swapping of roles, the changeover may be temporary, permanent, reversible or nonreversible.



(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)

Keywords: STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS / constancy / subsystems repositioned or removed / NONSTRUCTURAL SYSTEMS / TYPES OF NONSTRUCTURAL SYSTEMS / Protective systems / Filler systems / Independent systems / building as a composite system / CONSIDERATIONS FOR A BUILDING AS A COMPOSITE SYSTEM / Identity elemental units / Location, position, and orientation / Schedules and conditions of occurrence / Nature of interrelationships / Design compulsions / Technological relevance / User considerations / User relevance / Environmental concerns / Operational aspects / Social values / Economics / Occupation and Inhabitation factors.


STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS: A structural system by its intrinsic nature, composition, position, or arrangement, provides a whole that stays stable, in equilibrium, or constant (yet may be mobile like a ship, spacecraft etc.). The structural subsystems of a building system must exist in the required location or be available at the required moment and duration to achieve the distinctive constancy. The stability of a building is disturbed, when the structural subsystems are repositioned or removed. Structural systems of the building seem to be well integrated, because by being together they achieve constancy, which is fundamental to a structure’s being.

NON STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS: Non structural systems of a building apparently have no role to play in the constancy of the building. Subsystems within a building that do not affect the constancy of a building may be called nonstructural systems (e.g. partition walls, doors, windows, finishes, etc.). Non structural systems though useless in structural sense, are not totally dispensable. Many nonstructural systems protect the structural elements, like plaster, walls, claddings etc. Some nonstructural systems achieve their own stability by depending on the structural systems, e.g. a stretched net or a sail. Nonstructural systems need not be integrated with the structure so are replaceable or relocatable.



1        Protective systems: that cover the structural systems and non structural systems, e.g. plasters, waterproofing, roofing.

2        Filler systems: fill up the gaps or spaces between structural subsystems, e.g. non load-bearing walls, joints.

3        Independent systems are complete systems by themselves that independently provide peculiar functionality, e.g. air conditioning, illumination, communication.



        Identity elemental units such as parts, components and subsystems.

        Location, position, and orientation of the elemental units within the system (the building).

        Schedules and conditions of occurrence or being relevant for the elemental units within the system (the building).

        Nature of interrelationships between the elemental units, such as: synergy, coordinated behaviour, dependency, autonomy, and also: order, patterns, sequence, proportion, modulation system etc. involved.

        Design compulsions such as minimum standards, codes, laws, regulations.

        Technological relevance: Materials, specifications, experience, skills that are required.

        User considerations: anthropometric and ergonomics, safety aspects such as hazards, risk management, sensual qualities, aesthetics.

        User relevance in terms of novelty, tradition, vogue.

        Environmental concerns: ecological value, disposal mode.

        Operational aspects: repair, maintenance, replacement, accidental and malicious damage.

        Social values such as acceptability, relevance, validity.

        Economics such as value, cost, price.

        Occupation and Inhabitation factors: life span, adaptability.



(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)

Keywords: Invent a novel entity / Improvise important subsystems / Upgrade the working of the system / Adopt subsystems / Universalize systems Provide distinct intra connectivity / Facilitate networking capabilities / Provide for greater integration.


Building as system emerges at many levels and modes, some of these are:

        Invent a novel entity using none or few of the existing subsystems, to replace several existing subsystems.

A window like opening system consists of many sub systems like grills, glass, railing, filters (jalis, nets), awnings, weather sheds, ventilation, safety and security hardware etc., but a comprehensive device can replace all such sub systems.

        Improvise important subsystems to substantially transform the physical nature of the main system.

Installing an elevator or air-conditioning system into an old building completely transforms its nature.

        Upgrade the working of the system by rationally relocating and time scheduling the various subsystems.

        Adopt subsystems as offered by others such as: designers, innovators, inventors, vendors, through facilitation and customization.

        Universalize systems by following standards, codes and protocols. Follow international practices such for Quality -QMS, Environment -EMS, etc.

        Provide distinct intra connectivity between subsystems through a distinctive network or an ancillary subsystem.

        Facilitate networking capabilities between systems with a view to achieve a larger system, through provision of nodes, interfaces.

        Provide for greater integration between physical and nonphysical subsystems.



(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)

Keywords: technological up-gradation of building as a system / efficient system / comprehensive system / spatial rearrangement / rescheduling / use and environmental relevance / greater productivity / use of nonphysical systems / Changes in buildings / Intentional changes / Circumstantial changes / Environmental changes / User on occupation customises the building / Building begins to affect the user / Environment moulds the building / Building impacts the environment.


A building as a complex system is designed to function in an environment and inhabited by a user. A building affects and gets affected by the user and environment. (For detailed discussion, refer: notes on Alterations and Renovations) The building’s innumerable systems are permanent, replaceable or up-gradable. The technological up-gradation of building as a system occurs through:

        Replacement by an efficient system.

        Elimination of several sub systems by adoption of a comprehensive system.

        Integration of several systems by spatial rearrangement or rescheduling.

        Regrouping the systems by their user and environmental relevance or affinities so that systems operate with greater productivity.

        Greater use of nonphysical systems instead of action elements, sensing mechanisms, control elements, decision elements, connecting elements, distancing elements, converters etc. (for more see: 2.0.2).

Changes in buildings are:

        Intentional changes such as: functional, technological upgrading, styling.

        Circumstantial changes such as: due to ageing, wear and tear of use, over-use, under-use, non use, and mis-use).

        Environmental changes: some major categories are listed here:

1User on occupation customises the building by self-help, but changing only the familiar and easily removable subsystems. The user has to hire semiskilled crafts-persons, or retain specialists or professionals like architects, interior designers, engineers, etc. for altering partially integrated or coordinated subsystems.

2Building begins to affect the user, through its awe, form, discipline, flexibility, unyielding rigidity, historical values, location conditions or setting, economics considerations, perceived stability, and expected life, etc.

3Environment moulds the building, nominally at a very consistent pace and in a predictable manner. Some changes are of imperceptible measures and often ignored till the cumulative effect is beyond remedial correction. The environment also changes the building at an inconsistent rate and unpredictably, so all precautions prove useless.

4Building impacts the environment in many ways. It causes changes in the surroundings by its presence, operations, and ultimately on its demise, demolition and disposal. A benign presence is one that disturbs the environment for small time scale and over minor extent, compared to very long lasting and extensive disturbances to the balanced state. A building has nine lives like a cat. A building reincarnates itself in spite of disintegration of many of its sub systems. A building may lose its original form and functional identity, yet continue to be relevant as a shell for a different nature of occupation.

(Click here to go to Chapter 1.0 Index)







2.0.1     Objects

2.0.2     Parts, Components, Tools and Devices

2.0.3     Systems

2.0.4     Elements of Systems

2.0.5     Systems Approach

2.0.6     Designing Systems


(Click here to go to Next Chapter)


2.0.1         OBJECTS

(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: PHYSICAL OBJECTS / simple objects / complex objects / Intrinsic qualities of physical objects / extrinsic marks of physical objects / NON PHYSICAL ENTITIES / Intrinsic qualities of non physical entities / Extrinsic marks of nonphysical entities.


PHYSICAL OBJECTS have a peculiar size and shape. Simpler ones consist of one or few materials. Simple objects are useful on their own, or be useful when placed with others. When a simple object is useful by being in company of other objects, it by itself becomes dysfunctional or inoperative but the assemblage does not get affected significantly. However, there are complex objects, that are so well integrated in the assemblage that their absence can make the entity completely useless.

Intrinsic qualities of physical objects: size shape and constituent materials. Intrinsic qualities allow standardised manufacturing, use, disposal and recycling processes.

Extrinsic marks of physical objects: position, orientation, nature of relationships, duration etc. Extrinsic qualities become apparent only when a physical object is connected to another one.

NONPHYSICAL ENTITIES are like: process, programme, reports (feedback, feed-forward), expression, etc. A nonphysical entity may contain very essential and less essential section within it. For example in a computer programme, there could be sections that are not very essential, compared to sub processes like ‘routines’ which are not only key features but are accessed frequently.

Intrinsic qualities of nonphysical entities: extent, duration, form and constituent elements.

Extrinsic marks of nonphysical entities are the frequency of reference, protocol of access etc.



(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: PARTS / placement, location and function / elemental unit / active to passive interactions / determined by the design / indeterminable behaviour / COMPONENTS / unique composition / role within the system / static / dynamic / a part is also a component / Categories of Components / Action elements / Sensing mechanisms / Control elements / Decision elements / Connecting elements / Distancing elements / Converters / TOOLS AND DEVICES / use of their own / end use / machine / automatises a process / using multiple tools and devices and by combining several strategies / replaceable component.


PARTS: In our day to day life, we use many different types of objects. At a very simple level an object is made up of only one or few materials. Such objects though have variety of sizes and shapes, serve similar purposes. For this reason parts are always replaceable, and similar parts are affected similarly. When we recognize an object as a part, we know that a whole range of nearly similar objects, worthy of being a ‘part', are available. A part has universal character, but when assembled into a component, it acquires a different personality, due to the placement, location and function. A part is that elemental unit to which the whole can be reduced or resolved.

A screw, nail, handle, razor blade, button, are examples of parts. These are destined to become members of a larger entity -the component. Cement, sand, water and bricks, as parts, form a masonry wall, which in turn is component of a building. Parts like a tube, tyres, air, rims, together create a component -the wheel. The wheel with many other components makes up a system of movement.

Within a composition, parts exhibit an active to passive interactions with other parts, as determined by the design. But parts dealing with the environment (including the user) often show indeterminable behaviour.

COMPONENTS: A component is unique composition of many parts, to serve a specific purpose, and must remain steadfast to the specific function to be relevant. Components have a specific identity, compared to Parts, which have a universal character. A component is more intimately linked to the larger composition-the system, than a part is. Components are conceived to be within a larger composition or system, and derive their identity on the nature of their role within the system. Some components remain static and so are useful, but many others are dynamic and only for that reason, become members of the functional system. Components manifest at very specific location and occasion, so can be easily identified and separated. A part is also a component where it becomes exclusive due to the placement, location or function. Components show reactivity to presence or elimination of energy by becoming dormant, active to hyperactive.

Some Categories of Components are:

Action elements: These trigger an action (like tools, devices), such as commands in computer or machine codes: start, stop, redo, wait, seek, words, phrases or expressions that excite, incite, inspire, tranquillize, annoy or hurt.

Sensing mechanisms: These require a feed-forward or generate feedback, so have state device or switch, and a communication node.

Control elements: Control elements operate within a designed range of effectivity, which whenever is breached it activates a sensing mechanism.

Decision elements: A decision element is mix of sensing mechanism and a control element, the logic for decision making is preset, but could involve a linear, looped, fuzzy or random process.

Connecting elements: These elements connect several components for synchronous movement or action, transfer of energy, electrical charge, messaging and communication. Examples include wires, levers, cranks, shafts, axles, ties, circuits, etc.

Distancing elements: These distance two components in space or delay a process in time. Compaction, diffusion, acceleration, deceleration, are the characteristic of such elements. A washer, spacer, gasket, sprocket wheels, timer belts, are examples of such components.

Converters: These elements convert movements from linear to planner, circular, or read a pattern, create a pattern, scale, focus, de-focus, enlarge and compress it. Examples include measuring devices, pantographs, digital printers, plotters, monitors, keyboards, projectors, etc.

A PA system has several physical components like power supply, microphones, cables, amplifiers, speakers, etc. A computer system has physical components like processors, memory modules etc., as well as nonphysical components like software. A publication or report includes components in the form of indices, links, references, conditions of use, intellectual rights -copyright, patent. A DNA has genetic modules (code) as the components. A programming language consists of code components that trigger certain activity or keep a check on it.

TOOLS AND DEVICES: A knife, screwdrivers, pliers, scissor, axe, etc. consist of several parts, so are components, but have use of their own, and may not be destined to become members of a larger entity. Such components with a definite end use are tools and devices. Tools and devices, as a component, become part of the larger system such as a machine.

A machine automatises a process, and so allows heavier, lighter, measured and intricate use of force then a human possibly could do. The same process or the style of working can be employed using different types of tools. Thus a press can bend, puncture, or cut a piece of metal by change of tools. A machine is rational unaffected by moods or emotions. Tools and devices by becoming parts of machines help a number of processes. The efficiency is enhanced by using multiple tools and devices and by combining several strategies to output a complex object, such as done by an automated lathe, turning, drilling machine or a forging press. Tools and devices are expected to wear, and so are replaceable components.


2.0.3         SYSTEMS

(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: SYSTEMS / purposive entities / a complex whole / scheduled in time / appropriately located in space / TYPES OF SYSTEMS / SMALL SYSTEMS / finite entity / LARGE SYSTEMS / infinite entity / groups of subsystems / SIMPLE SYSTEMS / man-made systems / natural systems / COMPLEX SYSTEMS / interdependent / independent / sea current system / active systems / biological entities / dynamic systems / synergetic systems / PHYSICAL SYSTEMS / exploit material based qualities / use configuration related characteristics / NONPHYSICAL SYSTEMS / ethereal / metaphysical / arrangement / sustain larger physical or nonphysical systems / core / periphery / Simple nonphysical systems / complex nonphysical systems.


SYSTEMS: Systems are purposive entities qualifying the togetherness of parts, components and subsystems. A system is a set of contributing elements and a culture (manner) that allows it function as a unified whole. A system is also a group of interacting, interrelated, interdependent, as well as distanced and independent elements forming a complex whole. A system also consists of components which are connected together in order to facilitate the flow of information, matter or energy, or by togetherness project cohesion, holistic unity, commonality, universalism.

Systems have their elemental units scheduled in time and appropriately located in space. For every change in the constitution, composition (form and size) and position of an elemental unit there is a corresponding change in the system. Though, some changes are insignificant, and are ignored. Elemental units of a system due to their scheduling, positional value, or designed inactiveness, are often not relevant to others. A system, however, composed of such apparently irrelevant elements is relevant as a whole.

TYPES OF SYSTEMS: Systems can be primarily classified by their size, complexity and nature.

SMALL SYSTEMS: A small system has linear (sequential) architecture of arrangement or relationships. A Small system persists for a limited time, and dominates small extent of space, so is a finite entity.

LARGE SYSTEMS are in the form of 2D or 3D matrix, or looped with entwined structures. Its spread in time and space is infinite and so such systems could be an infinite entity, such as for example the atomospheric or economic system. A large system consists of several groups of sub systems, some of which outlast others.

SIMPLE SYSTEMS: A simple system is composed of few elemental parts and components, which are essentially interrelated. All man-made systems are simpler, for the basic reason that these are always finite and logical, in comparison to natural systems. Simple systems are static or dormant in particular time segments. A simple system consists of the physical or non physical entities, but rarely both.

COMPLEX SYSTEMS: Complex systems are composed of several sub systems, only some of which are directly interrelated, yet all function towards a unified whole. In a complex system some of the subsystems are intentionally designed to be interdependent and other are isolated in time or space, to make them independent. Complex systems include, both physical and non physical entities, but a nonphysical system due to its nature seems very complex one. Systems seem to be complex when the change causing intrinsic or extrinsic elements cannot be easily or adequately identified. A sea currents’ system, is one such complexity, where the al Nino causing elements have not been yet identified. Active systems exchange energy and efficiently deliver a product or an advantage. Some complex or High-end systems emulate biological entities. But man-made systems are not capable of procreation, like the biological systems. Dynamic systems have an intensity ranging from dormancy to a high vibrancy. Synergetic systems have inbuilt capacities to adjust to the environment so are self-regulating, but dynamic systems.

Systems are physical, nonphysical or both. Examples of Physical systems are: equipments, utilities, buildings, etc.; Nonphysical systems are: banking, software, defence, healthcare, marketing systems, environment, solar, etc.

PHYSICAL SYSTEMS: Physical systems are of various sizes, shapes, materials and configurations, and each combination serves a peculiar need. Physical systems exploit materials-based qualities like: constitution, mass, weight, capacities, performance, etc. and use configurations related characteristics such as: geometry or the structural arrangement. Some physical systems generate information which in turn support non physical subsystems like software or programme. Physical systems are finite. Their elements are ‘domains’ bound (territorial). As a result a physical system can be considered to be static and dealt accordingly. A physical system, like the human body, is continuously affected by the environment, and is a complex entity. Such systems display multiple functionality.

NONPHYSICAL SYSTEMS: Nonphysical systems are both ethereal and metaphysical. Ethereal systems can be experienced, but have no material body or affirm to a conceptual structure, so are difficult to define. Metaphysical systems are abstract systems with ideas or concepts organized in some manner or arrangement (algorithms) to serve specific ends. The arrangement is based on relevance of occurrence, action sequence, affinity, etc. of the elements. Such systems may show a strategy (a long term plan), a tactic (a short term or immediate), or an action-reaction response programme. Output of such conceptual systems sustains either larger nonphysical or physical system. Non physical system like the environment, has no physical territory or a finite edge, but can be sensed in terms of core (or themes) effect, and overlapping zones with other systems representing the periphery and the weaker or diffused effect.

Simple Nonphysical Systems have distinctive elemental units (e.g. taxation system) structured to provide a facility, strategy, solution, explanation, conclusion, etc.

Complex Nonphysical Systems are extremely persistent (omnipresent and pervasive), or not fully comprehensible in the nominal time and space scale of the perceiver (e.g. solar system). The simplest element of a nonphysical system is -the core or nucleus, an area where effects of other systems are least effective.



(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: ORDER / recognition of order / primary orders / selection / processes of assembly and manufacture / degree of coordination / formation of concept / CORE or NUCLEUS / PERIPHERY / exchange information / transfer energy / INTERVENING ZONES / convergent areas / gaps and interludes / DOMAINS / internal and external / nodes for dependency or connectivity.


ORDER: Order is an inherent characteristic of all systems. Order begins to emerge as soon as parts and components are selected for inclusion in system. Initially systems have order that is alogical and loosely definable, and it may or may not be apparent. But it is noticeable when the system begins to perform. At this stage, in simple system the order is obvious, logical and definable. But in nonphysical system the order can be elusive due to the scale and complexity. Yet recognition of order in a system helps in many ways:

        It helps the definition of a system.

        It endows self sufficiency, so that the system can become an ever replaceable component.

        It provides nodes for dependency so that the system becomes integrated whole.

In all systems the primary orders are: selection (inclusion and exclusion) of parts, components, etc. and the process of assembly or manufacture. However, in complex systems there are many levels and categories of orders.

Every human effort follows some intrinsic logic’. Parts of an entity, even before being manufactured and even before physically placed together, have some degree of coordination. The coordination begins within the thought processes of the designer along with the formation of concept for the object.

Another important characteristic of systems is their domain or territory. This is very apparent in physical system, but nonphysical systems seem infinite with no edges. However, metaphysical systems have a zone where they are adequately active in comparison to sections where such systems are diffused, i.e., partially effective.

Recognition of order in system, is both subjective and objective. Subjective involvement allows the system author to see through the nascent logic, or blinds in recognising the order. Objective evaluation of the system by an uninvolved person rides over personal biases. Objective evaluation can occur for an operational system.

CORE OR NUCLEUS: Nonphysical systems have a strong focus from which other subsystems emanate or converge to. In very pervasive nonphysical systems a core or nucleus like a focus is the zone where one establishes conceptual mooring or base to start the encounter with the system. For a human being encounter with the atmosphere as a system begins at the surface of the earth, i.e. technically at the optimum sea level. The core is considered a multi faceted entity because most of the subsystems have a bearing here. The core distinguishes two directions: inward and outward.

PERIPHERY: Periphery zones are well defined in systems that are holistic or as sub system has a semblance of independence. The periphery zones or edges are recognised when a subsystem touches other subsystems at few locations spatially or on certain occasions temporally. During rest of the conditions the periphery is not perceptible. The periphery is well delineated in systems that exchange information or transfer energy at specific nodes and through protocol.

INTERVENING ZONES: Intervening zones are the convergent areas formed by overlapping subsystems and also by gaps or interludes between subsystems. The convergence and gaps-interludes occur, both in time and space. A holistic entity, has no intervening zones, and the subsystem have little or separate identity. A loosely conglomerated system like transit, courier, etc. consist of several modulated units, occurring across different regions, or across technologies. Here planned or recognised gaps and interludes give all subsystems a component like ‘replaceable’ identity. The gaps and interludes are not completely devoid, but are full of metaphysical things, as in case of solar system. Systems flourishing at different historic times or across geographical regions can have concepts, ideas, etc. that are common, making them universal.

DOMAINS: Physical systems have a finite edge and so reflect a domain. A domain marks what is internal and external to the system. It indicates how a system is part of the larger system. It identifies nodes for dependency or connectivity of the system.


2.0.5         SYSTEMS APPROACH

(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: COMPONENT APPROACH / working whole / two major external variables / environment / user interfaces / man made systems / natural systems / parts to whole / SYSTEMS APPROACH / manufacturing activity / physical systems / conceptual systems / operations / test run / model or prototype / surveys / whole systems / fuzzy systems / SYSTEMS’ THINKING / systems theory / organization and interdependence of relationships / SE: SYSTEMS ENGINEERING design, execution and operations / OR: OPERATIONS RESEARCH.


COMPONENT APPROACH: During the Industrial revolution period (1850 onwards), component approach was recognised as a way of combining and organizing a working whole out of parts and components. It helped evaluation of parts in terms of the whole. The component approach helped understanding of systems of small size and limited utility (like industrial plants).

Later (after the world war I) it was recognised that systems are much more versatile and complex. Systems could be any organized effort like roads, buildings, health care, taxation, etc. Postwar planning and development taught that systems were affected by two major external variables. Systems were required to accommodate the environment and offer user interfaces. There was also realization that man made systems were ‘put together’ and non changing entities, compared to natural systems that were much more persistent, though very changing. Parts to whole, the simplistic component approach, was now a very inadequate definition for systems.

SYSTEMS APPROACH: Systems approach, which began with manufacturing activity, was soon applied to all types of human activities. It was realized that there are physical systems consisting of materials-objects, distinct from conceptual systems formed of nonmaterial entities.

Physical systems were tested on actual operations or test run in parts, or as a model or prototype. Conceptual systems require surveys to check the presumptions or derivations. Physical systems are objective, and variables like environment and the user interfaces are external to it. The conceptual systems are very much governed by the external factors, and often have no distinct boundaries.

Systems were recognised to be whole systems, when endowed with very distinctive environments, and to be fuzzy systems, where the outer boundaries are indistinct.

SYSTEM’S THINKING: When large production plants, military efforts, structural entities etc. were being developed in early 20th C, these were each considered as set of problems. The approach to the problem and the possible solutions were perceived as a system. Systems theory was the word early investigators used to describe the field which focussed on organization and interdependence of relationships. A system was perceived as a family of relationships among the members acting as a whole. ‘The joining and integrating of the web of relationships create emergent properties of the whole’.

System’s thinking is a style of thinking / reasoning and problem solving. It starts from the recognition of system properties in a given problem. The problems have physical as well as abstract bearings. It was realized that a system is as strong as its subsystems are, and subsystems can gain strength from conceptual clarity of what the whole should be. A system was perceived as composed of regularly interacting or interrelating groups of activities/parts which, when taken together, form a new whole. In most cases this whole has properties which cannot be found in the constituent elements.

SE: SYSTEMS ENGINEERING: The systems approach was now scientific pursuit: for planning and validation of systems as a matter of relationships. It was now recognised that systems need attention at three distinct levels: Design, Execution and Operations.

OR: OPERATIONS RESEARCH: Another parallel discipline Operations Research emerged with exclusive concern for the planning, assessment and control of operating systems. Both, SE and OR overlap, but together provide a comprehensive method of systems approach.



(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)

Keywords: Innovators or designers / lay person / the process of creation / documentation / NATURE OF DESIGN EFFORT / personal and impulsively formed systems / holistic / planned systems / CLOSED ENDED SYSTEMS holistic systems / prime or unique effort / compact and rigid / HOLISTIC APPROACH / a complete and self contained system / work of art / OPEN ENDED SYSTEMS / multilateral effort or multi trial endeavours / large number of people / different time and locations / common measurements and standards for materials and procedures / wasteful / built-in reserves / DESIGN OF A SYSTEM / governing aspects / DESIGN APPROACH / holistic / components / Redesign or re-engineering / Reverse engineering / Simultaneous or Concurrent design / NATURE OF OUTPUT / PRESENTATION TOOLS AND METHODS / approval, test, execution and operations / intellectual property rights / public domain system / SCALE AND NATURE OF DETAILS / Conceptual systems / explicit idea level details / Executable systems / NASCENT -FIRST EVER EFFORT or ROUTINE APPLICATION / fail-safe / exact definition / HUMAN AND OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE / TECHNOLOGY INVOLVED / conceptual systems / material systems / tactical corrections / strategic forethought / CODES AND UNIVERSAL CONFIRMATION / Dimensional coordination / Size and shape modulated parts / universal codes and regulations / greater acceptance / common platforms / HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN / ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS / Environmental Management Systems EMS ISO 1400x.


Innovators or designers may perceive an entity, or select its constituents by instinct, but must discover the logic behind it and justify their actions intellectually. A lay person devising entities solely through creative impulses lacks such a prowess. Designers continuously refine their capacity to improvise and innovate, by registering the process of creation or design decisions. It allows them to selectively improvise the smallest section of the entity.

The initial impulses of design, the dreams, intuitions or inspirations thin out or get wiped out completely with passage of time. These often need to be recalled in a different time and space context. Documentation of every aspect of design process is very necessary. Such expertise helps a designer to handle extensive or more complex dreams, intuitions or inspirations.


NATURE OF DESIGN EFFORT: A system reflects the nature of effort used in its formation. Personal and impulsively formed systems tend to be holistic, with few or no sub systems. On the other hand, planned systems whether personal or evolved through multilateral effort, and over a longer period of maturation, consist of many sub sets.

        CLOSED ENDED SYSTEMS: These are also called holistic systems. Close-ended systems result from prime or unique effort. Spontaneous and one-man creations tend to be closed systems, unless a conscious effort is made to make it an open system. Closed systems are improvise-able only by its author or inventor. Closed-ended systems have few sub systems, and equally rare are the components. The few components are very specific and not easily replaceable. Closed systems as a result are compact and rigid. Closed ended systems become useless when faced with even minor changes in their environment or working.

        HOLISTIC APPROACH: Design effort that conceives a complete and self-contained system initially is called a Holistic approach, i.e. whole to the part. Holistic approach entails germination of an intuition as a complete system. Such creations are akin to a work of art, often not functional, and not necessarily reproducible. However, such impulsive concepts may be detailed later on to become component systems.

        OPEN-ENDED SYSTEMS: Open-ended systems evolve from multilateral effort or multi trial endeavours, and so have sub systems. Where large number of people are involved in design and execution, and where these processes are likely to take place at different time and locations, the system automatically becomes open ended. The subsystems for a variety of reasons are conceived as substantially independent systems. The subsystems are often designed or manufactured by different vendors. The success of the open-ended systems depends on the adaptation of common measurements and standards for materials and procedures. To accommodate all these, open-ended systems tend to be open or loose, and have a skeleton type frame structure (infrastructure). Open-ended systems many times are wasteful, because every subsystem has built-in reserves or additional safe capacities, though such individual reserves make systems more persistent. Open-ended systems allow replacements, improvisations and up-gradations of their subsystems and components.


DESIGN OF A SYSTEM: Design of a system, governing aspects are:

DESIGN APPROACH: The design approach determines the nature of system being evolved. The design approaches include: Holistic (whole to the part), Components (parts to the whole), Redesign or re-engineering, Reverse engineering, Simultaneous or Concurrent Design. (For more on this topic refer to notes on: Interior Design Practice and Office Management Section III = Chapter 8 at ).

NATURE OF OUTPUT: The nature of system being conceived, physical (‘real’‘material’) or nonphysical (conceptual), governs the design process of a system. The nature of output, are: Construct forming, Strategic, Tactical planning, Assessment exercise, Executable scheme, Operational methodology, Corrective interventions like supportive additions, reformations, Reductive changes like curtailing, partitioning, miniaturization, condensation, Scheduling, Sequencing, Algorithms, etc.

PRESENTATION TOOLS AND METHODS: In what form the system will be presented for approval, test, execution and operations, such as: Report, instructions, drawings, images, digital data files, graphics, metaphoric, etc. determines its constitution. Systems that involve intellectual property rights may not be very revealing, but a public domain system has to be transparent.

SCALE AND NATURE OF DETAILS: The scale and nature of details are determined by the type of system. Conceptual systems have very explicit idea level details such as the domain of the system, definitions of subsystems, subsystem to subsystem relationships, dependencies, external nodes, etc. Whereas Executable systems have information of materials and processes, sequences of execution, siting of the system within the larger whole.

NASCENT -FIRST EVER EFFORT OR ROUTINE APPLICATION: First-ever systems ventures into unknown territories, and so these are conceived with extra efforts to make them fail-safe. This results into over explicit or very exact definition, making it ironclad, with no scope for improvisation. Routine application systems are more open, flexible though with very little wasteful features.

HUMAN AND OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE: Design of a system is an effort requiring both human and other resources. The human resources include the human-power and expertise. Other resources include, materials, time, plant, equipment, tools, and finance.

TECHNOLOGY INVOLVED: Involvement of technological features is as important in conceptual systems (nonphysical) as much as it is with material systems (physical systems). First-ever systems (novel) involve use of unproven technologies and unknown circumstances. Where as routine systems (traditional) are based on familiar grounds. Both types of systems could be of open architecture, in the first instance openness allows tactical corrections, in the second case it is as strategic forethought.

CODES AND UNIVERSAL CONFIRMATION: Designers prefer to design parts, components and systems that have dimensional coordination. Dimensional coordination also allows creation of geometric compositions. Size and shape modulated parts allow easy replacement. Affirmation to universal codes and regulations though restricts the design creativity but allows greater acceptance in the society. ‘Common platforms’ achieve greater economy.

HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN: Human centred design approach focuses on serving human needs in all endeavours by redefining and developing concepts and employing technologies. When human needs are genuinely served in all their manifestations it becomes an all-inclusive design system. It becomes a universal system above the racial, geopolitical and other barriers. It becomes a nondiscriminatory system.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: Environmental concerns are now being recognised by International Standards Organization, ISO, through their recommendations for ISO 1400x : EMS, Environmental Management Systems. These standards are similar to ISO 900x series of standards dealing with QMS, Quality Management Systems.


(Click here to go to Chapter 2.0 Index)



3.0                         BARRIER SYSTEMS



3.0.0     Barrier Systems

3.0.1     Natural Barriers

3.0.2     Man made Barricades

3.0.3     Make-believe Barriers

3.0.4     Other Barricades

3.0.5     Barricades for Physically Impaired Persons

3.0.6     Barriers for Performing Arts


(Click here to go to Next Chapter)


3.0.0         BARRIER SYSTEMS

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: obstructing and intervening entities / configuration, position and occurrence / context or the surroundings / intended and unintended things / extensive / opaque to transparent / lattice / membrane / barricades / separator.


Barriers are obstructing and intervening entities. Barriers through their configuration, position and occurrence affect things passing by, touching, or going through them. Barriers rarely operate on their own, so are distinguished by the context or the surroundings where they operate. Barriers operate as multi functional entity doing many intended and unintended things.

Barriers change the environment on both the sides. Barriers have a capacity to obstruct, absorb, filter and reflect, and so cause distinctly different conditions on the other side. However, barriers are often so extensive that the modified environment is not recognised, as the perceiver has no idea of, what the original (one beyond the barriers or without the barriers in position) experiences were. Barrier systems, as a result, are evident at the joints, thresholds, ends, edges, cut sections, or at the gaps.

Barriers are selectively opaque to transparent for various energies and objects. A lattice may allow a rat or insect to pass through but not a cat or dog. A membrane filter can allow gas but not any particulate matter. A barrier system, by deflecting, reflecting, by absorbing within its own body, does not let certain things to pass through them.

A barrier is a separator that not only divides an entity. It allows a new set of cultures to flourish on both the sides. However man-made barriers are not powerful enough to cause extensive changes in the environmental system within which they occur.


3.0.1         NATURAL BARRIERS

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: NATURAL BARRIERS / extensive / long lasting / territorial / temporal / start and end of natural barriers / overlapped / ATMOSPHERIC BARRIERS.


NATURAL BARRIERS: Natural barriers are like rivers, mountains, ridges, valleys or atmosphere. Natural barriers are very extensive in space, and long lasting in time. Natural barriers are territorial, affect macro or micro regions, and also temporal in terms of occurrence like, eternal, seasonal, diurnal, etc. The start and end of natural barriers are not always within the relevant time and space scale. Natural barriers start or become effective somewhere and imperceptibly end or become ineffective somewhere. Natural barriers as a result are often not experienced because the other side experience (without the barrier) is not possible due to their large spread. Natural barriers are overlapped by other natural barrier systems, so have no distinct definition.

ATMOSPHERIC BARRIERS SYSTEMS: Atomospheric barrier systems are natural barriers formed by the constituents of the atmosphere such as: air, moisture, breeze, winds, radiation, temperature, etc. For example, air or its gases control the level of radiation penetration, the moisture checks the amount of dust in the air, and presence of dust and other particles helps distribution of illumination. The atmospheric barriers are very extensive, consisting of over lapping layers, and so do not have the sharp edge definition. Some of these barriers are very acute and causative, while others are mild and almost irrelevant. Atmospheric barriers are so common and omnipresent that we many times take them for granted. Some effects of the atmospheric barriers are so fast or short lived that it becomes very difficult to notice or learn any thing about them.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: PHYSICAL BARRICADES / contrived structures / conditions, properties of materials / METAPHYSICAL BARRICADES / indicative and unreal / make-believe / INDICATIVE BARRIERS / signs, signals, symbols / taboos, beliefs, customs / class of beings.


Man-made barriers are finite in size, designed for specific function and alterable. Man-made barriers occur as barricading elements such as: Curbs, embankments, Guard, Railing, Fender, Shield, Buffers, Balustrades, Fence, Parapet, Rampart, Bumper, Cushions.

PHYSICAL BARRICADES: Physical barriers are contrived structures (peculiarly shaped, sized and formed) that exploit conditions, properties of materials (strength, weight, bulk, ductility, etc.), and energy reactivity.

METAPHYSICAL BARRICADES: Metaphysical barricades are indicative and unreal, or Make-believe. A society by a tacit understanding accepts certain words, signs metaphors, and indications as allowable and non allowable actions (warnings, danger, caution, etc.). When such commonly acceptable norms are displayed, they function almost like a real barricade. Signs like Caution, Danger, ‘Do not trespass’, ‘keep off the grass’, etc. operate as barriers.

INDICATIVE BARRICADES: Indicative barricades occur as signs, signals, symbols etc. Unreal barriers arise as a response to our accumulated experiences, in the form of taboos, beliefs, customs etc. Indicative barriers are effective only for that class of beings, who not only know the meaning, but are willing to abide by it.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: unreal and metaphysical / MAKE BELIEVE EFFECTS AND BARRIERS / predictable effects / mirrors / echoes and reverberations / predictable space dimensions / mould the visible space / stage like make believe and or indicative effects / dramatic or melodramatic / delusion / Maha Bharat / Lakshagriha.


Make-believe barriers exploit the instinctive associations and conditioning of physiological and mental faculties. Man-made barrier systems are often unreal and metaphysical.

MAKE BELIEVE EFFECTS AND BARRIERS: We are generally conditioned by predictable effects of the traditional or known materials. However, when we discover that any peculiar configuration or additional input creates an experience that is different from the one that is predictable, we get a tool for a make believe effect. Mirrors play a very important role in creation of duplicate spaces. Glasses provide a transparent wall compared with a nominally solid opaque structure. Rooms other than square or rectangular shape provide an unusual experience. Echoes and reverberation of sound provide predictable space dimensions, but different perception gives unusual experience of the space. Lights and shadows mould the visible space. Ionized air endows a garden like freshness in an otherwise stifled space.

In real life we do use the stage like make-believe and indicative effects. We use these to create situations that are called ‘dramatic or melodramatic’. Discotheques, Night Clubs, Amusement Parks, etc., are places where such make-believe effects are extensively exploited. Make-believe effects occur because we are conditioned by certain predictable responses of materials, texture, colour, illumination frequency and schedules of occurrence etc. When these predictable effects fail to arrive in the nominal context, or arrive in spite of a different situation a delusion occurs. Make-believe effects are almost magical or ethereal, and defy logic or reason.

Indian epic Maha Bharat mentions Lakshagriha, a palace where solid looking floors were water surfaces, and water surfaces were real floors. We perceive a dark space to be quiet and cold, but in a ‘maze’ of an amusement area, the reverse experience is provided. We perceive load-bearing walls to be opaque, so a glass wall seems different.


3.0.4         OTHER BARRICADES

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: SENSUAL VARIATIONS AS BARRICADES / VISUAL BARRICADES / optical qualities / sensory variation / BARRICADES CONSUMING ENERGY / machines / PROTECTIVE BARRICADES / planned deflection and distortion / noncollapsible barricade / collapsible barricade / SOFT BARRICADES / HARD BARRICADES / TRANSPARENT, TRANSLUCENT AND OPAQUE BARRIERS / NOTIONAL BARRICADES / representative form of a barricade / Notional barricades are not recognised / NEED FOR BARRICADES.


SENSUAL VARIATIONS AS BARRICADES: A non physical barrier could also occur through sensory variation. A subtle shift in texture, gradient, colour, illumination level, view, temperature, audio perception changes the behaviour of the user and can become an effective barrier.

VISUAL BARRICADES: Visual barricades use colours in terms of their brightness and other optical qualities such as fluorescence, reflection and background-foreground contrasting. Visual barricades also include use of illumination or brightness, blinking (dynamic) lights, iridescence.

BARRICADES CONSUMING ENERGY: Barricades bar or control the exchange between its two faces. Barricades, themselves are variously affected by the exchange occurring through them. Some barricading systems use energy, to cause specific changes during the exchange process and also to revert to the nominal status. Barricading systems capable of using energy are machines, or a live beings, if additionally can reproduce or self sustain.

PROTECTIVE BARRICADES: Protective barricades are designed to resist the most unfavourable combination of imposed loads (impact, wind, etc.). Such barricades allow planned deflection and distortion, with or without a collapse. A noncollapsible barricade is resilient enough to revert to the original position, whereas the collapsible barricade at a predetermined stage becomes ineffective. These conditions are included through a structural configuration, material technologies and through machine devices (operating on feed forward and feed back).

SOFT BARRICADES: These recover after an impact, but do not bounce-back the striking object. Rubber flaps or plastic stripes on warehouses doors are flexible barriers.

HARD BARRICADES: These are used to divert (bounce back) the force of the impact. On express highways the shape and height of the railings and curbs are so designed that a vehicle on striking slides along it rather than thrown-back into the fast-moving traffic.

TRANSPARENT, TRANSLUCENT OR OPAQUE BARRIERS: A glass barricade could be transparent for light but not for other objects. A large aperture grill could be ‘transparent' for light, air and view, ‘translucent' for an infant, pet etc., but ‘opaque' for a fat man. A vertical or horizontal Venetian blind could be ‘transparent' or ‘translucent' from a particular position and could be ‘opaque' from another position. A smoke glass is ‘opaque' for view from outside but ‘transparent' for view from inside. Fast-moving air in an ‘air curtain system’ is a transparent barricade.

NOTIONAL BARRICADES: These are used for ceremonial purposes or as a representative form of a barricade. A wrought iron chain, a rope around a monument, podium, dais or rostrum, a red ribbons for inauguration, yellow tape of police investigation teams, are all notional barricades. Similarly signs and symbols (danger, do not enter, slow, stop) can also be used for barricading. If the users are knowledgeable, and are ready to accept a set social behavioural norm, than indicative (non physical) barricades are as effective as physical barricades. However, it should be possible for the user to recognize, feel and experience the presence of such barricades. Where such opportunities for recognition are not available, non physical barricades fail to be effective. Notional barricades are not recognised in a crowded area or in a chaotic situation. Similarly where barricades are required as protection against unknown elements, notional barriers are not effective.

NEED FOR BARRICADES: Barricades are required at all places of hazards such as: construction sites (for the safety of workers, visitors, and trespassers), works in public areas (such as trenches, excavations), place near electrical equipments (with exposed parts that could be live, and installations with voltage of over 440 volts), any area where explosives are used or stored, to define the radius of any cranes or such equipments, etc. Barricades serve as warning (through visual and other sensorial recognition) and also as a protective element. Barricades also denote territories, ownership and right of ways.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: exclusive route / barricades have distinguishing elements / visually impaired persons / visually deficient person / colour blind person.


Persons with physical deficiencies require barricades for: extra support to the body, as a facility to ease the movement and as a guidance for the route. The barricades however must not create an exclusive route for the physically impaired. The barricades have distinguishing elements such as: shape, size (height, width), materials and their surfaces, nature of sensorial qualities available in the defined zones.

Barricades for visually impaired persons are required at two levels. The main barricade is like that required for a normal person. The barricade for the visually impaired persons should be continuous and have same texture, size, shape and feel throughout its spread. For the visually impaired person, a secondary set of barricade system is required at near the floor level to strike the walking stick. Even where, primary barricades are not ordinarily required due to the absence of a height-related hazard, a secondary barricade (at floor level) helps in directing a visually impaired person to a specific destination. Visually deficient persons require colour contrast from their background or neighbouring elements, Ramps or steps on passages must be indicated by colour, illumination and textural difference. A colour blind person may not read a colour but recognises the later two elements.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)

Keywords: nonphysical or indicative barrier system / performing arts / real barriers / indicative barriers / acute or important sections / stage / here / beyond / mime acts / sage Bharat Muni / Natya Shastra / stage barriers / real life barriers / permanent / longer lasting / experienced dynamically.


The best and perhaps the most imaginative use of non physical or indicative barrier systems occurs in the performing arts. Here a performer wishing to express different experiences on a stage or arena has limited time, space and means. As a result the performance space or the stage is extended beyond its physical limits by exploiting both, the real barriers and indicative barriers. Since it is not possible to accommodate the entire set of physical barriers, only the acute or important sections are highlighted through frames, outlines, edges, cleavages, thresholds.

The sets, stage property, curtains, side wings, lighting, audio-video effects, etc. are used for creating a variety of spaces (‘here’ and ‘beyond’). A cleavage in side wings or a gap between two stage properties could signify a door, window, opening, corridor or a passage. The stage thus becomes a place where a multiplicity of spaces ‘Here’ and a series of connected spaces supposed to exist ‘Beyond’ occur. Whatever is lacking in such definitions is further reinforced by the actors. The acting makes the audience feel as if the actor is actually dealing with or reacting to a real barrier. Mime acts are such explorations with unreal barriers.

Stage set barriers are experienced by the audience from a limited and fixed angle view. Sage Bharat Muni in his treatise on Natya Shastra (Canons on Dramatics) says actor turning back to the audience is out of the scene or dead. Even in Roman Amphi theatres the actors on the front section are active and by retreating to the backside become inactive. Stage barriers serve a very limited purpose effective for a short period, and last only for a scene, dialogue or the expression. However, real life barriers are rather permanent or at least are longer lasting, seen or experienced dynamically, that is from all sides.

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.0 Index)






3.1.1     Barrier Systems in Buildings

3.1.2     Varieties of Barriers in Buildings

3.1.3     Environmental Barricades

3.1.4     Railings and Parapets

3.1.5     Fences

3.1.6     Guard Rails

3.1.7     Hand Rails

3.1.8     Components of Railings and Parapets

3.1.9     Materials for Barricades

(Click here to go to Next Chapter)



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: man-made barriers / control of environment / hazards / control of movement / barriers protect / barricades serve purposes / Types of barriers in buildings / operational ability.


A building is formed by a number of man-made barriers. The barriers in a building are designed mainly for the control of environment, followed by barriers against hazards and for control of movement.

The barriers protect a building from environmental effects, shocks, vibrations, other effects of energy, malicious abuse, use and age related wear and tear. In a building, barricades serve purposes like: restrict, control or direct movements of people and vehicles, indicate routes, provide defence against impact and risks from elements like fire, extreme temperatures, radiation, light, noise, wind, lightening, fast-moving objects, etc.

Types of barriers in buildings are: walls, roofs, floors, doors, windows, curtains, awnings, ceilings, panelling, etc. Building related barriers are well integrated into the fabric of the building and rarely function alone. Barriers in the building derive their operational ability by being part of the larger system.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: SAFETY BARRICADES / Types of safety barricades /height related hazards / physically handicapped or infirm person / situational conditions / downward end of a ramp or slopping terrain / height for safety barricades / HEIGHT FACTORED BARRICADES / effective height / nature of surroundings / configuration / gaps in the balustrades / WIDTH FACTORED BARRICADES / barricades of greater widths / greater width with greater bulk / wider barricades / PEDESTRIAN CONTROL BARRICADES / tallest user / barbed wire fencing / notional barricades / ANIMAL BARRICADES / capacity to leap / run depth / traps at gates / wicket gates / TRAFFIC SAFETY BARRICADES / CROWD MANAGEMENT BARRICADES / safety / security / temporary / permanent / height safety standards / resist horizontal thrust / SECURITY BARRICADES / prevent access or exit / entry by terrorist / high speed impact / Berlin wall / BARRICADES FOR VEHICLE CONTROL / guard rails / BARRICADES FOR OPENINGS / fall related hazards / controlling the entry or exit / environmental controls / control vision in and out / effective sill level / barricades within the doors.


SAFETY BARRICADES: Types of safety barricades are: Height related hazards, isolation of dangerous zones, exposure to effects of radiations, against high speed movements, security from anti social persons, theft, animals, etc.

Height related hazards require barricades. Nominally a fall of 600 mm is difficult to negotiate (climb up or down), so even for a normal adult it is considered a hazard. A provision of an intermediate step or support is required. For physically disable and infirm people a barricade may be necessary even when the height difference is only 25 mm. For situational conditions such as at the downward end of a ramp or slopping terrain, a fall of less than 300 mm requires a safety barricade. In buildings for human habitation a 900-mm minimum to 1100 mm optimum height for safety barricades like parapets, balustrades, etc., is prescribed on balconies, stair sides, and terrace edges of are prescribed. The height is often compromised to 790 mm or less by, alternatively, providing wider widths, for drama, cinema or assembly hall balcony fronts, to prevent visual obstruction to the view of the front edge of the stage.

HEIGHT FACTORED BARRICADES: These are preventive barricades of specific height to control the crossover movement. Effective height actually available for the barricade is determined by the nature of the surroundings. A very steep gradient in front, and difficult to negotiate terrain (moats, pits, trenches) can also act as a barricade.

Effective height of a barricade system is affected by its configuration. A horizontal mid-bar or any such element can accommodate a toe of a user, to reduce the effective height of the available barricade. To prevent children less than five from falling, gaps in the balustrades (balcony and stairs) must not allow a 100-mm diameter sphere to pass through.

WIDTH FACTORED BARRICADES: As shown earlier in case of safety barriers, width of the barricade compensates the height requirement. Barricades of greater widths are also required, when a structure is required to resist horizontal stresses and thrusts, as in case of retaining walls and dams. Walls and partitions of greater width with greater bulk (low density) are created as insulation system for heat, x ray or other radiations. Wider barricades cut off the view of areas immediately close-below, an ideal provision for stepped floor balconies in sea shore resorts.

PEDESTRIAN CONTROL BARRICADES: Pedestrian barricades should be taller than approximately 2/5 the height of the tallest user, as for example for a mid-road verge. Security barricades should be taller than tallest persons to be barricaded. Often the effective width of the barricade structure controls the actual height required. Barbed wire fencing of Y and T, ‘shapes are used in jails and defence installations. Pedestrian control can be effected by notional barricades, like a thin rope, a horizontal pipe, a small ledge, a floor marking.

ANIMAL BARRICADES: The barricades should take in to consideration, animals’ the capacity to leap and also the ‘run depth’ available in the surroundings. Animals are confined by a variety of methods including water-filled moats, dry moats, and wire-mesh fences. Animal traps at gates have gaps to trap the animal’s feet, and width to prevent a ‘non run’ leap. Wicket gates are intentionally made of narrow width and have a nonlinear passageway to prevent vehicles like cycles and animals.

TRAFFIC SAFETY BARRICADES: Traffic safety barricades are meant to be safe, stable (wide based, secured or resilient enough to revert to the original position) and visible. Traffic barricades direct the flow of traffic, prevent unauthorized entry or exit from the designated areas or lanes.

CROWD MANAGEMENT BARRICADES: Crowd management barricades are designed for the safety and security of people, control the direction of their travel and to control their numbers. Such barricades are temporary (occasional) and permanent. The barricades are designed with the height safety standards (the nominal balustrade height and leap over prevention), but in addition have a capacity to resist horizontal thrust. Such barricades are in place at the famous temple of Tirupati Balaji, South India, and at Ambaji Temple, Gujarat.

SECURITY BARRICADES: A security barricade is meant to prevent access or exit to a specific area, such as a hazardous zone, protection from theft, and forceful entry by terrorist. Security barricades may be designed to withstand assaults such as high speed impacts like a high speed or armoured vehicle. Some of the most important security barriers include: fort walls, the Great Wall of China, Dykes in Holland, Wall dividing East and West Berlin in Germany and quadruped sections on Bombay sea shores.

BERLIN WALL: During the period from 1961 to 1989, East Germany built a barrier to close off the migration after about 2.5 million skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals to west Germany. This barrier, the Berlin Wall, was first erected on the night of Aug. 12–13, 1961. The original wall, built of barbed wire and cinder blocks, was subsequently replaced by a series of concrete walls up to 5 mts high, that were topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers, gun emplacements, and mines. By the 1980s this system of walls, electrified fences, and fortifications extended 45 km through Berlin, dividing the two parts of the city, and extended a further 120 km around West Berlin, separating it from the rest of East Germany.

The Berlin Wall came to symbolize the Cold War's division of East from West Germany and of eastern from western Europe. Yet, about 5,000 East Germans managed to cross the Berlin Wall (by various means) and reach West Berlin safely, while another 5,000 were captured by East German authorities in the attempt and 191 more were killed during the actual crossing of the wall.

During October 1989 during the wave of democratization swept through eastern Europe and on November 9 the East German government had to open the country's borders with West Germany (including West Berlin). East Germans could travel freely now to the West.

BARRICADES FOR VEHICLE CONTROL: Guard rails are used to prevent vehicles from veering off a road into oncoming traffic, crashing against solid objects (like a bridge pillar) or falling into a ravine. Guard rails are designed with an objective to keep the vehicle upright while it is deflected along the guard rail. Vehicle barriers are generally taller than ½ the diameter of the wheel. A tall guard rail of ideal height for a car, though may not keep a truck from toppling over it, whereas a thin vehicle like a motorbike may slip under a high rail. Vehicle barriers on bridge sides, auto-ways, should be capable of resisting (strength) and deflecting (shape) the impact of cars, lorries, etc.

One-way streets and gates have small stepped fall at entry points to prevent exit of the vehicles. Wharfs, boats and ships use rubber buffers or tyres as preventive barriers against impact and rubbing.

BARRICADES FOR OPENINGS: Barricades are required in openings like Doors, Windows, Gaps, etc. These are required for fall related hazards and for controlling the entry or exit of human beings, animals, pets, flies and insects, and mosquitoes. Barriers are also required for environmental controls, such as heat, solar radiation, breezes, odours, audio. Barriers such as the louvres are required in openings to control vision in and out.

Barricades for a fall-related hazard are required if the sill level is lower than height required for a balustrade in a similar position. Barricades are also required if a piece of furniture against an opening like a window is likely to reduce the effective sill level. Barricades within the doors are required in nursery areas, stair ways, etc. where infants are likely to crawl.

TAPE OR ROPE BARRICADES: Cloth, plastic or fibre tapes and ropes are used as a visual boundary or indicative barrier by police and military to isolate sensitive zones.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: aspects of environment affect simultaneously / composite systems / WIND BARRICADES / deflect the direction / diffuse the velocity / natural terrain / man-made formations / Projections / wind catcher ducts / terrace parapets / SUN SHADING BARRICADES / vertical or horizontal / inclined positions / dual shading / Brise de soleil / RADIATION BARRICADES / Natural radiation barricades / Man made radiation barricades / NOISE CONTROL BARRICADES / stage podiums / parabolic overhangs / background noise / contoured planes to deflect / low density surfaces treatments, baffles or cavities / frequency generators / sound attenuation / BARRICADES IN TOILETS AND OTHER UTILITY AREAS / shower over-sprays.


Different aspects of environment affect simultaneously, and so a variety of barrier systems are required. Environmental barriers are often composite systems serving many different purposes.

WIND BARRICADES: Wind barricades are used on regular heavy wind as well as storm prone locations, such as sea fronts, valleys etc. to deflect the direction and diffuse the velocity of the breeze. These barricades primarily depend on the quality of natural terrain and man-made formations such as sand dues, walls, screens, vegetation, walls etc. Projections like galleries, chhajjas, screens, are also used for diverting the flow of winds in the buildings. The breeze is also diverted to interior areas of rooms by wind catcher ducts. Tropical houses have terrace parapets with a grill or lattice design to let the air pass through. Louvred doors and windows control the breeze.

SUN SHADING BARRICADES: Sun shading barricades are shading devices, usually vertical or horizontal, and often in inclined positions. Locations above 23° N or S of equator receive no sun rays from respectively North and South faces. However, all location under (within) 23° N or S of equator, receive some sun rays, and to curtail it sun shading devices of horizontal flat or inclined shape are required. In the same locations, East and West faces, in early part of morning and later part of the afternoon, receive horizontal rays, but with Southern inclination. These require a dual shading consisting of horizontal and vertical (on a south side of the opening) elements. Sun shading devices such as Brise de soleil are used.

RADIATION BARRICADES: Radiation barricades are used against radiation sources, such as furnaces, open fires, oil wells and oil storage tank yards. Such barricades could be natural or man made. Natural radiation barricades are in the form of hills, contours, dunes, slopes, trees, hedges, foliage, plants, grass, climbers etc. Man-made radiation barricades are protection walls, embankments, ramparts, retaining walls and dykes.

NOISE CONTROL BARRICADES: These are created against super highways, railway tracks, airport runways, open mines, stone crushing plants and sites with pile drivers. These barricades are made of dense vegetation, fibre boxes (grass), and hollowed or staggered construction. Stage podiums have parabolic overhangs to direct sound away from the stage and thus avoid the feedback in sound amplification system. Telephone booths in public spaces like malls, road sides, railway stations have specifically designed envelopes to prevent the background noise. Cinema and performance auditoria are designed with optimum 1/4 to 1/3 audience occupation, as the bodies of audiences and their clothing absorb sound. Noise control barricades are in form of contoured planes to deflect and amplify the sound, low density surfaces treatments, baffles or cavities to absorb select frequencies of sound, or frequency generators to produce sound attenuation.

BARRICADES IN TOILETS AND OTHER UTILITY AREAS: Barricades in toilets are required to curtail the shower over-sprays. Barriers are also placed besides WCs, bathing areas and toilets for isolation.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)


Keywords: rail / opaque structure of masonry / height related hazards / architectonic element / resting the hands / RAILINGS / top rail / hand rail / foot rail / mid rails / PARAPETS / coping / corbel / embattled parapets / perforated parapets / panelled parapets / curbs / vehicle parapets / projections and depressions / vehicular impacts / parapets for railway bridges.


Railings and parapets serve many common functions. It is their nature of construction that places them in separate categories. Railings are lattice type barricades built from rails. A rail can be defined as any long member, usually of round section, fixed to posts. A parapet is usually an opaque structure of masonry but could have members like balustrades. Railings and parapets have been used as architectonic element, and placed against height related hazards. Railings and parapets are invariably smaller than the human height, because most such elements are used for resting the hands on it.

RAILINGS: Railings are placed: on sides of stairs, ramps, escalators, at the edges of terraces, balconies, to demarcate zones, to segregate movement channels, to regulate queuing people, as barricade for animals, and to prevent crawling infants and children from moving into unprotected areas. Railings are placed on inclined or slippery floors to prevent slip-fall. Railings are placed in vast grounds for people or groups to anchor themselves. Railings have posts, a top rail for holding -the hand rail, a rail for foot -the foot rail, and mid rails.

PARAPETS: Parapets are upward extensions of the wall, sometimes with a coping at the top and corbel below. Parapets have other sub elements such as: hand rail, Baluster or balustrade, banisters, volute, turn out, gooseneck, rosettes, easing, starting easing, over easing, core rail, newels, fillets, tandem caps, colonnettes. Parapets may be plain, embattled, perforated or panelled. Embattled parapets are placed on fort walls, are sometimes panelled, but have but pierce for styling, view beyond and for throwing defensive projectiles. Perforated parapets are pierced in various shapes such as circles, trefoils, quarter-foils. Panelled parapets are ornamented by a series of oblong or square panels. Parapets are placed at floor and terrace edges, sides of stairs, ladders, ramps, escalators, near wells, tanks and other water bodies.

Parapets are also used for deflecting winds, provide privacy to floor level activities, add weight to the edge to prevent liftoff forces. Parapets serve many other purposes, besides protection, such as: to shield a view, as a noise barrier, barriers against splashes of stormwater, missiles or flying objects. Parapets are often inevitable structural component (functioning as a beam) along the edge of a bridge or similar structures. Parapets that are small in size are called curbs. Curbs are also used as dividers.

The word Parapet comes from the Italian parapetto (parare = to cover/defend and petto =breast). The German term Brustwehr has the same significance. Building Act of 1707 in London banned projected wooden eaves on buildings to reduce fire risks, and instead 450 mm thick brick parapets with the roof set behind were made mandatory. This was continued in many Georgian houses, as it gave the appearance of a flat roof which accorded the classical proportions.

Vehicle parapets on traffic face must be free of projections and depressions. Longitudinal rails must be placed on the traffic side over the supporting posts and present a smooth face to traffic free from sharp edges, except at joints in longitudinal direction. Even here all projections or depressions must not exceed 20 mm. The range of possible vehicular impacts onto a parapet is extremely large in terms of vehicle type, approach angle, speed and other road conditions. The performance of a parapet is defined in terms of containment level based on a standardised impact configuration. Parapets for Railway overbridge must have a minimum height of 1800 mm.

The building act of 1707 in London and other towns of England banned the projected wooden eaves to prevent spread of fire along the wall, to the roof structure. A 18" thick parapet was required and the roof edge was set back. The roof was set back little more to provide drainage of rain water. The parapet which was completely absent in earlier houses began to be treated by crenellation. (During medieval ages, provision of crenelles required permission.) The parapet style was continued in Georgian houses giving an appearance of a flat edge roof. The parapets over the roofs were made taller, shaped, decorated and pierced.


3.1.5         FENCES

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: fences of vegetation / timber fencings / chainlink fence / hurricane fences / white picket fence / turf / barbed wire fencing / woven wire fences / expanded metal lattices / electrified fences / fence wire / barbs / straight head, inward or outward bend / extended coil of barbed wire / concentration camps.


Fences are barriers to confine or exclude people or animals, to define boundaries, or to decorate. Fences of vegetation such as plants, hedges, climbers, cactus and dry thorny shrubs are used in farms and fields. Timber, earth, stone, and metals are widely used for fencing. In 19th C North America, many varieties of timber fencings were developed, such as the split rail laid zigzag, the post rail, and the picket. Other common fences are chainlink fence, hurricane fences, and white picket fences. In comparatively low rainfall areas like East Europe and in W. USA, turf was dumped to create fences.

The first patents on barbed wire fencings were taken out in the United States in 1867. However, it was in 1874, when its production by machines, made its use widespread. Woven wire fences and expanded metal lattices, affixed to wood, steel, or concrete posts, proved economical and durable. Electrified fences, frequently a single strand of barbed wire, are sometimes used for temporary confinement of animals. A mild shock is given to the animal at intervals of a few seconds if it is in contact with the fence.

Fence wire usually consists of two longitudinal wires twisted together to form cable and having wire barbs wound around either or both of the cable wires at regular intervals. The varieties of barbed wires are numerous, with cables being single or double, round, half-round, or flat and having a range of gauges. The twisted double cable provides extra strength and permits contraction and expansion without breakage. Barbs are diagonally cut in order to provide sharper points; they may consist of one or two pieces (two or four points) and are generally spaced at intervals of 100 to 130 mm.

Barbed wire fences have straight head, inward or outward bend at the top to make the crossover difficult. Armed forces place extended coils of barbed wire on ground without any posts. During world war II barbed wire fence posts were spiked to prevent air craft landing. Hitler’s concentration camps are grim-reminder of fencing used for forceful confinement. Germany was first divided by barbed wire fencing, which however did not prevent people escaping through it, so were replaced with massive RCC walls. Yet nations of the world put up barbed wire fences to demarcate boundaries, as it provides a cheap and fast way of erection.


3.1.6         GUARD RAILS

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: strong band / guard rails in buildings / walkway or footpath along a wall / environmental guard rails.


A guardrail is effectively one strong band (long metal strips tied together to a support post) that transfers the side force of a veering car to multiple posts beyond the impact area or directly into a ground anchor at the end of the guardrail emplacement. A guard rail is a system designed to keep people or vehicles from (in most cases unintentionally) straying into dangerous or off-limits areas. A secondary objective is to keep the vehicle upright while it is deflected along the guardrail. This is rather difficult to achieve as a guardrail of the ideal height for a car might not keep a truck from toppling over it, while a motorbike might slip under a higher-placed rail. Guard rails are likely to cause many motor able, as this has to face many different conditions. So transportation engineers are increasingly discourage the use of a guardrail, for the guardrail should only be placed when the roadside conditions pose a greater threat than the guardrail itself.

A guard rail is more restrictive than a hand rail as the former provides both support and the protective limitation of a boundary.

Guard rails in buildings are of numerous types, and are required by building codes in many circumstances. A walkway or footpath along a wall works as a guard against vehicles striking or rubbing a building. Guard rails serve both architectural and environmental functions.

On roads with sumps and causeways which get flooded over in seasonal storms require guide rails or posts to indicate the width of the motor able or safe passage width. This rails or vertical posts are height marked so that depth of the flooding water can be seen.

Environmental guard rails are placed along hiking trails, where adjacent terrain is often steep and un-travelable, along trails at scenic overlooks, and also at many elevated destinations of trails.

Guardrails are also included beneath the high sides of heavy vehicles such as lorries. This is in order to prevent smaller vehicles (e.g. cars) from passing between the lorry's front and rear wheels during a collision, and being crushed subsequently by the lorry's rear wheels.


3.1.7         HAND RAILS

(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: topmost component / guide rail / psychological support / decorative function / wall hand rail gripping element / inclined or slippery floor / high winds and storms / top hand rail / guiding / extra widths and higher height for supporting the elbow / sectional shape / Standards for hand rail design / lateral stability / joins pieces / noncontinuous / continuous / over-the-post and besides the post / post-to-post and newel-to-newel / discourage the usage / wider surfaces / bar stools’ foot rests.


A hand rail is the topmost component of barricade systems like parapet or railing. Hand rails, without the barricade system, are provided in hotel lobbies, corridors, passages. Since no height related or other hazards are operative in such areas, the hand rail functions as guide rail. A hand rail on its own is less protective as a barricade but provides psychological support (assurance) for the hand and body. In this sense it has only a decorative function.

A wall hand rail is used as gripping element, for travel along inclined or a slippery floor. Wall hand rails are required in toilets to change the posture. Hand rails are also provided on ships, sail boats and railway engines for holding in high winds and storms. Hand rails are heated or cooled by water circulation depending on the external conditions. Top hand rails are used in buses and metro trains for commuters to stand. Top hand rails also have hangers for grabbing. Hand rails are also used for guiding visually impaired persons in horizontal movement. A hand rail is the uppermost section of a barricade and so it is used for standing against it, for resting hands or spreading elbows or for gripping. Hand rails are provided with extra widths and higher height for supporting the elbow. For hand support and gripping appropriate sectional shape is required for the hand rail.

Standards for hand rail design are:

A handrail is defined as either a circular cross section with an outside diameter of 32 mm minimum and 50 mm maximum, or a non-circular cross section with a perimeter dimension of 100 mm minimum and 160 mm maximum, and a cross section dimension of 57 mm maximum. For a handrail with a perimeter dimension greater than 160 mm, a graspable finger recess area is to be provided on both sides of the profile. Handrails are located at a height between 860 mm and 960 mm. In areas where children use the facility, a second set of handrails at a maximum height of 710 mm (as measured from the ramp surface or stair nosing to the top of the gripping surface) is necessary. Sufficient vertical clearance between primary and secondary handrails should be minimum 230 mm to prevent entrapment of children. The distance between the wall and handrail is very important. Common requirements are between 38 and 57 mm.

A handrail on one side of a stairway is always necessary, (even where both sides are walls) and on both sides, if the stairway is more than 1000 mm wide. All stairways, balconies and certain other areas above ground level which are likely to be used for other than just maintenance, must also have a balustrade or guard. With a wide balustrade the actual or the effective width of a stair, balcony or passage is reduced. The clear unobstructed width between a wall face and the internal face of a balustrade or between two internal faces of handrails is considered as an allowable passage.

A handrail serves many other functions, it often provides a lateral stability to the barricade and joins pieces of barricade into a functional whole. Hand rails used for supporting the body may be designed to be noncontinuous, but hand rails used for horizontal movement such as in stairs, ramps, escalators, walkways etc. must be continuous. Continuous handrails are called: over-the-post and besides the post, and noncontinuous handrails are called post-to-post and newel-to-newel.

Positions or building elements that are likely to be used as a hand rail are treated to prevent such a purpose. Spikes, sharp knife edge section, sloped top face, coating with non drying (green or ever-wet) paints etc. are some of the means used to discourage the usage. However wider surfaces are provided to support planters and cut off the view of areas immediately close-below. Some handrails also have foot rails that are similar to Bar stools‘ foot rests.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: PANELLED PARAPETS / PERFORATED PARAPETS / EMBATTLED PARAPETS / POST AND RAIL PARAPETS / Stupa at Sanchi / American colonists / Indian Railways / MACHICOLATION / floor openings / CRENELS / merlons / EMBRASURE / BATTLEMENT / NEWEL / hollow newel construction / picket / structural supports / half newel / decorative newel drop / tandem caps / quarter-turn caps / BANISTER / VOLUTE / turnout / GOOSENECK / ROSETTE / half newel / EASING / starting easing / over easing / CORE RAIL / BALUSTER / balustrade / guards or spindles / second baluster / window balustrade / quattrocento balustrades / BASE-RAIL OR SHOE-RAIL / FILLET / fillet.


PANELLED PARAPETS: Panelled parapets are made of panels fixed at the top and bottom or as in-fill element between newels and banisters. The panels are ornamented by a carving, relief engraving or are pierced.

PERFORATED PARAPETS: Perforated parapets are latticed structures to restrict view and allow the breeze to pass through. It is also a technique of reducing the dead weight if the parapet over cantilevered structures.

EMBATTLED PARAPETS: Embattled parapets were part of battlements on fort walls with provision of apertures for viewing and throwing objects over the invaders. The same pattern was adopted as a roof parapet decoration of large villas.

POST AND RAIL PARAPETS: These are created with wood or bamboos. In India Stupa at Sanchi has circumscribing stone parapets emulating the wood work. American colonists used local wood to demarcate their lands and for creating cattle yards. Indian Railways use their old wooden sleepers and steel rails for creating such barricades.

MACHICOLATION: A parapet over a projection like brackets, with floor openings through which molten lead, pitch, oil or stones could be poured over the enemy.

CRENELS: Crenels or crenelles are alternating low portions in a parapet of a wall or battlement. The high portions are called merlons. Battlements have crenels to look out and merlons to throw arrows.

EMBRASURE: An opening between two merlons in a parapet (battlement).

BATTLEMENT: The battlement was an early development in military architecture. It was used in Chaldea, Egypt, prehistoric Greece, and Roman fortifications. During the European middle ages the battlements saw greatest development. The crenels became narrower and were splayed on outer sides for wider view. The merlons were rounded or flat at the top. The medieval battlement was often bracketed out from the face of the wall, machicolations, with holes in the floor drop objects over invaders.

NEWEL: A newel was the central post of a spiral or circular stairway, and if such a stairway has no central post, it is said to be of hollow-newel construction. A newel is a large picket or post that supports a handrail of a stair at the starting point or its landing. Newels are also used to support handrails in balconies, etc. Newels are structural supports, and so are anchored very well to the floors. A half-newel is used where a railing ends at the wall. For open landings, a newel may extend below the landing for a decorative newel drop. Newels projecting above the handrails are covered with tandem caps. At corners, there are quarter-turn caps. For post-to-post systems, the newels generally project above the handrails.

BANISTER: The term banister means the vertical mid supports and the handrail, or just either of it.

VOLUTE: A volute is the end of a handrail that is shaped like a spiral in a horizontal plane. A turnout is a quarter-turn rounded spiral at the end of a handrail.

GOOSENECK: The section between sloped handrail of the lower flight, and another sloped handrail of the upper flight of a stair.

ROSETTE: Where the handrail ends in the wall, and if a half-newel is not used, the hand rail is trimmed by a rosette.

EASING: Hand rails that are mounted directly onto a wall with brackets. At the bottom of a stair if such a railing flares to a horizontal railing, the horizontal portion is called the starting easing. At the top of a stair, the horizontal portion of the railing is called over easing.

CORE RAIL: Wood handrails often have a metal core to provide extra strength and stiffness, especially when the rail has to curve against the grain of the wood. The term for such reinforcing metal core is the core rail.

BALUSTER: A baluster is a moulded shaft, square or circular, traditionally in stone or wood, sometimes in metal, and now in plastics, supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase, an assemblage of them being known as a balustrade. Balusters are vertical mid pickets or members that hold the handrail. Sometimes these are made on turning lathes so-called guards or spindles. A nominal tread width, often require two balusters. The second baluster in such cases is closer to the riser and is taller than the first. The extra height of the second baluster is achieved by spacing at the middle, the decorative elements in the baluster. This allows the bottom decorative elements to be aligned with the tread, and the top elements are aligned with the railing angle. However, this means the first and second balusters are not interchangeable and must be manufactured separately. However balusters without decorative elements or with flutes or spirals’ pattern can be interchanged.

Building codes also require that opening within balusters be of a size such that a 4" (100 mm) sphere cannot pass. There are three exceptions according to the 2003 International Building Code Section 1012.3, which allow openings to not exceed 8" or 21" depending on occupancy groups or special areas.

The word Baluster = balaustra = pomegranate flower, from its resemblance to the post. French = balustre, Italian =balaustro, Latin =balaustium, Greek= balaustion.

The earliest examples of balusters are from bas reliefs on Assyrian palaces, where these are shown as window balustrades and had Ionic capitals. Though Greeks0 or the Romans have not used balusters. Balusters have been extensively used in 15th C balconies of palaces at Venice and Verona. These quattrocento balustrades were descendants of unknown Gothic precedents. Giuliano da Sangallo is credited with using it consistently on the terrace at the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano (1480 AD).Two types of balusters were used: one favoured by Michelangelo -symmetrical in the profile: inverted one bulbous vase shape over another, separating them with a cushion like torus or a concave ring. The other was a simple vase shape. The style of a baluster is often a method of dating the antique furniture or architectural details. For example, the distinctive twist designs of balusters in oak furniture are a characteristic mark of early 17th C period of the Charles I in England. The modern term baluster shaft is also applied to the shaft dividing a window in Saxon architecture. In the south transept of the abbey at St Albans, England have some of these shafts, and are presumed to have been taken from the old Saxon church. Norman bases and capitals have been added, together with plain, cylindrical Norman shafts.

BASE-RAIL OR SHOE-RAIL: For systems where the baluster does not start at the tread, they go to a base rail. This allows for identical balusters, avoiding the second baluster problem.

FILLET: A fillet is a decorative filler piece on the floor between balusters on a balcony railing. Fillets also become panels or inserts between balusters. Often panels are edge to edge joined to form a larger surface. Modern stairs have such in-fill panel members of wood, veneer, plywood, metal, plastic sheets and glass panes. A glazed or glass fillet must be of glass blocks, toughened glass or laminated safety glass, but annealed wire glass must not be used.



(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)

Keywords: stone and brick masonry / wooden casks of wine / concrete / Metal / plastics and composites / ropes wires, woven tapes and plastic tapes / barricades for public gatherings / cycle stand barricades / non rupturing plastic bags / nets.


Barricades are constructed out of a variety of materials depending upon their projected use, the degree of stability and permanence required:

Stone and brick masonry structures were once very common, wood barricades were first created by placing wooden casks of wine. Concrete is preferred choice for barriers in out door public spaces due to their capacity to withstand high impact, climatic conditions and stability. Metal barricades of coated mild steel and stainless steel in cast forms and geometric fabrications of drawn sections (including pipes and structural) and sheet metal formations, are widely used because of their light weight, ease of installation and ease of replacement. Barricades of plastics and composites have the advantage of being very lightweight, non hurting on impact, transportable, and high quality finishes including colour, night reflectivity -fluorescence. Plastic barricades are used in sporting events, fairs, amusement parks and festivals. Ropes, wires, woven tapes and plastic tapes are also used to create a visual boundary or symbolic barricades. Light beams, air curtains, water jets are some of the modern day innovations.

Barricades are effective through their shape, as much as they are through the materials of construction, and the terrain. RCC castings of variety of shapes and sizes are used as barricades.

Barricades for public gatherings have to be transportable and stable against heavy pushing by crowds. This are often called cycle stand barricades, due to the similarity of stable structure. Non rupturing plastic bags filled with water are used as barricades. Nets are stretched against building under construction to prevent accidents due to fall.


(Click here to go to Chapter 3.1 Index)


4.0                         OPENING SYSTEMS



4.0.1     Nature of Openings

4.0.2     Types of Openings

4.0.3     Expression of Openings

(Click here to go to Next Chapter)


4.0.1         NATURE OF OPENINGS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.0 Index)

Keywords: NATURE OF OPENINGS / continuous entities / openings / junction / barrier system / domain defining elements / subordinated or minor systems / Japanese Gate Torii / eaves / Sanchi Stupa Gate / bands of eaves / toran / rounded arch / pointed arch / eaves is the essence of opening / the sides also mark an opening / metaphysical intervening element / connection / relationship / linkage / trade gateway / eaves and sides / formal opening system / marks a point of exchange with other domains / landmark a domain / power of domain / focus / links / nodes / gateways / linked openings / RELEVANCE OF OPENINGS / SCALE OF OPENINGS / finite size / small opening / large opening / multiple openings / significance of a small opening / contrasting scale / re-scaling / a large window / lites / ganged or multiple doors / wider but controlled opening / openings are spaced out / openings are concentrated or grouped / image projection / large opening means / smaller and fewer openings / large window vs small window / LEVEL OF OPENINGS / negotiable for egress / transit-able in emergency / french window / trapdoor or hatch door / barn door / warehouse gantry girder / high sill / low or zero sill / upper floor windows / THIRD DIMENSION OF OPENINGS / dual character / third facet / depth of the junction / threshold / real or notional / interim space or time / DESIGNING OPENINGS / basic design considerations / key issues for openings in buildings / devices / nature of relationships between spatial domains.


NATURE OF OPENINGS: Barriers are continuous entities, but can be experienced only through the openings within them, and at the junction formed by the end of one barrier and start of another barrier.

Doors, windows, gates, gateways, etc. are openings within a barrier system. These occur within domain defining elements such as: walls, fencings, fort walls, enclosures, partitions, dividers. Such opening systems are subordinated or minor systems as these must occur within a barrier system.

Openings often occur without the inevitable mothering barrier system. Japanese Gate Torii is placed alone anywhere in ‘wilderness’, in the middle of sea. According to the Japanese mythology, the essence of gate comes into being through the eaves. Torii is a metaphoric gate, formed by head bands, the ‘eaves’. The eaves need physical side supports, which are placed as minor elements of the Torii gate structure. The Sanchi Stupa Gate also has three emphatic horizontal bands of eaves, but placed over singular supports. The Toran, buntings, streamers, banners, all are forms of the eaves, and so constitute a gate. The head structure or lintel of an opening system is the place to mark gate deities and signs. The round arch can be considered as a relief to the ponderous horizontal lintel or the eaves. The pointed arch of the Gothic era relieves the opening more.

If the eaves are the essence of an opening, conversely, the sides, also mark an opening. Two posts alone, without any eaves, a head structure or a shutter can create an opening or gate. Set of parallel elements also define an opening. The twin elements are perceptually or conceptually linked by a metaphysical intervening element, that manifest a connection, a relationship or linkage. Petronas Towers, World Trade Centre twin towers, Brazil, electric transmission towers or pylons create gate like effect. Valleys between mountains provide a negotiable zone like a pass, the trough, gorge, etc. which are called gateways. Afghan valleys are considered the gateway to India. Suez Canal is considered a trade gateway to Europe. Silk Route opens a window to China.

The eaves and sides, both on their own, and all together create openings. In any formal opening system both are present. When one is absent or minor the openings tend to be notional.

An opening marks a point of exchange with other domains. Openings or such notional formations are placed to landmark a domain. Commemorative archways, Gateways, plaques, obelisks, pillars, moats, etc. not only denote the power of a domain, but also its focus.

Bridges, pathways, avenues etc. are links joining two points. Such links regulate the exchange occurring through them, so are considered gates. The ports, wharfs, moorings, runways of airports, plug-sockets, are nodes of connectivity and exchange. The nodes are gates. Computer nodes, the Gateways (a device or system that intervenes to provide an exchange) are linked openings.

RELEVANCE OF OPENINGS: Opening systems are also ineffective in transparent, obstructed or frequently interrupted (broken - discontinuous) barriers. A room with a lattice wall all around or a glass cabin has no need for a window. An open pavilion has no need for any door.

SCALE OF OPENINGS: An opening has finite size, however, the barrier system within which it manifests could be infinite in size. An opening can never be larger or equal to the barrier system within which it resides. An opening, occurring in a finite barrier system could be relatively small or large, but openings occurring in very large or infinite barriers can be judged to be large or small in terms of the user.

A Small opening makes a barrier system very evident, whereas a large opening or multiple openings make barriers less effective. Significance of a small opening is due to the contrasting scale against the barrier system within which it occurs. The exchange occurring across a small opening is very intense, compared to a large gateway. Small openings due to their smaller scale allow a controlled scale of exchange. However, a large opening often requires re-scaling through various appendages such as: segregation channels for up - down, and fast -slow traffic, compaction through funnelling, filtration for selective processing acceleration and de-acceleration mechanisms. A large window is divided into smaller units -lites, each of which can have a varied configuration. Entrance foyers of skyscrapers, lounges of Airports and Railway stations, have ganged or multiple doors to serve the demand for a wider but controlled opening. However, air hangers, garages, barns and warehouses require wide doors to meet the functional carriage width, but are inserted with small openings for other uses. Openings are spaced out to take advantage of the location and orientation, and diffuse the exchange over a larger zone. Openings are concentrated or grouped together, to few locations to reduce the wastage of distributed operations.

Openings are scaled in terms of the image projection. A large opening means: capacity to build better, greater control over security, desire for extravagance or grandeur, need to be perceptible from distance. Smaller and fewer openings mean: conservative building technology, problems of safety and security, prudence and need to be less visible.

A Large window illuminates the interiors brightly, creating a fearless but public (non-private) space. Bright spaces are warm, a desirable quality in some climates. A Small window mean a sturdy and stable structure, an intimate (private) space, safety, security and cool interior or a ‘cold’ space. A wall, the barrier system mothering the opening traditionally has been massive, but more insulating for radiation, so fewer openings disrupt a wall less.

LEVEL OF OPENINGS: Openings are essentially of two types: negotiable for egress or transit-able in an emergency. In both cases, the degree of conveyance may have been intentionally made difficult or easier. A French window is a door for conveyance, and a trapdoor or a hatch door is a window for all purposes. A door could occur at a negotiable level but a barn door for fodder, is placed at first floor level. A warehouse gantry girder could extend out of an upper level door like opening to lift up goods and bring it in. Windows have many grades, of ‘high to low’ sill levels, as referenced from interiors or exteriors. A high sill from interior space cuts off the view to the outside as in medieval cathedrals. A low sill or zero sill window ‘opens’ a space as in case of traditional Japanese houses. The upper floor windows of a glass curtain high rise building, clerestory windows and skylights offer a static view, lacking in dynamism.

THIRD DIMENSION OF OPENINGS: All Opening systems have dual character: an inside and an outside one. But very often a third facet is recognised as the depth of the junction (cross section of the opening). Here the significant elements are: the thickness (or the duration of transiting through) of the barrier system, and the configuration of the opening system. The third facet or the dimension of the opening systems is the threshold. A threshold has two distinct worlds on either of the sides, one or both of which could be real or notional. A threshold could also be factual or abstract depending on the real or notional worlds across it. The threshold areas are resting zones, zone for transition, point of decision making, celebration, welcome or separation. The third facet however manifests from what happen in the interim space or time. Changes occur to things that pass through, such as filtration, elimination, mixing, alignment etc. Some of these changes are passive, but many use energy. A window airconditioner, air cooler, exhaust fans, enforces a change. Depth of the door or windows regulates the pattern of illumination and field of view. (For more on thresholds : see 4.1 Openings systems : Doors )

DESIGNING OPENINGS: Basic design considerations for an opening system are: width, height, depth, form (shape, configurations) and position (in the surroundings, angles, orientation). Key issues for openings in buildings are: the massing of openings, the relative size and position in reference to other openings, the contrast it creates against the surface of the barrier system, its height position in reference to eye level, adjoining terrains, ergonomic parameters, etc.

The openings in buildings are placed for the pattern, compositions, for scaling and proportioning, endowing graphical character, for reflecting styles, cultural ethos, religion and such other affinities and identities.

Openings are devices for allowing or restricting the sunlight, air, sounds, privacy and for framing the view of the outside. As a device openings have inbuilt systems to modify the elements transiting through it, such as air, moisture, dust particles, ion charge etc.

An opening in a barrier system primarily connects two distinct worlds, but their own presence assumes many different guises. An opening becomes a medium of investing the nature of relationship between spatial domains.


4.0.2         TYPES OF OPENINGS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.0 Index)

Keywords: CLASSES OF OPENINGS / touch the floor / higher sil level / gates and gateways / micro size openings / single function systems / fixed glazing / picture window / shop front windows / space dividers as partitions / computer gateways and ports / hub / protocol, converters and translators / universal architectural system / standard range of options / strict exterior architectural regimen / users / ELEMENTS OF OPENINGS / surrounds / parallel to the ground / perpendicular / head formations / foot entities , side members / fixed openings / hung shutter system / sliding shutter system / architectural aperture / pivots / architectural elements / hinges / sliding channels / wooden frames / Georgian sash windows / aluminium / integrated into the structural fabric.


CLASSES OF OPENINGS: There are two classes of openings in terms of their basic functions: Openings that touch the floor on one or both sides to facilitate floor level movement goods, people and animals; and Openings placed at higher sill level -away from the nominal floor level, and chiefly used for seeking illumination, view and ventilation. At other level gates and gateways besides serving the basic functions of door are used for grandiose. Micro size openings such as cracks or crevices of joints provide minor ventilation needs. Openings are designed as single function systems such as terrace level wind catchers, pip holes, delivery slots, etc.

Openings of fixed glazing serve the function of picture window framing a scenery or shop front windows to display items. Fixed openings also become space dividers as partitions or cover element like a curtain wall. Computer gateways and ports (air, sea, land) serve as a hub for transit, termination and re-connection. At this point one can have choice how, where, when a connection could be made. To provide such choices, the hubs are endowed with protocols, convertors or translators.

As opening is a very universal architectural system. Openings are often mass produced with standard range of options. The openings follow a very strict exterior architectural regimen without consideration of the interior use related needs. For the above two reasons openings of same size, shape and design are used on all orientations, floor levels, neighbourhood conditions and geographic locations. Users wish to mark the openings’ system with individual personality, cultural ethos, beliefs, affinities etc. These occur as appendages, add-ons or treatments.

ELEMENTS OF OPENINGS: A openings is formed by its surrounds. Surrounds are participating elements or just notional or casual elements that form the opening. The participating surrounds are either parallel to the ground defying the gravity or perpendicular following the gravity. Eaves, lintels, arches are head formations, ledges; floors and thresholds are foot entities; and jambs, ‘surrounds’ stiles etc. constitute the side members.

In case of fixed openings all sides are of equal importance, except the bottom one which may carry the load to the gravity. All sides ‘hold’ the glazing or panelling and provide sealing overlap. However, in case of hung shutter system, one side is used for fixing but in sliding shutter systems either the horizontal or vertical pair houses the channel for movement.

Primitive opening systems have no surround system, the shutter operates in the architectural aperture. But evolved systems the shutter is housed in a frame which in turn is fixed in the structural gap. The surround initially was a an overlap to seal the edges and restrict the shutter opening in one direction only. The shutters, if any were hung through pivots inserted in architectural elements. However, the pivots were difficult to insert, repair or replace, making way for development of hinges and to a small extent sliding channels. The other end of hinges could not be fixed to architectural element like masonry wall. Wooden frames became the unavoidable component of the opening systems. The Georgian sash windows used the sliding channel to avoid the problems associated with hinges. During industrial revolution era steel began to replace wood, and by mid 20th C Aluminium became the favourite material for opening design. The frame, which was unavoidable component of the openings began to be integrated into the structure system in the form of curtain wall. The opening system and its surrounds all were well integrated into the structural fabric of the building.



(Click here to go to Chapter 4.0 Index)

Keywords: EXPRESSION OF OPENING / descriptions, metaphorical expressions and as metaphysical entities / architectural, functional and visual interests / metaphorically / transition from one state of existence to another / metaphysically a triad: an inside, outside and as in-between / of being on one or the other side / being into neither of the two / third reality is the threshold / opening is like dream or thought / OPENINGS FRAME A VIEW / surreal / staging qualities / art, architecture and performing arts settings / foreshortening / C. Riley Auge / J. R. R. Tolkien treatments of doorways, gates, windows, and natural thresholds / constructs / physical boundaries / psychological transition points / point of transgression.


EXPRESSION OF OPENING: In literature openings occur as descriptions, metaphorical expressions and as metaphysical entities. As description, the opening systems occur as entities with architectural, functional and visual interests. Metaphorically an opening is a change. Doors, gates, windows, and other openings express the transition from one state of existence to another. Likewise passageways, bridges, ducts, also serve the function of transition. An opening is a line where the change occurs and the bridges lead a path to or away from such a line. The point of transition is a mark up, a demarcation. Metaphysically the opening constitutes a triad: an inside, outside and as in-between. The construct is a 3-way experience, of being on one or the other side and the state, or of being into neither of the two. The third reality is the threshold, the zone of indecision for some. The paired reality of inside and outside, or existing on one side vs. the other side creates a threshold or an edge. To stand upon the threshold allow time and space for contemplation before committing to circumstances, because the action once undertaken may not be undone. An opening is a relief from the enclosure or very constricting situation. It is a way to fulfill the expected, and a venture for the unexpected. The opening is like a dream or thought, so thin and efferent that one often does not realize if it is real or ethereal.

OPENINGS FRAME A VIEW: The framed view is available so far one is little away on either of the sides, but same frame gets dissolved when one reaches the threshold. The frame losses its arresting or picturesque quality when viewed in a wider context that is a very wide opening encountered very closely. An opening without any apparent framing seems surreal, as much as an opening that is without its adjacent wall or barricade. Both these staging qualities are used in art, architecture and performing arts settings. The framing provides a scale reference, but the third dimension of depth, remains ambiguous due to the foreshortening.

A change manifests on passing through an opening physically, through the depiction or psychical referencing. Architectural entities are three-dimensional constructs and so provide a time and space intervention. The inside or the womb is the origin, so human endeavours continue to revert there. The connecting thread or unbiblical chord continues to retract one to the inside, the womb.

‘Often crossing a threshold, real or implied, moves us between safety of the known and anxiety of the unknown. Thus, working on literal and symbolic levels simultaneously, doors and other passageways can provide, both, the physical reality of protection and represent the psychological idea of safety. Additionally, as 3-dimensional constructions, openings allow not only the dualistic reality of inside and outside, but also the possibility to exist within—being neither in nor out. Once one crosses the threshold, there is no going back to what was’.

‘Likewise, the psychological threshold provides an inner space for struggling with indecision, fear, and courage before passing into the unknown. The resulting experience changes forever (for good or ill) whoever crosses the threshold’. -‘Crossing the Threshold: Doors and Other Passageways in Tolkien’s Words and Images By C. Riley Auge`

J. R. R. Tolkien used doors, gates, and other passageways extensively and deliberately throughout both his literary and artistic works to explore and express these very ideas. In fact, many of his descriptions and treatments of doorways, gates, windows, and natural thresholds were worked and reworked numerous times in sketches and paintings before finalizing them within his written texts. Even in his landscape sketches, the focal point is almost always a doorway or other opening. Regardless of medium, the importance Tolkien placed upon these constructs, whether as physical boundaries or as psychological transition points (or both), is overwhelming when one closely examines collections of his artwork, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

A barrier separates one from what is beyond. It provides a zone where one has survived and will continue to do so eternally. The safe environment perpetuates the identity of the habitant and ‘its perception of the macrocosm unquestioned’. The edge of the barrier is the demarcation which when transgressed a new perspective is available. The point of transgression is the door or opening. Openings within the barriers like doors are the frames within which context the change is referenced. ‘The Sun god arrives through the Eastern gate and the past is always bounded by the door like the fake door of the Egyptian tombs.’ The fake door exists in spite of the knowledge that the dead will never return and the door will remain unused.

(For more refer to Door Myths and Legends).


(Click here to go to Chapter 4.0 Index)





4.1.0      Doors : general   Historical perspective : Doors   Historical perspective : Doors -Types   Historical perspective : Doors -Periods   Components of Doors   Materials and Technologies   Hardware Basic Hardware Secondary Hardware Appendages and Attachments   Door Mechanisms   Door Styles Commercial Categories of Doors   Varieties of Doors   Other types of Doors   Door like Utilities   Door like Presences   Real and Pseudo Doors   Door Sizes and Proportions   Doors Functional Sizes   Door Opening’s Structures   Door Openings in Thick and Thin Walls   Doors and Vastu Shastra   Functions of Doors   Illumination   Ventilation   Passage and Control   Safety and Security   Insulation   View through   Other Issues   Emerging Technologies   Door Myths and Legends


(Click here to go to Next Chapter)


4.1.0         DOORS: GENERAL

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: opening system / controllable opening / substantive barrier system / poor barrier system / poor door system / a finite size and specific functionality / regulators / Dwar / threshold / kiwad / door as a metaphor / symbolic endowments / forms and situations / allegorical connections / Sun / East / life, joy, brightness / West / false door / door of entrance / birth / door of exit / death.


A door is an opening system in a barrier system. The door as an opening system allows the exchange between the inside and outside, but it is a controllable opening. The need for an opening is very acute in strong barriers. A door comes into being if only a substantive barrier system exists. A poor barrier system, one that is transparent, translucent, broken, or uneven will have equally poor door system. An open pavilion cannot have an effective door system and a glass house or a latticed green house need not have an opaque door.

A door is effective if it is smaller in scale then the mothering barrier system. It can never be larger than the barrier system within which it resides. A door could be almost as large as the barrier system, but when it equals to the size of a barrier system, it loses the identity of a door. A door cannot exist without (or in spite of) a barrier system.

A door has a finite size and specific functionality. Doors serve a basic function of an entrance and exit, and are also regulators of privacy, security, environment, pollution, illumination, noise and fire. Such regulations are done by design, materials of construction, placement, and also by use of variety of fittings and hardware.

Sanskrit word for door is Dwar, which means ‘through which', ‘from', `by'. In Indian mythology the essence of a door is the threshold, here inside and outside, both manifest their differences. In Japan the door is an intervening spatial element -‘torii’ formed by the eaves, the head. Kiwad the hindi-urdu word nominally used for shutter of a door, is kim + wad = territory bounding or a movable barrier.

A door as a metaphor denotes entry, exit, change or transition, a switch, a control, identification, a nomination and intervening element between an enclosure and open or the free cosmos. Doors have symbolic endowments such as ownership, right of way, a new beginning, a portent of change, exit, departure or death. On the other hand certain forms and situations have allegorical connections with doors. Encounters with a different domain are through a door, or conversely a door or its representation marks the focal point of a domain or the section of its edge -the entrance or exit.

Ancient openings were associated with the Sun. The Sun entered from the East and passed out from the West. The East was associated with life, joy and brightness, and the West with darkness, gloom and death. Intaglios Babylonian seals show Sun god passing through a double valved gate of the East, and beginning to climb the mountain of the sky. The Veda says ‘the dawn shone with brilliance and opened for us the doors that are high and wide with their frames’. Even where four sides of a building have openings, it is the East door that is the great door or the gate of sunrise. The great Eastern door of the sun temple at Baalbek, 'city of the sun,' was 21' wide, and 40' high. Tombs in Egypt, Persia and Lycia have on West side a false door that was indicated like a real door. It is low and narrow, framed and decorated like the door of an ordinary house. Door of entrance marks the birth or new beginning and the door of exit marks the death or end of the world. Person with a door has the right of occupation and residence.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: fire / social privacy / covering materials / skewed entry positions / monolithic panel / stiles / rails / shitomi / controlled barrier / pivots inserted into lintels and floor pieces / door frame / concealing it or integrating the door frame.

A door has been the most important element after fire for instilling a sense of security against intruders, wild animals and elements of weather. In cold climates keeping the warmth inside, in deserts the sand storms out, and in tropics protection from rainwater is mainly achieved by a door system. Social privacy is also a key factor in design of a door system.

Just as the hearth was the focus of the family, the door denotes a domain, the home. The first doors were plain gaps with additional facility of cover. A variety of covering materials like, hide, fabrics, woven matings, rubble heaps, sticks, wood logs and planks, metal casts, paper, grass and leaves, and stone slabs were used. These were dumped, heaped, hung or placed strategically. Stripes of hides, vines, ropes, animal guts, sticks, etc., were also used to support the cover materials. Skewed entry positions, such as: cliff faces, entwined passages, narrow or low height(crawling) passageways (like igloos of Eskimos), fall-down (pit houses of China) or climb-up (tree houses), etc., have been used to strengthen the functions of doors. From the period of ‘non built’ habitations (cave, open air, etc.) to early Harappan, Egyptian and Mesopotamia architecture, the ‘door’ was a gap that served the purpose of entry, exit and illumination. The earliest record of a door shutter is of a painting in an Egyptian tomb where it is shown to be a monolithic panel of wood. In reality such monolithic panels were technologically not feasible, so Vitruvius writes about doors built with stiles (scapi) and rails (impages), and the spaces enclosed were filled with panels (tympana).

Harappa’s main streets were straight walled with no openings, and all door-like openings were placed in the small side-lanes, passages or court yards. House rooms had entry gaps from such passages and court yards. The ‘doorway’ or gaps were covered with hides, fabrics and woven mats for privacy. The word ‘shitomi’ (Japanese) for the door literally means ‘a small woven mat’ recalling the hanging curtain forms of doors in ancient buildings.

The concept of a door as a controlled barrier with a shutter is only 7000 to 8000 years old. Doors of rigid and permanent materials first appeared with monumental architecture or public buildings. Doors for important chambers were made of wood or stone. All ancient doors of wood or stone were hung by pivots inserted into lintels and floor pieces of hard stones such as basalt, dolerites or granite. In later periods the wood pivots were sheathed in cast bronze.

Early doors had no frames, as these were hung by pivots inserted into the building element. When pivots began to be replaced by hinges, as the efficient hardware, door frames were required for fixing the hinge end. The door now had a doorframe a distinctive element from the masonry surrounds. The door shutters were rarely monolithic, but composed of stiles and insert panels. The framed door, and its panelled shutter, both made the system easy to replace system. In 20th C once again better masonry or wall making techniques have eliminated the need for a door frame, by concealing it or integrating the door frame.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: DOORS - TYPES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: PRIMITIVE DOOR COVERINGS / mat / shutter / WOOD DOORS / Pompeian wooden doors / Chinese wooden door / traditional Indian house doors / Indian palaces and fort doors / STONE DOORS / stone pivots / BRONZE DOORS / cast-bronze grilled doors / cast panels / IRON DOORS / nailing / rivetting / nut-bolting / iron hinges.


PRIMITIVE DOOR COVERINGS: Door coverings were made of reeds, straw, cane bamboos, and stalks as mat, often stiffened at the edge to form a shutter. Such door as cover rolled up or pushed aside, and as shutters were hung through leather, fabric ropes or vine straps. The mat or the shutter was secured in similar fashion. Such doors were mostly used in domestic architecture. For public buildings a formal and stronger door was required.

WOOD DOORS: The most preferred material for making doors, in all geographic locations, in ancient times, was timber. Archaeological and literary evidence indicates its prevalance in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Pompeian wooden doors were made of stiles and rails with in-fill planks or panels, and were equipped with locks and hinges. The Chinese wooden door usually consisted of two panels, the lower one solid and the upper one a wooden lattice backed with paper. The traditional Indian house doors were made of carved shutter frames, but with wood planks forming a backing rather than a panel insert. Indian palaces and forts’ doors were similar in construction.

According to a Chinese legend, a tomb located near the town of Sian and belonging to the first emperor of the Ch'in dynasty (221-206 BC) had a door that could not be cut with iron swords, because the door magnetically attracted the iron. Gates of a palace were also made of magnetic stone so warriors wearing iron armour were attracted and could not move.

King Solomon's temple doors were in olive wood, and besides olive wood, elm, cedar, oak and Cyprus were also used. These doors were carved, and overlaid with gold. The doors mentioned in Homer would appear to have been cased in silver or brass. Besides Olive wood, elm, cedar, oak and cypress were used. This Roman type of door was adopted in Islamic countries. In China the wooden door usually consisted of two panels, the lower one solid and the upper one a wooden lattice backed with paper. The traditional Japanese shoji was a wood-framed, paper-covered sliding panel.

STONE DOORS: Stone doors were used for tombs and such other sparingly to be opened buildings. The stone doors were heavy and like many other door systems of the time had stone pivots. In later periods stone doors with cast bronze pivots were also used. Stone doors do not accept add-on materials easily. Adding a bronze pivot was extremely difficult. Bronze, wood and steel were easy to include in a composition.

Stone doors have been found at Kuffeir near Bostra in Syria. Burckhardt found stone doors, 9 to 10 ft. high, as the entrance doors of the town. In Etruria many stone doors are referred to by Dennis. In Hauran in Syria, where timber is scarce, the doors were made in stone, and one measuring 5 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 7 in. is in the British Museum; the band on the meeting stile shows that it was one of the leaves of a double door.

BRONZE DOORS: Greek temples and Roman buildings had solid doors or cast-bronze grilled doors. Later bronze doors began to be made across Europe and parts of Asia, but by that time the art had died out in Rome. Cast bronze doors, as a tradition continued in Europe till middle ages. Later cast panels with patterns in relief made from a combination bronze, cast steel, and wood were used for assembling larger size doors.

The doors or gates at Balawat 895-825 BC. consisted of two leaves (each about 8 ft. 4 in. wide and 27 ft. high) were encased with bronze bands or strips, 10 in. high, and its tenons were sheathed with bronze. It seems the wood doors were about 3 in. thick, but the hanging stile was more than 14 inches in diameter. In the Hauran in Syria, where timber is scarce, the doors were made in stone, and one measuring 5 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 7 in. is in the British Museum; the band on the meeting stile shows that it was one of the leaves of a double door. At Kuffeir near Bostra in Syria, Burckhardt found stone doors, 9 to 10 ft. high, being the entrance doors of the town. In Etruria many stone doors are referred to by Dennis.

IRON DOORS: Iron began to substitute bronze as a tool and weapon material from about 1000 BC, and this must have been the period by which its use as door making material must have occurred. Bronze was more fusible (easy to melt and cast into shapes), harder than pure iron and far more resistant to corrosion. But Iron was more abundantly available. Bronze doors could form a lasting and protective layer of patina (rust) over the surface. Iron had problems of rusting. However, in many regions like Spain, China, etc., Iron Doors, lattices etc. were cast. Medieval churches throughout Europe were using wooden doors fitted with massive iron hinges and bands, to protect shrines and treasures. These doors were further embellished by slivering, gilding and later ceramic enamelling. Iron doors used nailing, rivetting and to a minor extent nut bolting as the joining technique. Forged joining of iron pieces came much later.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: DOORS - PERIODS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: EARLY EGYPTIAN / lower and upper portions of the tall opening / GREEK DOORS / unifores / bifores or geminae / valvae / fixed and often open-able cast bronze grills / EARLY ROMAN DOORS / semi circular arched doorway / solid bronze double shutters / cast bronze panels / curtains / paginae / BYZANTINE PERIOD DOORS / Hagia Sophia’s cathedral / ROMANESQUE PERIOD / masonry vaulting / arched doorways / panelled squarish shutters / GOTHIC PERIOD / France and Germany / Italian doors / cast bronze doors / insert panels / Byzantine niello work / Lorenzo Ghiberti's doors / MEDIEVAL PERIOD / Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise / RENAISSANCE PERIOD / ‘bolection’ or projecting mouldings / INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION PERIOD / iron structural sections / developments in glass manufacturing / new door systems / mass produced / door as integrated with the shell / POST INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION PERIOD / National Standards and ISO / coordination of specifications / NEW AGE TECHNOLOGIES AND NEW DOORS / doors for automobiles / door frames / folded sheet sections / air curtains / invisible intelligent barrier systems.


EARLY EGYPTIAN: Early Egyptian temple doorways were tall (and so seemingly narrow) gaps stretching to the roof beam bottom. The lower and upper portions of the tall opening had distinctly different purposes. The upper part was left open to allow horizontal sun light to illuminate the altar in the early morning or evening. Seasonally moon light was also used for the same purpose. ‘From the upper portion of the cleavage, the powers or the spirits entered with the light, and the lower portion was the entry point for the mortals’. Closing the entire opening with a single shutter was not necessary and technologically feasible. The lower gap up to the functional height however was closed for security and privacy.

GREEK DOORS: The ancient Greek and Roman doors were unifores -single doors, bifores or geminae -double doors, or valvae -folding doors. The leaves of the folding doors were hinged, and folded back one over the other. The doors were tall, almost reaching about two-thirds the height of the lofty naos, and when open allowed ample light to illuminate the statue in the naos. The doors were of wood and cast bronze, often panelled with a lattice. The portals of Greek temples were fitted with fixed and often open-able cast-bronze grills. So doors even when closed, the grilles in the door panels admitted sufficient light for the ordinary purposes. The doors were placed behind a colonnade forming the East front face and often a secondary colonnade of the pro-naos.

EARLY ROMAN DOORS: Early Roman doors were like the Greek doors, but with flat and a semi circular-arched doorway. The shutters were comparatively smaller in size but retained the vertical rectangular proportion. The Roman doors had solid bronze double shutters, supported by pivots fitted into sockets in the threshold and lintel. An early example of large cast bronze doors is of the 7.3 metres wide double shutter for the Roman Pantheon. The earliest large examples are the 24-foot (7.3-metre) double doors of the Roman Pantheon. The Romans perfected the technique of cast bronze panels for fabricating very large shutters. Panelled shutters were much lighter in the fabricated form, and so easy to transport, install and operate.

Doors of the ancient Temple of Divus Romulus are of two leaves each with two panels, and are framed in bronze; these were converted and reused in the Christian Church of SS Cosma and Damiano. The doors of the Pantheon are similar in design, with narrow horizontal panels in addition, at the top, bottom and middle. Two other bronze doors of the Roman period are in the Lateran Basilica. The doors of the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (6th C.) are covered with plates of bronze, cut out in patterns: those of St Sophia at Constantinople, of the 8th and 9th C, are wrought in bronze, and the west doors of the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle (9th C), of similar type were probably brought from Constantinople, as also some of those in St Mark's, Venice.

Rooms of roman houses were separated from the entrance lobbies, porches and other rooms merely by curtains and only occasionally by wood shutters. The doors were made of cypress, oak, deal, box-tree, olive, or elm. For the bolts and pivots hardwoods and cast bronze were used. The wood was aged, and left in the press for years to prevent warping. Doors were panelled rather than made of boards to prevent warping of the wood, the doors were not constructed of boards but were of paginae -panels. The doors of the upper class were veneered and adorned with bronze, ivory, and other ornaments. Ancient roman doors had pivots of hardwood and sometimes of cast bronze.

‘The main entry into apartment houses typically took the shape of two wooden leaves that swivelled in pivots fixed into the doorsill and lintel blocks and opened inwards. Other doorways, for example those of the tavernae (shops) were secured every night by means of vertical wooden shutters that set into the travertine doorsill and lintel blocks, although at night and perhaps during midday break access might be made through a small entrance located inside the larger door.’

BYZANTINE PERIOD DOORS: The Roman panelled design and fabrication technique was continued through the Byzantine and Romanesque period. The bronze cast doors were used in the Hagia Sophia’s cathedral (838 C., Constantinople), St. Marks Venice, and the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle (9th C.). The doors of the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (6th C.) are covered with plates of bronze, cutouts in patterns.

The art of casting doors was preserved in the Eastern Empire, the most notable example being double door (838 AD) of the Hagia Sophia’s cathedral in Constantinople (now Istanbul). In the 11th century bronze castings from Constantinople were imported into southern Italy. Bronze doors were introduced into northern Europe, notably in Germany, when Charlemagne installed a Byzantine pair (804 AD) for the cathedral at Aachen. The first bronze doors to be cast in one piece in northern Europe were made for the Cathedral of Hildesheim (1015 AD). They were designed with a series of panels in relief, establishing a sculptural tradition of historical narrative that distinguishes Romanesque and, later, bronze doors.

ROMANESQUE PERIOD: After 950 AD, well planned, grand scale buildings with excellent construction methods like masonry vaulting marked the Romanesque style. The Italian Romanesque architecture had large arched doorways. The straight and often angularly cut sides of the arched doorways were filled-in with columns, pilasters, flutes and other carvings. Actual doors were of much smaller size than the arched doorways. The Roman panelled design and mounting technique continued in Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. The door shutters still retained the squarish shape as panels were cast elsewhere. The panelled squarish shutters were fitted on the inside face of the arched gaps to avoid the mismatch of shapes. The door gap often had multilayered ‘traceried over patterns’. Gradually the shutters also began to be shaped matching the arched doorway gaps, requiring the reshaping of the top few panels of the door shutters.

‘The greatest works in the Romanesque style date from 1075 to 1125, after this period the style entered a florid baroque phase that lasted a generation and then was revivified as Gothic. A new type of ribbed groin-vaulted unit bay, using pointed arches to distribute thrust and improve the shape of the geometric surfaces produced vaulting that was light, strong, open, versatile, and applicable everywhere -a Gothic vaulting. A whole new aesthetic, with a new decorative system, the Gothic, was evolved as early as 1145.’

GOTHIC PERIOD: Gothic doors were of functional size, both of single and double leaves as well as dual doors. In the Romanesque period, the double shutter doors in the opening portal were separated by a column and the span was headed by a flat lintel, and than once again by a circular or pointed arch. In the Gothic period the spanning of opening was replaced by a pointed arch, giving a narrower look to the opening. The narrower look was further accentuated by the ribbed jamb and arch sides. In France and Germany, the main doorways were on the west face. The doorways were large, deeply recessed, intricately carved, and often with architectural elements such as columns, entablature, pediment and niches. Sculptural features such as statues of saints were placed in the arches in serried rows (e.g. Strasbourg and Rheims Cathedrals). Compared to this, the Italian doors were simpler, but doorways were elaborately treated.

In Italy, Germany and other areas of N. Europe cast bronze doors with an insert panels were used in many public buildings. The panels had designs, monograms and other ornaments in relief, frequently damascened (Ref: see notes on Surface Finishes) in silver and gold, and enriched with bosses and scrolls. From 12th C onwards few churches in Italy had bronze doors inlaid with Byzantine niello work made by Byzantine crafts-persons. Lorenzo Ghiberti's doors for the Baptistery in Florence (1403–52) marked the beginning of a golden age of bronze casting in Florence and it lasted through the Renaissance and the Baroque era. Italian doors of the Renaissance period were simpler, with scale given by increasing the number of panels, as compared to France and Germany where doors had few or single panel but elaborately carved.

MEDIAEVAL PERIOD: The mediaeval period offers a wide variety of buildings with equally varied door styles, simply because many examples have survived or their records are available. A large variety of door head arches, such as flat, circular, 2,3, and 4 centred. The upper section of the doorway was flatter (of less depth), but its treatment was always elaborate. Wood was the chief door construction material. Iron hinges and spikes etc. were used. Woods of different varieties and metal sheets (bronze, copper, etc.) with plating and gilding were used. Typical Western medieval door for domestic architecture was of vertical planks backed with horizontals or diagonal bracing. It was strengthened with long iron hinges and studded with nails. In domestic architecture, interior double doors appeared in Italy in the 15th century and then in the rest of Europe and the American colonies. The craft of bronze casting, which was neglected till 12th C., became now a thriving industry. Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise -Porta del Paradiso (1425) is the high point of this craft in Florence, it lasted through the Renaissance and right down to the Baroque era.

RENAISSANCE PERIOD: One of the masterpieces of Renaissance art -the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence cathedral, which consist of 28 panels illustrating New Testament scenes of the life of Christ. Bronze doors inlaid with niello work were earlier produced mainly in Byzantine area (during 11th and 12th C.), now began to be produced everywhere in Europe.

In England in the 17th century the door panels were raised with ‘bolection’ or projecting mouldings, sometimes richly carved. In the 18th C. the mouldings on the stiles and rails were carved with the egg and tongue ornament. Doors were also made of wood veneers and wood inlay.

The earliest Renaissance doors in France are those of the cathedral of St Sauveur at Aix (1503 AD.), the lower panels have 3 ft high figures in Gothic niches, and the upper panels have 2 ft niches canopies over them, all carved in cedar. The south door of Beauvais cathedral is in some respects the finest in France, the upper panels are carved in high relief with figure subjects and canopies over them. The doors of the church at Gisors (1575 AD.) are carved with figures in niches subdivided by classic pilasters superimposed. In St Maclou at Rouen are three magnificently carved doors, those by Jean Goujon have figures in niches on each side, and others in a group of great beauty in the centre. The other doors, probably about forty to fifty years later, are enriched with bas-relief, landscapes, figures and elaborate interlaced borders.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION PERIOD: The industrial revolution period saw the use of new techniques of creating metal components. Steam powered machines were capable of handling heavy loads of forging, rolling, shaping and die-casting. Iron structural sections began to change the industrial buildings and public utilities. The openings in industrial buildings, railway stations were large and new door systems were developed. The developments in glass manufacturing methods also encouraged the large openings. New door systems such as: rolling shutters, multiple folding shutter doors, collapsible gates, goods elevators’ sliding upward doors, warehouse doors, etc. were fabricated of rolled or drawn iron. These doors were functional and without decoration or styling appendages. New doors required radically different hardware such as hinges and locking devices, and surface finishes. Colonies for new Industrial workers were developing in every urban centre, and required low-cost doors. Metal doors, timber flush doors and other alternative systems began to be mass produced. Railway cars, trams, buses and other automobiles required openings systems of different sizes, shapes and very often door as integrated with the shell (a structural component of the body). Industrial valves, oceanic vessels (ships, sail boats, etc.), chemical reaction vessels, processing chambers, steam boilers and other systems changed the age-old concepts about opening systems and provided new design insights. Massive demand from hotels, resorts, hospitals, army (barracks and other buildings), public housing schemes, commercial buildings, etc. supported development of standardized, mass produced, trimmed door systems that were not only easy to maintain but replaceable.

POST INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION PERIOD: This is a period marked by the end of world war II. The old styles and building techniques gave way to new methods as Japan and Europe began to rebuild their war-torn economies. New developments in Materials Technologies, specifically plastics and other petroleum products began to offer new alternatives. Metal manufacturing now free of war preparations had large spare capacities of production offered better and diverse structural shapes and sizes. Coating, alloying, galvanizing, metalizing techniques offered steel and other metals with different options. National Standards and ISO helped develop a basis for world wide coordination of specifications. Several countries of the world achieved independence from colonial bondage. This created a huge market for the industrially developed countries.

NEW AGE TECHNOLOGIES AND NEW DOORS: New age doors include, both architectural and non architectural entities. Doors for automobiles were most radical in design, not only their size, shape and form were different but new materials were also being experimented. Composites of carbon, fibre glass, etc. were tried out here. Aircraft hangers, home garages, submarine vessels, pharmaceutical and other bio plants, food processing areas, hospital’s surgical areas, climate-controlled industrial plants (diodes and other electronic circuits), etc., provided new opportunities to reinvent the door. Laminated composites, surface hardened and alloyed materials, co-extruded plastics, foamed or air-entrained materials, stainless steel and aluminium sheet formations, wood waste products, powder coatings and other solvent-less systems, new varieties of glass and clear plastics, all have changed not only what a door was but how it could be constructed differently.

One of the major component to see a drastic change was the Door Frame. Traditional wood jamb + head frames have been nearly replaced by folded sheet sections (of mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum), drawn sections (mild steel, aluminium, bronze, other alloys and plastics), and formed units of (layered and particle composites of cellulosic materials, paper, plastics, cement concrete). Besides replacing a timber jamb with other materials, attempts began to have no jamb doors. Hinges and other door shutter fixing arrangements were sought to be replaced with floor pivots and sliding tracks. Glass doors without a stile or any other member supported on a floor pivot is an example of this. Frequently opened and closed gaps such as in public buildings (railway stations, airports, malls, office complex foyers, restaurants, industrial plants) have air-curtains (air cascading over the gap and thus forming a breach-able barrier) instead of traditional door frames. In areas where a door was required as a security check barrier, these nodes are replaced with almost invisible intelligent barrier systems that recognise, register and control the access.      COMPONENTS OF DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: shutter or leaf / frame / hardware / wall opening / barricade / door portal / doorway / sides / head / eaves / Hisashi / Torii / DOOR SIDES / DOOR FRAMES / closer or tighter shutting / JAMB / casings / DOOR SURROUNDS / CASINGS / sides of the gap /types of casings / door stop butt / double shutter set / multi shutter system / termination points / architraves / extra wide casings / air lock / PILASTER / anta ANCONES CONSOLE / Todla / FILLET / wall treatments / REVEAL / SPLAYED / DOOR PORTALS / splayed / Buland Darwaza / Tympanum / LITES / TRANSOM / horizontal bar / TRANSOM LITE / FAN LIGHT / classical revival and colonial revival / CIRCULAR LIGHT / rose windows / SIDE LITE / DOOR HEAD / PEDIMENT / Georgian and Greek Revival architecture / broken pediment / EMBRASURE / inward splaying / THRESHOLD / doorsill, or saddle / Shankhavati / TRACERY / plate type / bar type / SHUTTER OR LEAF OF A DOOR / Multi planked wood shutters / stiles / rails / wood joinery / spikes or nails / multiple panels / cast or hammered metal sheets’ cladding / cast bronze panels / cast or engraved designs / hinges / shelf supported pivots / STILE / hanging stile / latch stile / panel doors / stile and rail doors / MULLIONS / side-lite / RAILS / rows of panels / kick rail / lock rail / cross rails / PLANKS / slats / BATTENS / slats / braces / iron bars / PANELS / flat / rebated / raised design / SHEATHING / metal sheet or plate / cladding / BEADING / peg / tree-nail / architrave / HOOD / quarter sphere / awnings / MOULDING / ARCHITRAVE / COMPONENTS OF FLUSH DOOR SHUTTERS / FRAME OR EDGES / CORE MATERIAL / composite / monolithic / HOLLOW-CORE / LOCK-BLOCK: / concealed stile / SOLID-CORE / SKIN / embossed / moulded / architraves.


A door as a building element is made essentially of a shutter or leaf. The shutter sometimes requires an intermediating support structure or frame. The shutter and the frame are joined by hardware. The door system is placed in a wall opening, barricade, door portal or doorway.

The door portals have sides and a head, both of which are structurally formed and decoratively treated in many different ways. Structurally the sides are the edges of the gap in the wall, but are reinforced with better materials and construction techniques. The sides are configured to receive the door leaf or the frame. The sides are also shaped to form a frame. The sides are decoratively treated to add to the scale (size) and increase the perceptive importance of the door portal. The treatments on the sides visually ‘frame’ the door portal, making it a ‘stand alone’ element. The head is placed both as a structural element and a framing element. As a structural element it supports the overhead section and transfers the load to the side or base. The head is often a component of the roofing system, the eaves.

According to Japanese mythology a door portal is formed by the Hisashi (usually means eaves), whose character has the meaning ‘a space to see’. So a door occurs when a horizontal element like the eaves is formed. The horizontal element needs to be supported off the ground, so has sides. The gate Torii (Japanese) is an epitome of this. Torii can virtually occur anywhere in the space, and provide a metaphoric entrance. Torii frames a view or focuses presence.

DOOR-SIDES: The door-sides are distinctively of interior or exterior nature. Door sides are architectural or elements of its framing, but often it is often difficult to distinguish the purpose served by them. Door-side elements are also called door surrounds and are in the form of: casings, pilasters or half or demi-columns, flutes, niches, abutments, architraves, lites (side openings).

DOOR FRAMES: Frames are required primarily to hang a shutter, Frames for doors are used when the surrounding structural elements are incapable of receiving a hinge or such fixing mechanism. In very cold or rainy seasons, frames help closer or tighter shutting. Frames are made from wood, stone, cast or rolled metal sheets, Cement concrete, cement composites, extruded plastics, etc.

JAMB: The vertical support on either side of a door, window or other openings. A jamb is the vertical side member of a door frame. Jambs of extended width to cover the entire depth of the doorway are casings.

DOOR SURROUND: A surround is a decorative entity around a doorway. The term is also used for decorative elements around other openings such as windows and fireplaces.

CASINGS: Door frames have to be of functional size (width and depth) to economise the use of wood. Door gaps are often too deep and a frame cannot cover the entire width. The sides of the gap are covered by a Casing. Casing is a widened frame, or additional panelling that is placed on the remaining sides. The casing usually is placed on the interior face of the door frame, but for interior doors it can occur on any face. There are many types of casings: 1 a casing covers the entire gap and the door frame is mounted over it or is formed by placing a thin architrave that creates a door stop butt; 2 the casing is formed between two sets of frames, which marks the edge; 3 a casing or two sets of it are placed over the remaining portion, not occupied by the frame. Casings are single panel constructions, multi division panels, or in the form of stripes or flutes.

Deep door portals are used for accommodating a set of doors, with an interim space. In case of double shutter set (a set of shutters such ‘solid + glazed’, ‘glazed + louvred’, ‘glazed + mosquitos nett’ ) the doors are hung on the inside and outside edges. In a multi shutter system the casings are hollowed out to accommodate additional sliding shutters.

Casings become termination points for the skirting, wainscotting, dado or wall panelling system. The chief tools for such termination or integration of two elements are architraves.

Extra wide casings are created by having deeper door portals. Deep portals create a zone between the two shutters, to dampen the noise, provide insulation, create an air lock. To avoid deep casings the sides are architecturally or panelling wise chamferred or stepped (serrated as in Gothic doors).

PILASTER: A pilaster (anta in Greek and Egyptian architecture) is half a pillar that is attached to the side walls and projects to provide added support or is for ornamental decoration. Like a column, a pilaster often has a capital and a base. The depth of a pilaster is about one-sixth of its breadth, from a wall.

ANCONES CONSOLE: A bracket that is on either sides of a doorway to support a cornice or projected section of the lintel. A Todla (Gujarat, India) is often used for placing an oil lamp.

FILLET: A small band to separate the door frame or door casing from the adjoining wall panelling, dado or other wall treatments.

REVEAL: A small band or strip at a right angle to the side face of the opening (on the main face of the wall) used to seal the edge of frame or casing or border the opening gap.

SPLAYED: When the reveal is chamferred, or the corner edge of the masonry wall of the opening is diagonally cut, it is called splayed. Windows like openings have been splayed for ages. Door openings are splayed on sides and at head. The splay could be very wide to allow better distribution of illumination or have a wider view. Splay could be both on the interior and exterior faces.

DOOR PORTALS: Historically doors have been placed on the inner edge of the door portal, and front edges have been splayed to accentuate the sides (e.g. Fatehpur Sikri entrance to the main mosque complex is Buland Darwaza within which the actual door is much smaller). Similarly in Gothic architecture door portals are elaborate and serrated but an actual door is always much smaller. Fluting or serration is continued from both sides to over the door head portion (arched or flat lintels). In Mughal architecture additionally balconies and windows were placed in door portals. The angular portion above the door the Tympanum has been surface treated with carvings or fine lattices, and later as transom.

LITES: Lites or lights are the additional openings that occur over or on the side of a door. The lites are intended to illuminate the entrance foyer or vestibule. Lights were used as a characteristic style element for houses.

TRANSOM: The term refers to a fixed horizontal bar of wood or stone that is placed over a door to separate an opening or window above.

TRANSOM LITE: Flat arched, or square and flat headed lintels have an opening shutter (called a ‘ventilator’) often hinged to the horizontal crossbar or a transom (transom-lite). A transom lite is a window or fixed glazed panels positioned directly above a door or window, and shaped according to the archway (a segmental, semicircular etc.).

FANLIGHT: The lites in semi circular or other archways are shaped, or the lattice work within it is in the form of a fan (fanlights). It is a semicircular window above a door, often with distinctive radial shape. Fanlight doors were accompanied by sidelights. Fanlights illuminated an entry hall or vestibules. In the mid-1700’s the design of a fanlight gave a sense of an individuality to the facades of urban row houses. A fanlight is a key identifying feature of Federal style architecture. Fanlights were also found in Classical Revival and Colonial Revival houses.

CIRCULAR LIGHTS: These were left as round openings with delicately carved tracery patterns. These circular openings later in Gothic period became Rose windows. Rose windows were first filled with translucent marbles or small pieces of glass, and later with stained (coloured) glass. Circular lights with circular, segmental or elliptical archways were mounted on entire width comprising of the door and its sidelights. This was a common feature in Federal and Georgian style architecture.

SIDE-LITE: Sidelights are side openings on one or both sides of a door. These were popular in USA after the American Revolution.

DOOR-HEAD: A door head is the upper section of a door that is shaped flat, segmental or as a semi circular archway. Door head, as a term often includes the head of the opening, its treatments and appendages. The door-head as a structural component is a lintel, corbelled arches of various forms (semi circular, segmental, pointed, two points, a pointed trefoil, an ogee, shouldered, etc.), as a decorative system, it is a pediment or gable (triangular, cut triangular, circular, cut circular, etc.), flutes, and as a functional element has transoms, tympanums, fan light, rose windows, etc.

PEDIMENT: A low-pitched triangular gables over a doorway or other openings, often seen in Georgian and Greek Revival architecture. In a version known as a broken pediment, the peak of the triangle is interrupted, often with an ornamental curve and/or a decorative element in the centre. Pediments also occur as head decorations over the chair back, wall clocks and buildings’ fronts.

EMBRASURE: The inward splaying of openings such as doors and windows for wider distribution of illumination.

THRESHOLD: Thresholds have an origin since the days of pivot. Early doors were very heavy. Pivots for such doors were made with a metal casing, and placed in a hard wood or stone base. The thresholds, due to wear of the pivots, required frequent replacements. The threshold (a log of wood or other materials) was also used as the support base to hold the jambs, and maintain distance between them.

A threshold also separates two different types of floorings. The threshold serves as a barrier against crawling insects, storm and cold draughts. It is sometimes referred to as a doorsill, or saddle. A threshold is also used to insert a vertical cross bar or a stopper bar to secure the door. Most Indian temples have a high threshold called Shankhavati. Jain temples have doorway thresholds containing a set of Kumbha (urn).

TRACERY: Ornamental curved patterns in windows, doors and other openings often made of wood, stone or cast iron. Traceries are, plate type when cut out of a stone plate, or bar type with geometric patterns formed by narrower bands. Tracery was a typical element of Gothic Revival and Collegiate Gothic style architecture.

SHUTTER OR LEAF OF A DOOR: These were once made of monolithic material such as a single piece of stone or wood, but the limited size of the materials and heavy weight not only restricted the actual size of opening, but the control over its opening-closing mechanism. Multi planked wood shutters require a vertical member as stiles and horizontal rails, and both need to be held together through wood joinery and spikes or nails. Later during Greek and Roman period panelled door construction further reduced the weight of door and allowed construction of larger sized shutters. For large doors multiple panels were used. Large panels of single pieces of wood were not feasible, and panels of multiple planks were always weak. This weakness was removed with use of cast or hammered metal sheets’ cladding of bronze and copper over wood panels. In later Roman period and thereafter in Byzantine cast bronze panels (inserted in wood or metal frame work) with cast or engraved designs began to be used. These panels were produced at places far away from their use.

Door Shutters or leaves had inherent size limitation. As the door shutter construction became refined, weight was reduced, and door opening-closing became easier. The primitive doors were held by stacking, tying at the edge by ropes or leather straps. Later pivots were formed as an integral member of the shutter material. These pivot nodes were inserted into hard stone holes at floor and ceiling levels. Problems with pivot mechanisms were many: pivot nodes wore out fast -lowering and often tilting of the shutter, pivots broke frequently making shutter useless, and replacement of a worn or broken pivot required lot of structural changes. Pivots of cast bronze were a better option, but required special joining with wood and more so with stone shutters.

Sometimes during middle ages hinges began to replace the floor pivots. The first hinges were actually shelf-supported pivots. These were formed of wrought iron or bronze. Hinges were easy to fit or replace (in the first case without structural delays, and in later case without structural changes). Incase of pivots the bottom one carried the load whereas the top pivot was more of a holding element. But in case of hinges, all of them shared the carriage of loads.

Shutters are composed of many different materials and techniques: Stone sheets, metal plates, wood, glass, plastics, textiles, woven materials, leaves, leather, water and air jets, ultra sound.

STILE: Stiles are full height right and left vertical edges of a shutter. The hinges are mounted to the fixed side -known as the hanging stile, and the handle, lock, bolt, and/or latch, are mounted on the swinging side -known as the latch stile. Panel doors -doors built with frame and panel construction, also called stile and rail doors.

MULLIONS: Vertical members that run between two rails, and split the door into two or more columns of panels. A mullion is also a vertical member that divides a door and its side-lite.

MUNTINS: Thinner or minor members that divide the door into smaller panels.

RAILS: Horizontal members (similar to stiles) at the top, bottom and optionally in the middle of a door. Rails join the vertical edge members -the stiles. Rails also divide the door into two or more rows of panels. The top and bottom rails are named for their positions. The bottom rail is known as kick rail. A middle rail at the height of the bolt is known as the lock rail, other middle rails are commonly known as cross rails.

PLANKS: Vertical boards or slats that extend the full height of the door, and are placed side by side filling up the door's width.

BATTENS: Battens are smaller slats that extend horizontally across the door to which the planks are affixed. The battens hold the planks together. Sometimes, a brace, a long diagonal slat, or two are used to prevent the door from skewing (dropping down on free edge-corner). On some doors, especially antique ones, the battens are replaced with iron bars that are often built into the hinges as extensions of the door-side plates.

PANELS: Panels are large, wide boards used to fill up the space between the stiles, rails, and mullions. The panels typically have a tongue -a projecting element on one edge, and a groove at the other edge. Panels may be flat, rebated or of raised designs.

SHEATHING: A cover usually of metal sheet or plate applied over a door surface to protect it from moisture, impact denting, scratching, etc. Bottom section of Door shutters often have sheaths of metal, plastic or fibre sheets. Sheathing is also called cladding.

BEADING: A woodworking method used to join two pieces of wood. A mortise (cavity, hole, notch or slot) is cut into one piece of wood. The tenon is created by shaping the end of the second piece of wood so that it can slide into the mortise. After fitting the tenon into the mortise, the joint is made secure by drilling a hole through both the mortise and tenon, and driving a wooden peg, also called a tree-nail, into the hole. Beading is also a small architrave that holds the glazing pane or panel to stile or rail.

HOOD: A covering above a door or window that provides shelter as well as adds a decorative element to the doorway. Hoods are made with wood or metal frames and covered by pieces of slate, roofing tiles, metal sheaths, fibre cement sheets, canvas fibre glass sheets and fabrics, plastics’ sheets etc. One of the most used hoods during the last century was a quarter sphere over a semi circular archway of door or window. Modern hoods are manual or automatically collapsible or retractable mechanisms. An Indian bazar shop hood (for many centuries preceding the British Raj and till independence) was formed of canvas like heavy fabric stretched with bamboo poles. Hoods are also called awnings.

MOULDING: In England in the 17th century the door panels were raised with bolection or richly carved projecting mouldings. In the 18th century the mouldings were created on the stiles and rails with the egg and tongue carved ornamentation.

ARCHITRAVE: An architrave is a border that surrounds a door frame or door way. Often it covers the junction of a door frame and masonry wall, casing, panelling, etc. It is often a part of the moulding.



FRAME OR EDGES: Edges on a flush door provide integrity to the structure and allow fixing of hinges, latches, etc. The edges are concealed behind a skin with only its side ends seen. Edges allow a door to be sized (by planning) for the opening.

CORE MATERIAL: Material that forms the core or body of the flush door. It fills up the space, but provides rigidity, reduce the druminess, enhances the insulation. The core material is a composite and sometimes a geometric composition but edged with a monolithic material.

HOLLOW-CORE: A hollow core construction has core formed of units arranged with space between them. Wood stripes, lattices, hollowed, honeycombed, corrugated, nodulated, or expanded forms of materials are used. Hollow-core flush doors are lightweight and have greater insulation capacity. Hollow core doors are used as interior doors.

LOCK-BLOCK: A lock-block consists of a wide edge or concealed stile for full height or for part of the door to facilitate insertion of mortice lock system.

SOLID-CORE: Solid-core doors have entire core area filled with pieces of wood or a panel of wood particles. Low-density particle boards or foams are also used to completely fill the space within the door. Solid-core flush doors (especially foam-core ones) are commonly used as exterior doors because they provide more insulation and strength.

SKIN: The front and back faces of the flush door are covered with a thin layer of materials such as wood veneer, plywood, sheet metal, fibreglass, or vinyl or polyester film. Multi layer skin materials such as veneers and plywoods are layered with the grain alternating direction between layers to prevent warping. The skin of a flush door is sometimes embossed moulded with patterns (in the case of metal, fibreglass, or vinyl). Additional mouldings and architraves are added (to wood) to give the appearance of a panel door. Fibreglass and metal-faced doors are coated to achieve stained wood looks.      MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGIES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: Nippur / Balawat / hanging stile / door frame / shutter / metal doors / embellishments and treatments / enamelling / malleable rolled sheets / cast door panels / tinning and galvanizing / oil painting / exotic woods / flush panel door / wood and wood-waste composites / door portals / glazed doors /clean -see through glass / French doors / folding and sliding doors / Shoji / canopy door / rolling door garages doors / modern doors / flexible shutters / vault doors / core-fill of mineral slabs.


The first doors were shutters of stone, wood, grass or reeds, leaves, hides or skins, woven mats and fabrics. The shutters, in order to close the opening, were made to swing, fold, collapse, slide or roll up. Ancient doors were primarily hung by pivots, formed as a protrusion of the door material at the top and bottom as the hanging edge of the stile. The pivot rotated in sockets in the lintel and sill or thresholds in the floor. The pivots and the sockets, both of them were later encased with harder material such as granite, basalt, hard woods, bronze, iron, etc.

Stone pivots, found at Nippur dating from 2000 BC., were in dolerites stone. The tenons of the gates at Balawat (now in the British Museum) were sheathed with bronze. These doors or gates were hung in two leaves, each about 8 ft.4 in. wide and 27 ft. high; they were encased with bronze bands or strips, 10 in. high, covered with repousse decoration of figures, etc. The wood doors would seem to have been about 3 in. thick, but the hanging stile was more than 14 inches diameters. Other sheaths of various sizes in bronze have been found, which proves this to be a common method to protect the wood pivots.

Floor pivoted doors were difficult to move or replace. Later pivots (hinged pivots) made of cast metals were wall-mounted instead of the floor and lintel. Wall pivots developed into hinges, when these were fixed to the surrounding frames instead of the masonry walls. The door frame became almost as inevitable an element as the shutter, for any opening system.

Metal doors of bronze, copper and later iron were used for public buildings. Metal doors were cast as panels and assembled into a larger size. Metal cast panels were cast with basic patterns, and later enriched by embossing, recessing, chasing or engraving. Bronze predominantly had patina (oxide - rust) as the finish. Metal surfaces were also plated, gilded or inlaid with Gold and Silver. Such precious metal embellishments and treatments were often plundered by the invaders. Metal panels were also suitable for enamelling (ceramic forming) but this technique was not exploited till 16th C (similar ceramic enamelled panels were also used for ceilings). During the industrial revolution period malleable rolled sheets of mild steel, brass, copper alloys, replaced the heavy weight cast door panels. The sheet formed panels, however, continued to be finished with metal inlays, chasing, engraving and enamelling techniques. Tinning and galvanizing, were emergent technologies for protecting the metal sheets. Oil painting of metal doors began from 18th C. onwards.

The external doors of the mosques in Cairo were cased with sheets of bronze or iron, cut out in decorative patterns, and incised or inlaid with bosses in relief. The internal doors were in wood framed and interlaced with Coptic designs of the square and diamond.

For internal doors and for domestic buildings wood has remained the most favoured material. Wood doors were lighter, receive wall pivots and with surrounding frames, regular hinges. Exotic woods (varieties in terms of colour, grain pattern, texture) were used to create contrasts between stiles and panels. Wooden panels were easy to finish and decorate. Lighter hinges with long arms (flanges) supported the members of the door frame. Such typical medieval doors were made of vertical planks and backed with horizontals or diagonal bracing, and the hinges were studded with nails or bolts. In domestic architecture, interior double doors appeared in Italy in the 15th C. and then in the rest of Europe and the American colonies. The panelled effect was further simplified until, in the 20th C., a single, hollow-core, flush panel door became common.

Wood is replaceable so it is an ideal material but forests cannot be regenerated fast enough to meet its heavy demand. Wood and wood-waste composites both are now sought to be replaced with alternative materials and technologies.

The size of a door shutter has always been prudent. Stone and metal cast doors were very heavy to install and operate. Metal panelled doors were easier to assemble, but were still heavy and difficult to maintain. The timber as a natural resource had size and supply limitations. Composite doors with elemental panels of rolled sheets were lighter, and with hinges were easy to install, repair, operate and decorate. Doors’ shutters have gradually become smaller and functional, but door portals have continued to be of grand size. Large door portals with functional sized door shutters have been common in buildings during middle ages and renaissance periods.

Historically doors have been of opaque shutters, with occasional small inset lattice openings, or few panels as lattice (e.g. Greek temples). Scattered examples of door panels of thin marbles or such translucent stones to brighten the interiors are found. To control the transparency curtains were used over door gaps or entire shutters of metal lattices were used. Glazed doors first appeared as window casements extended to the floor during the 17th C. Early glazed doors were composed of very small glass panes cut out of blown bulbs. The quality was unclear or muddy. But it provided illumination inside. It was after the glass bed-casting and grinding (levelling and polishing processes) became better, a clean -see through glass was available. The glass panes replaced the wood panels.

French doors (double glazed) were incorporated into English and American architecture in the late 17th and 18th C. At about this time, the French developed the mirrored door. During the 19th C., industrial production of complex hardware allowed folding and sliding doors as inspired by the Japanese shoji, the canopy door (pivoting at the top of the frame), the rolling door (of a tambour like construction), and garages doors opening to the top.

After wold war I, production of automobile, air-crafts and sea faring vessels helped developments of new types of specialized modern doors. These included 3D or spatial frame shutters, large shutters for air craft hangers and industrial plants, gates for dams, canals and dykes. Flexible shutters of stripes of polymer sheets are used in warehouses. Vault doors for: banks, high security storage areas (museums), bombing shelters are designed from alloy steel and metal composites and usually have a core-fill of mineral slabs, glass wool etc. for insulation, fire and radiation protection.      HARDWARE

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: three categories of hardware / Basic Hardware / Secondary Hardware / Appendages or Attachments.

Doors have Three categories of hardware: 1 BASIC HARDWARE attaches a shutter directly or through a frame to an opening or doorway, 2 SECONDARY HARDWARE provides control on the movement of a door, and at third level the hardware is 3 APPENDAGES OR ATTACHMENTS that endow various types of functionality.

Sub-Index for HARDWARE Baic Hardware Secondary Hardware Appendages and Attachments  BASIC HARDWARE

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter sub-Index)

Keywords: STRAPS / sparks of erosion / PIVOTS / end pivots / edge pivots -mid pivots / two-way swinging pivoted doors / pivot hinges / double acting floor hinges / hydraulic floor pivots / EARLY HINGES / wall-hung pivots / long armed hinges / flanged Hinges / MODERN HINGES / BUTT OR MORTISE HINGES / shangles / component / bearing / knuckles / hinge pin / pull out stress / push in stress / neutral stress / downward gravity stress / mouldings / casings / FLUSH HINGE / KNUCKLE HINGES / flush butt hinges / knuckle /PARLIAMENT OR BUTTERFLY HINGES / dovetail hinges / jewellery boxes / deep-set door frames / STRAP HINGE / wider flange / LIVING HINGE / thin flexible hinge / BACK FLAP HINGE / PIANO OR CONTINUOUS HINGES / INVISIBLE HINGES / CONCEALED HINGES / spring loaded / self-closing features / dampening system / H HINGES / HL hinges / BARREL HINGE / Lift-off butt hinges / LOOSE PIN HINGES OR BALL TIPPED HINGES / STOPPED HINGE / butt hinge / DOUBLE ACTION HINGE / middle flange / edge flanges / DOUBLE ACTION SPRING HINGES / UNEQUAL FLANGE HINGE / greater length of flange / reduced width of the flange / FRICTION STAYS / French door / ASKEW OR VERTICALLY MISALIGNED PIVOTS OR HINGES / Hydraulic or spring door-closer / CLASSIFICATION OF HINGES / FULL MORTISE HINGE / mortised / HALF MORTISE HINGE / FULL SURFACE HINGE / HALF SURFACE HINGE / STRUCTURAL HINGES / conditional movement / hinge like conditions / GATE HINGES / Building access hinges / FURNITURE OR CABINET HINGES / concealed hinges / butter fly hinges / piano hinges / butler tray and ambulance stretcher hinge / Drop Leaf Table Hinges / MICRO HINGES / ball-mortise / cylinder-pin system / FLOATING HINGES / two parallel axes of rotation / flatbed scanners.


Basic hardware for doors consists of shutter hanging mechanisms.

STRAPS: The first door shutter holders were straps of leather, ropes, vines, and threads, fabrics or synthetic materials’ (plastics and composites) are used as flexible hinges. Straps are still used in some conditions where metal friction is likely to cause sparks of erosion (petroleum solvent plants and cordite plants), but are made from new technology materials such as woven Fibre glass, Teflon, Cavalar, and carbon fibre composites.

PIVOTS: Doors with heavier materials such as stone, cast bronze and wood required pivots. Pivots were initially formed out of the shutter material itself, but later these were lined with metal sheaths. With better technologies of joining, the pivots were formed from cast bronze or iron steel and then attached to the shutters. By the time iron hinges began to be used, the door shutters had become lighter. Pivots allow the door to open inside, and a projection of the portal frame sealed the edges. Pivots are fixed at the corner of the door edge, and also on outside or inside the edge. Doors with outside the edge pivots -end pivots are expected to open to the inside, but can as well swing in both directions. Doors with inside the edge pivots -mid pivots open in both directions (e.g. Aluminium framed glass doors). For two-way swinging pivoted doors a door frame is an obstacle, and as a result such doors do not seal the gap completely. For pivoted doors no frames are necessary. Pivots are also called pivot hinges or double-acting floor hinges because opening movement is allowed in both directions as similar to hydraulic floor pivots used for glass doors in modern buildings.

EARLY HINGES: Early hinges were really wall-hung pivots, but the pin was hung off the side wall, and the girth or ring was fixed to the shutter. The ring had a long band which was fixed with nails to the stiles or rails. The early long armed hinges have become an expression of a medieval door. Flanged Hinges formed of steel, bronze and brass alloys are being used since middle ages.

MODERN HINGES: These are available of brass, bronze, mild steel, stainless steel, ABS and polypropylene plastics, carbon composites, etc. Most of the commercial hinges are made of several components (such as flanges, flange edge liners, pin, pin cylinder liners, coil springs, hydraulic cylinders, etc.), and these are again composed of many different materials.

BUTT OR MORTISE HINGES: These are also known as shangles in old Tudorian English (the large hinges on doors). Hinge like systems are employed in many types structures and movable bridges. In biology many body joints function as hinges. Butt or mortise hinges are made of hard wearing and stiff materials. Today hinges have a shaft or pin over which two flanges move. The pin is made of stainless steel, carbon steel, nylon and Teflon, some of these do not require any lubrication.

A hinge is component that attaches one edge of a door to the frame, while allowing the other edge to swing from it. A hinge can also be an arrangement. A type of bearing that connects two solid objects, and allowing a limited angle of rotation between them. Two objects connected by an ideal hinge rotate relative to each other about a fixed axis of rotation (the geometrical axis of the hinge). Hinges consist of a pair of plates, each with a set of open cylindrical rings (the knuckles) formed out of, or attached to them. The knuckles of the two plates are offset from each other and mesh together. A hinge pin is then placed through the two sets of knuckles to form a single unit.

One door usually requires minimum two, or more hinges. Nominally three bands (horizontal members of a panelled door) have three hinges, of which the top hinge is in ‘pull out stress’, the bottom hinge is in ‘push in stress’ due to the cantilever action of the shutter. The middle hinge is in ‘neutral stress’ state, but all three hinges have downward gravity stress. Butt or mortise Hinges are inset -mortised into the door stile and frame. The hinge is fixed with its pin section (cylinder) remaining out of the door face, to allow 180° of opening, i.e. the shutters can rest on the side of the door opening. However, sometimes mouldings over shutters, frames or casings interfere in the resting of the shutter, for such conditions hinges of larger width are used or fixed with greater outward projection of the pin section.

FLUSH HINGE: These hinges are surface-mounted and do not require a recess to be cut. They are not as strong as butt hinges but can be used for lightweight doors and small box construction.

KNUCKLE HINGES: These are flush butt hinges, fixed over the face of the door and its frame, and so not mortised. The pin cylinder or the knuckle is designed to be visible.

PARLIAMENT OR BUTTERFLY HINGES: These were known as Dovetail hinges and were used for cabinets from the 17th century onwards until the 18th century. The size and form of these hinges vary depending on the use, material and manufacturer. Very small ones are used for jewellery boxes or caskets and large ones used in public buildings. For deep-set door frames Parliament hinges are used to park a deep-set shutter along the corridor -at an opening angle of 180°.

STRAP HINGE: A strap hinge has a small height but a wider flange that accommodates two or three screws in a row on each flange.

LIVING HINGE: A living hinge is a thin strip moulded into a plastic part to create a line along which the part can bend. If properly designed and made, its closing and opening capacity lasts for more than a million cycles without failure. It is a thin flexible hinge with flexure bearing. It is formed during injection moulding process for plastics or a composite of it. Such hinges are used on lunch boxes and shampoo or hair oil bottles, and are formed of deformable plastics such as polyethylene, PVC, polypropylene, etc.

BACK FLAP HINGE: Back flap hinge is exactly the opposite version of the strap hinge. It has a squarish flange (height and width are nearly equal) Both are used in furniture items.

PIANO OR CONTINUOUS HINGES: These hinges are long enough to cover the entire length of the shutter, so support the shutter well against warping. Very thin sections of shutter boards (non panelled, without frames) require such hinges. These are used in cupboards, pianos, baueras, and desk top shutters.

INVISIBLE HINGES: These are used for joining two shutters. These are fully mortised as centred on the door shutter’s face. Door shutters seem like units of wall panelling as hinges are completely invisible.

CONCEALED HINGES: These are not seen outside a closed shutter and mainly used for furniture doors. These are often spring loaded with self-closing features and with or without a dampening system (slowing down the closing speed during the last few degrees). They are made of 2 parts: One part is the hinge cup and the arm; the other part is the mounting plate. These normally come in two sizes, 25 mm and 36 mm. The hinge is adjustable once fitted to correct the door alignment and planner straightness. These hinges are designed for use with chipboard and MDF.

H HINGES: These are shaped like an H, and used on the flush mounted doors. Small H hinges (75 to 100 mm) are used for cabinets and larger hinges (150 to 175 mm) are used for passage doors or closet doors. Large HL Hinges were common for passage doors, room doors and closet doors in the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. On taller doors H hinges were occasionally used in the middle along with the HL hinges at top and bottom.

BARREL HINGE: These Liftoff butt hinges have two components. The bottom section has a cylinder like projection over which a top hollow ring or cylinder is set. The shutter can be lifted off its position for servicing, cleaning etc. These are used in some kitchen cabinets.

LOOSE PIN HINGES OR BALL TIPPED HINGES: These serve the same purpose as the liftoff butt hinges. A removable pin holds two halves of the hinge knuckles together.

STOPPED HINGE: This is like any butt hinge but a square cut projection on a cylinder side of one flange restricts the opening of the shutter to 90° only.

DOUBLE ACTION HINGE: These have three flanges. The middle flange has hinged flanges on either side. The edge flanges are mortised into the side of the shutter, but the middle flange remains off the sides. The assembly leaves a space between the door shutter and its frame or other shutter. The hinge allows the shutter to open in both directions. Such hinges are used in saloon and bar doors.

DOUBLE ACTION SPRING HINGES: These are used on half height saloon doors. The hinge allows the shutter to open in both directions, but being a spring loaded mechanism, the closing action is automatic. In another version of such a hinge, it is fixed to the frame, and the other flange in the form of an arm has a roller at the edge. The shutter is often provided with a plate or channel for the roller arm to slide.

UNEQUAL FLANGE HINGES: These have unequal flanges in terms of width. A thin shutter has thin flange compared to wider flange for the frame side. Unequal hinges also have a greater length of flanges to compensate the reduced width of the flange.

FRICTION STAYS: Friction stays are fitted at top and bottom edges of the surface, and used on French door like systems. Such hinges allow a door to stay-put in its position in spite of the heavy winds, and so prove an ideal fixture on windy faces such as sea shores, mountain valleys etc. The hinge requires framing at least at the top and bottom, making it better suited for windows. It has a sliding channel within which a component fixed to the bottom of the shutter, for converting the rotational movement of opening into a linear thrust, through a collapsible triangular arrangement.

ASKEW OR VERTICALLY MISALIGNED PIVOTS OR HINGES: Fort doors had askew or vertically misaligned pivots or hinges, so in case of an emergency the door would be released from its catch to close fast, and automatically, but this also requires greater man power to open it and a stronger stay to keep it open. Similar systems are employed in modern hospitals, class rooms, garden, and toilets doors, where closed doors are preferred. Hydraulic or spring door-closer do the same function. In refrigerators a magnetic gasket pulls and keeps the door shut. Refrigerators often have doors locking hinges on both sides, allowing a door to be opened on left or right side. Salon and government offices have flap or mid door shutters, with a double flange hinge that can open it both-ways, and also has a spring-coil to bring the shutter to the closed position.



FULL MORTISE HINGE: A full mortise hinge has one leaf mortised into the door edge, and the other leaf mortised into the door jamb. This is the most commonly used hinge configuration. Hinge sizes are specified with height first and open width second.

HALF MORTISE HINGE: This configuration is used for door jambs that do not allow mortising, e.g. a channel iron frame. One hinge leaf is fixed to the door edge, and other leaf is applied to the surface of the door frame.

FULL SURFACE HINGE: In this configuration, one hinge leaf is applied to the surface of the door, and the other leaf is applied to the surface of the door frame.

HALF SURFACE HINGE: In this configuration, one hinge leaf is applied to the surface of the door, and the other leaf is mortised into the door jamb.

STRUCTURAL HINGES include arrangements that link, two or more components of a structure but allow conditional movement but do not allow them to come apart or separate out in specific situations. The hinged condition also allows transfer of loads, stresses and transmission of energy. Such hinge like conditions occur in bridges, cranes, vehicles, dams, canal and dyke structures.

GATE HINGES are also called Building access hinges, and include heavy duty hinges for fort gates, estate gates, hanger shutter hinges.

FURNITURE OR CABINET HINGES: These include Concealed hinges with spring loading, controlled closures; butter fly hinges, piano hinges, etc. A butler tray and ambulance stretcher hinge (fold up the legs flat to 90E). Card Table Hinges are mortised into the edge and allow the top (shutter of card tables’ cavity) to fold onto itself. Drop Leaf Table Hinges are mounted under the surface of a table with leaves that drop down.

MICRO HINGES: Micro hinges are very small in size and used for jewellery boxes, wall clocks, travel suitcases, attach, bag, micro equipment and machinery cabinets. Many such hinges use ball-mortise arrangement rather than cylinder-pin system.

FLOATING HINGES: It is a hinge that, while able to behave as a normal hinge, enables one of the objects to move away from the other, hence ‘float’. Actually the hinge allows for two parallel axes of rotation, one for each object joined by the hinge, and each axis can be moved relative to the position of the other. Floating hinges are used in flatbed scanners designed to scan thick objects such as books. A sheet of paper is placed on the glass, and the cover is lowered over it. The scanner glass and the paper come together very close. If a thick book is placed on the glass, an ordinary hinge would leave the cover at an angle to the glass. A floating hinge raises the hinged edge of the cover to the level of the book, so that the cover remains parallel to the glass, but raised above it. Floating hinges are also used in two-plate electric cooking grills, as they allow for even heating of both sides of a thick piece of food without crushing it. Floating hinges are used for air craft doors, Suzuki (Maruti) delivery vans, etc.  SECONDARY HARDWARE

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter sub-Index)

Keywords: mechanics of opening and closing / PADLOCK CHAINS / chain / PARALLEL LOCKING RINGS / hooked rings / LATCH / ALDROP or HOLDROP / shaft / closing handle resting over cleat / BOLT OR NIGHT LATCH -TADI / LATCH-BOLT / DEADBOLT / HASP / chapras / SLAM LATCH / THUMB LATCH, NORFOLK LATCH or SUFFOLK LATCH / LOCKS / wedges or knots / wooden locks and keys / lock puzzles / pin locks / pin tumbler lock / mechanical / electro-mechanical / electronic / keys / levers / 2-lever lock / 6 to 9 lever lock / PADLOCKS / locking ring / LEVER LOCKS / MORTICE LOCK / cylinder locks / locking device / closing device / night or safety locks / lock body / lock trim / strike plate / keyed cylinder / mortise lock / bored cylindrical lock / CYLINDER LOCK / ALMIRAH LOCKS / DEADBOLT or DEADLOCK / spring-bolt locks / vertical deadbolt / COMBINATION LOCK / MULTIPLE-DIAL LOCKS / ELECTRONIC COMBINATION LOCKS / COMBINATION LOCKS ON DOORS / ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC LOCKS / KEY SYSTEMS / INDIVIDUALLY KEYED SYSTEM (KD) / KEYED ALIKE (KA) / MASTER KEYED (MK) / single master-key / GRAND MASTER KEYED (GMK) / COMMON ENTRANCE SUITE / MAISON KEYING (CES) / individual key / COMPUTERISED OR CENTRALLY CONTROLLED SYSTEM / detection devices / electronic card / bio-metrics.


Secondary hardware provides specific characteristics to the door system in terms of control over mechanics of opening and closing. These include: stays, stoppers, locking mechanisms, pivot or hinge fixing -rivets and bolts, studs, nuts, housings, handles, doorstops or catch, door-closer, safety chains, peep holes, view glasses, ventilators, knockers, etc.

PADLOCK CHAINS: One of the simplest locking mechanisms is a chain. Chains are cast of brass, bronze or wrought iron and occasionally braided metal wire or fibre ropes. The chained loops formed of round or oblong rings, with a locking ring at one end, and a fixing hook at the other end, forms a primary locking device. The locking ring is placed over or besides a similar locking ring at the threshold, lintels or on side stiles. A padlock is hung from the junction of locking rings. Similar systems are used for locking bicycles.

PARALLEL LOCKING RINGS: The door and the frame, or two adjoining shutters have hooked rings, which when brought together to a parallel plane or in adjoining horizontal position, allow a padlock to pass through. Often a ring and a chain with multiple loops are used.

LATCH: A latch is a mechanical fastener that holds a shutter against the frame. A latch is functional through friction, a holding notch or a catch. Ball catch type of latch has a small sphere (ball-bearing) mounted on a coil spring. Strap latches have a retractable plastic or notch that is engaged in a slot.

ALDROP (HOLDROP): It is a latch in the form of a metal shaft with a closing handle resting over a cleat through which a padlock is set. The metal shaft, is round, square, flat or oblong in section. The shaft slides through cleats or a set of three ring brackets but its end enters into the jamb to fasten the shutter door.

BOLT OR NIGHT LATCH (TADI): Bolt is a straight sliding shaft with two / three cleats. The shaft has no closing handle (as in aldrop) but instead a notch or a small projecting holder is provided. Some latch shafts have a small aperture in the shaft to insert a padlock to prevent its sliding movement.

LATCH-BOLT: A bolt has an angled (chamferred) surface which acts as a ramp to push the bolt in while the door is being closed. With a latch-bolt, a door can be closed without having to operate the handle. A handle, however, is required to pull back the latch-bolt for opening the shutter.

DEADBOLT: Deadbolts usually extend deeper into the frame and are not retractable from outside except with a key. From inside the deadbolt can be retracted by either a latch or key. The bolt is often not angle cut or chamferred, so that no one from outside can open the bolt by stiff card like credit card. Deadbolts are fixed as add-on system over the inside face of the door. Such a fixing can be undone with a hard kick over the shutter or use a crowbar to break-in. For security purposes deadbolts are often concealed within the shutter body to prevent forceful breaking in. Deadbolts also have additional safety chain, which allows a door to be opened a little to receive a postal-currier delivery or talk to a visitor.

FLUSH BOLT: It is a sliding bolt housed in channel or pipe with projecting a holder pin mounted on a surface or concealed by mortising into the edge of a door or astragal that typically engages into the jamb head and sill to secure the door.

HASP: A hasp or Chapras in India, is a thin narrow plate hinged to a fixing flange. The plate, at its end has an elongated aperture which sits over a padlock placing ring. Hasps are used in small furniture items such as jewellery boxes, wall clocks, drawers, and interior doors.

SLAM LATCH: It uses a spring and is activated by the shutting or slamming of a door. Like all latches, a slam latch is a mechanism to hold a door closed. Slam latch derives its name from its ability to slam the doors and drawers shut without damaging the latch. A slam latch is rugged and ideal for industrial, agricultural and construction applications.

THUMB LATCH, NORFOLK LATCH OR SUFFOLK LATCH: These are stoppers used in vertical or horizontal position. The shaft is moved by thumb. These are often very thin, so can be fixed on the side of a stile of the first of two door systems, on sliding doors, etc.

LOCKS: A device that prevents access by those without a key or combination to open it. A lock nominally is a self-sufficient entity housed in a small chamber that houses its mechanism.

The first locks were perhaps wedges or knots (such as: a thief knot, Gordian knot) on fibre ropes. Wooden locks and keys were in use as early as 4,000 years ago in Egypt. The first known lock was strung on a rope hanging out of a hole in a door and a cylinder of wood with a hole drilled through its axis was its key. The key was inserted into the hole for a correct distance, the rope was pulled to extract the key cylinder and simultaneously pulling the bolt closed. Lock-puzzles were once used to obscure the locking mechanism or even provide a non-functioning lock for the thief to waste time on.

Early improvements in pin locks included increasing the number of pins to increase security, and changing the orientation of the pins to allow the key to provide the unlocking force instead of a rope, thus, establishing the principles of the modern pin tumbler lock.

Locks were mostly mechanical, but later electro-mechanical, and now electronic locks are available. The locks are operated by turning some form levers: through a removable key or such element, dialling in a combination which of activates opportunities, or commands directly or via electro-mechanical (magnetic or other cards). All locks are not intended to prevent unauthorised access. Some are used to control the accidental opening or closing of a door system.

Keys have ground slots and often shaped side channels, which in combination give it a nearly unique capacity. The keys are known by the ground or cut slots, which actuate components called levers. A two-lever lock is used for simple interior doors (no high security risk), whereas a 6 to 9 lever lock is used for outdoor entrances. Keys also have variety of conical projections and depressions all created through a computer programme, which by their position, diameter and depth or height provide a unique capacity. Such keys are virtually impossible to duplicate. Locks are fitted on the exterior and interior face of shutters.

PADLOCKS: Padlocks are portable locks, with their own body and foldable or a separable locking ring. Padlocks can be used over another ring or shackle, or with a chain to tie up separate objects. Inexpensive padlocks are susceptible to direct mechanical attacks which can release the shackle without the use of a key or a combination. Padlocks can be used almost over any type of opening, or with a chain on any vehicle wheel. Padlocks are used to tie up the wrapped around ropes on goods bundles or packages.

LEVER LOCKS: Levers are flat set of grooved or edge shaped devices which can be rotated or pushed by a matching key to operate or activate a mechanism. Insurance companies, police department and other security agencies desire at least a 5-lever lock for external doors of home security system. British Standard (BS 3621:2004) is the one recommended for insurance purposes. A new BS 3621 calls for a bolt throw of 20 mm rather than the 14 mm of the old British Standard.

MORTICE LOCK: (also Mortise in American English) A mortice lock is concealed into a cavity (mortice) in the stile or thickness of the door shutter (unlike a padlock which remains free). A square section pin projects out on one or both the faces to receive the operative handles. Older mortice lock had a large box, but new generation mortise locks are cylinder locks fitted from the front and back, and the locking devices as one, twin or multiple cylinders with projective that come out on the side of the door. The locking device is operated through a key, and an additional bolt -a closing device through a set of handles. The locking device is square ended but the closing device is tapered on one face for self closing but opening through handle movement. Night or safety locks have an extra slider which stops the lock being operative with key from outside.

A mortice lock unit consists of -a lock body (the part installed inside the mortise cutout in the door), the lock trim (such as doorknobs, levers, handle sets and pulls), and a strike plate or a box keep, which lines the hole in the frame into which the bolt fits and the keyed cylinder which operate the locking /unlocking function of the lock body.

Installation of a mortise lock weakens the structure of the typical timber door, but it is stronger and more versatile than a bored cylindrical lock, both in external trim, and functionality. For ornate doors, and for replacement of older locks, mortice locks are preferred, but for functional reasons cylinder locks are used.

CYLINDER LOCK: In these locks the locking mechanism and bolting are two separate systems. The components are standard so virtually any sub component, but importantly the cylinder and the keys are replaceable. Such locks are also available as sets which can be opened by their individual keys and also by a master or common key. Standard cylinder systems include key-in-knob-set cylinders, rim (also known as night-latch) cylinders. There are also many standards (Euro-profile or DIN standard, British oval profile and Swiss-profile) and company specific-patented cross-sectional profiles for lock cylinders, varying in lengths.

Cylinder locks are small in size and diameter, and are fitted from front and back side of a door shutter, rather than from the edge of a door stile (as in case of mortice lock), so are easier to fit and replace.

ALMIRAH LOCKS: These are found on commercial Mild Steel sheets (CRCA) cupboards. These are housed in a box fixed on the inside face of a shutter. The closing device has three components, a locking lever that is moved through a handle, and accompanying it is two vertical locking bars that move upward and downward. Such devices are also concealed on a street side of main doors of buildings for security purposes.

DEADBOLT OR DEADLOCK: It is a special kind of locking mechanism that provides more security than an ordinary key-operated lock. Unlike most spring-bolt locks, in which the bolt is held in place only by the pressure of a spring and can easily be retracted, a deadbolt lock cannot be opened except by rotating the lock cylinder. A variant of the standard deadbolt is the vertical deadbolt, which generally rests on top of a door. ‘Vertical deadbolts resist jimmying (in which an intruder inserts a pry bar between the door and the frame and tries to pry the bolt out of the jamb)’.

COMBINATION LOCK: It is operated by setting a sequence of numbers or symbols, instead of key in a nominal lock. The sequence is entered by a single rotating dial which interacts with several discs or cams, by using a set of several rotating discs with inscribed numerals which directly interact with the locking mechanism, or through an electronic or mechanical keypad. A combination lock requires a correct permutation and not merely the correct combination of digits.

‘The first known combination lock was invented in 1206 by the Arab scholar, inventor and mechanical engineer al-Jazari. He documented the device in his book al-Ilm Wal-Amal al-Nafi Fi Sina'at al-Hiyal (The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices). Muhammad al-Astrulabi (ca 1200) also made combination locks, two of which are kept in Copenhagen and Boston Museums. Gerolamo Cardano later described a combination lock in the 16th century. In 1852 a German man by the name of Joseph Loch was said to have invented the modern combination Lock for Tiffany's Jewellers in New York City. However the rights to his invention were stolen from his business associate who thereby attained all credit of the discovery’.

MULTIPLE-DIAL LOCKS: One of the simplest types of combination lock, as seen in low-security bicycle locks, in briefcases and baggage, etc. uses several rotating discs with notches cut into them. The lock is secured by a pin with several teeth on it which hook into the rotating discs. When the notches in the discs align with the teeth on the pin, the lock can be opened.

ELECTRONIC COMBINATION LOCKS: These are better then their mechanical counterparts. Such locks are used on safes and drawers. Electronic locks work with power-assisted mechanisms.

COMBINATION LOCKS ON DOORS: Combination locks for doors require one to enter a numeric sequence (pre fixed or dynamic-variable with every use) or a punched, slotted, magnetically or electronically charged key cards to facilitate entry. These locks are often designed for entry by a class of people (e.g. common door entry for members of an apartment), and for conditional access (e.g. in a hotel room the lock becomes unopenable after a guest checks out).

ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC LOCKS: These work with an electric current. Plain-electric locks had magnetic lever system working on the correct voltage or sometimes an electrically controlled-switched lever. Many electric locks are connected to a central access control system of the plant or building complex.



Keys have variety of configurations such as: a diameter, the length, shape of the shaft (flat, cylinder, tapered, etc.), and size and shape of slots or cuts, grooves, etc. Modern keys have conical projections and depressions created through a computer programme, which due to their position, diameter and depth or height, are impossible to duplicate.

INDIVIDUALLY KEYED SYSTEM (KD): Here each cylinder lock can be opened by its individual key.

KEYED ALIKE (KA): Many cylinder locks have one key, such as all drawers of a cabinet or many rooms of a mansion, guest rooms on a floor or of a wing. It is also ideally suited to residential applications such as same ley for front and back doors.

MASTER KEYED (MK): A master-keyed system involves each lock having its own individual key which will not operate any other lock in the system, but all locks can be still be operated by a single master-key. This is useful for the concierge or floor in charge of a hotel lobby to access all rooms.

GRAND MASTER KEYED (GMK): This is an extensive version of the master-keyed system where each lock has its own individual key and all the locks are operated by one grand master-key.

COMMON ENTRANCE SUITE / MAISON KEYING (CES) This system is widely used for main entrance door of apartment block, office block and hotels. Each apartment has its own individual key which will not open the doors to any other apartments, but can open the common entrance door and other common service areas.

COMPUTERISED OR CENTRALLY CONTROLLED SYSTEM: It controls the access to all doors. It may also include the detection devices to register the presence (active, resting and sleeping) of a guest or occupant of a room; the status of the rent paid and misuse of various gadgetry or services, etc. The key system in the form of an electronic card or bio-metrics can be reset. The guest or visitors need not surrender the access card at the lobby counter while going out or even on checking out (as the entrance door and many other points in hotel trace and note the movements).  ATTACHMENTS AND ADORNMENTS FOR DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter sub-Index)

Keywords: add-on and integrated systems / fuzzy logic / additional or sub doors / very large doors / small auxiliary doors / DOOR STOPS / dampen the noise / absorb the impact damage / shutter opening beyond certain limit / self closing / askew hinge or pivot alignment / primitive door stops / cotton and fodder stock rooms / self closing doors / door strikes / buffers / door catch / fork pin / a magnet / foot door stop / ESCUTCHEON / STRIKE / SAFETY CHAIN OR DOOR CHAIN / PEEPHOLES, VIEWERS / magnifying glass / one way mirror / fisheye lens / STRIKERS OR KNOCKERS / right of asylum / LETTER SLITS OR MAIL SLOTS / mail receptacle / mailbox / THRESHOLDS / Indian mythology / shankhavati / threshold devices / HANDLES / door handle serves purposes / hand operated / TYPES OF HANDLES / hinged and pivoted doors / horizontal and radial movement / horizontal pull or push / pulled and pushed / NATURE OF DOOR SHUTTER OPENING-CLOSING / DOORKNOB / spherical objects / crystal glass blobs / DOOR HANDLE / horizontal or vertical lever / C shaped static type / Hospital doors handles / Restaurant pantry doors / concealed / fold down / CRASH BAR / crash or panic bar / FASTENERS / CROSSBAR / bolt / reinforce the shutter / prevent break-in by force / GLAZING / putty or mastic compound / transparent to translucent material.


Attachments and adornments endow additional functions and meanings to a door. Modern doors have many add-on and integrated systems, ranging from simple tools, devices to intricate gadgets and complex equipments. These are manual, automatic (mechanical, electrical and electronic), or synergetic, and are programmed with fuzzy logic. Such systems control: opening size, duration, frequency, speed, location, selection, etc. and ergonomically facilitate the working of a door system.

Doors are fitted with additional or sub doors to regulate the traffic and environmental exchange. Very large doors are required for occasional heavy traffic, prestige and for architectural effect, but such doors are difficult to manage in terms of frequent opening or closing. Small auxiliary doors are included within the shutter or besides the main door, for specific functions. Non functional or decorative elements are added to doors as expression, for confirmation to a faith or belief, for solace and other reasons. (For more refer to: chapter 4.3 Opening Systems : Treatments).

DOOR STOPS: A door stop is used with door shutters to dampen the noise and absorb the impact damage to shutter itself, its frame, nearby wall or furniture. Door stops prevent shutters opening beyond certain limit and thereby protect the hanging mechanisms such as hinges. Doorstops also prevent self closing of the shutter due to askew hinge or pivot alignment or wind pressure.

Primitive-door stops were in the form of wedges of wood or metal inserted under the shutter. A door was held open by simply placing a heavy object such as a brick or stone placed in the path of the door. Historically, lead bricks, when available, were popular. In traditional Indian houses of yester years a small piece of wood hinged to the door jambs was placed as a door stop, to prevent a shutter closing due to the winds. Doors were tied to the side walls by ropes or leather straps, which were cut with a sharp blade (in an emergency) to allow a door to close on its own. Cotton and fodder stock rooms have self closing doors, held open by a thin rope, which on catching flame would close the door and prevent spread of the fire.

Doorstop hinges with a rising butt designed to close a door automatically came in use about 1775. Doorstops were made of metals like wrought iron, brass until about 1850. A handle or some other means of lifting the stop easily were incorporated in the design. Doorstops in earthenware and a few in glass were also made. Many took the form of figures of famous persons, such as Napoleon, Shakespeare, Wellington, Gladstone, and Disraeli. Animal forms were also popular.

Modern doorstops include: door strikes of rubber like material or a spring loaded buffer that absorbs the impact and noise of door striking a wall. Such door strikes also have a door catch in the form of a spring metal fork pin or a magnet to hold the shutter. Doorstops are fitted either on the shutter, wall or on the floor. A foot door stop is fitted at the bottom of a stile and has a rubber vacuum buffer, which can be released or pushed with a foot toe.

ESCUTCHEON: it is a decorative base surrounding an eye piece, keyhole or lock cylinder. Escutcheons are mainly decorative, they provide a setting so that an eye piece or the keyholes are easily located. Escutcheons prevent the eye piece or lock cylinder from rotating and prevent damage to the peripheral area.

STRIKE: A plate with a hole in the middle made to receive a bolt. If the strike is for a latch-bolt, it typically also includes a small ramped or mitred area to help the bolt move inward while the door is being closed (also known as a strike-plate).

SAFETY CHAIN OR DOOR CHAIN: Safety chains are used to restrict the opening of a shutter, just enough to see the visitor’s face or exchange small articles. Safety chains are often lock-able so an outsider cannot open it. The chain is made of hardened metal which cannot be cut easily by a splicing instrument.

PEEPHOLES, VIEWERS: A peephole is a small opening (or glass windows) placed in a door at eye level to allow people to see who is outside the door without opening it. A simple peephole is an aperture with a metal rim, often with a small grill and a shutter on the inside face. Some have a magnifying glass or one way mirror. Glass peepholes are often fitted with a fisheye lens to allow a wider view of the field from inside with little to no visibility from outside. Micro camera systems are fitted within such devices and connected to viewing screen and intercom system.

STRIKERS OR KNOCKERS: A knocker is a functional entity but often used as an ornamental item on the door. Under medieval English common law, this instrument supposedly afforded the right of asylum to anybody who knocked the door of a church. Bells and chimes operated by rope are also used with doors as calling device.

LETTER SLITS OR MAIL SLOTS: A letter slit is a mail receptacle covered with a swinging flap door and a base plate for its fixing in a door or wall. The slot has limited opening, to allow mail to be delivered and sometimes return the receipt note. The flap door is spring-loaded or relies on gravity to remain shut when not in use. It also restricts straight view of the interior. Many mail slots also have a secondary flap, on the inside to offer further protection from the elements, or have a box or baskets on inside to catch the inserted articles. Mail slots are typically horizontal, but on a small width door this could be vertical. A mail slot is an alternative to the mailbox.

ASTRAGAL: A vertical member attached to the less used or inactive door, of a double door system at the meet point of the lock stiles. It helps seal the junction.

THRESHOLDS: Thresholds are not very evident in modern day door systems, but still have a functional necessity. Doors on windy porches, dusty passages, storm (rain) exposed fronts require a threshold. Thresholds were once a necessary component of door system to fix the bottom pivots and keep apart the lower ends of jambs. Such thresholds were of stone and wood. According to Indian mythology a threshold stops bad effects coming into the interiors. Jain temple thresholds are called Shankhavati due to inclusion of a conch like form in it.

Thresholds often have a small central hole to receive the vertical bolting shaft of door closing mechanism. Modern door mechanisms incorporate a ventilation and air curtain like devices as thresholds. Modern thresholds also have sensors to register the weight of things passing over it. All sensing devices associated with openings are called threshold devices, even if these do not occur at floor level. Gurudwaras and temples have feet wash-pits as thresholds. In pharmaceutical plant an extended threshold mechanism can have water jets to wash of feet or dust the shoes, and dry them out with hot air. Thresholds are used for edge fixing of carpet near door gaps.

HANDLES: Doors require handles in certain conditions. Doors’ handles assist mainly opening-closing of the door, but in some instances trigger locking and unlocking mechanisms. A door handle serves purposes like: a grip for closing and opening of the shutter, reduce the wear, staining of the surface of shutter, and spread of infection, through frequent touching. Doors’ handles are nominally hand operated but could be elbow, shoulder, knee or feet operated. Automatic doors do not require handles. Less used door may not have a set of handles but instead a key to the lock system may provide a grip.

TYPES OF HANDLES: Handles have many forms. Handles are horizontal or vertical and occasionally inclined. Handles have a grab bar, knob or a niche. Handles are fixed or rotating knobs, bulbs and bars, fixed, folding or shift-able bars, pins with rings, ‘L’ shaped sections and ‘J’ type or butterfly hooks. Sliding shutters often have a small slit engraved in the shutter surface for gripping. Aldrops, latches, hasps, tadis, and even padlocks are used as handles. Other forms of handles include buttons, knotted ends of a rope, chains, holes, grab-able edges or projections.

Handles for hinged and pivoted doors require horizontal and radial movement for closing, handles for sliding shutters need horizontal pull or push whereas rolling shutter handles are pulled and pushed in vertical plane. Glass shutters rest on a push-back mechanisms that with a push throw open the glass shutter slightly. Mortice locks, hospital door handles, etc. have locking-unlocking system integrated into the handle.


● Push-in from outside to open inward

● Push-out from inside to open outward

A handle is nominally not required, but for preventing staining or wearing of the door shutter surface.

● Pull-in from outside to close

● Pull-in from inside to close

A handle is required to get a grip on the shutter. Though, one can hold the shutter from the side of the edge but may injure own-self near the jamb.

DOORKNOB: First door knobs were perhaps rope knots that were used for pulling a shutter close and lock it. Doorknobs either are spherical objects fixed over a base plate or attached to an axle that rotated to release the bolt. Door knobs often have an inset push-button or key hole to activate the locking mechanism. Door knobs with human, dwarfs, demonic, animal heads cast in brass, copper and steel, are still popular. Doorknobs also have crystal glass blobs and shaped precious stones. Door knobs require heavy gripping and so are less preferred by infirm people.

DOOR HANDLE: A door handle is a horizontal or vertical lever, attached to rotating pin at one end, which with 30° movement retracts the latch bolt. Doors handles are also C shaped static type, fixed by a set of screw pins from the back side or a plate from a front side. Doors handles are often very long, stretching from shutters’ edge to edge, such as in plate glass doors. Hospital doors’ handles move up and down to open-close the latch bolt. Restaurant pantry doors have no handles, because waiters push the two-way opening shutter by shoulder. Automatic doors require no handles as the sensor opens and shuts the door. Handles over sliding doors are either concealed or fold down to level of shutters’ surface.

CRASH BAR: A crash bar is a mechanism that unlatches a door for an emergency exit. In some countries this is a mandatary requirement for all doors recognised as emergency exit points. It is called crash or panic bar, because when someone pushes against it, the door gets opened. Such bars are normally placed on the interior face of the door.

FASTENERS: A door fastener is a long armed hook device with a pin joint at one end and a ring for insertion at the other end. Fasteners are fixed at top or the middle of the shutter to prevent a door or windows’ shutter from closing automatically or due to wind.

CROSSBAR: It is sometimes called a bolt. It is simple plank, bar or beam of wood or metal inserted on the back side of a door to reinforce the shutter and prevent break-ins by force. The insertion is either in the cavities on jamb sides or through special cleats fixed on jambs. Often the bar is pin jointed at one end to keep it from misplacement or theft. On double doors, the bar extends over both shutters.

CROSS BUCK: Horizontal bars are bolted across the vertical planks and used in place of the rails to strengthen the door shutter.

GLAZING: Glazing refers to the panes of glass set into windows, doors and other openings. It can also refer to the putty or mastic compound used to seal the glass. Glazing today refers to any transparent to translucent material used as a panel within an opening or a shutter in it. Glazing is also a process that provides a glossy surface through a coating or through rubbing and polishing an existing surface.      DOOR MECHANISMS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: DOOR MECHANISMS / rotated / hung / opening downward / moat doors / leaf opening upward / pulley based mechanical leverages / pocket doors / counter weights / sloped guide-ways / modern garages / old style warehouse elevators / collapsible or folding type / folded assembly slides / push-shut / doors of public spaces / fire and emergency exit doors / ACTIVE DOOR / dual shutters / secondary or less active or inactive door / MANUAL DOORS / mechanism and configuration / counter balancing and coiled spring / MECHANICAL DOORS -SEMI AUTOMATIC DOORS / wide door / mechanical automatisation / AUTOMATIC DOORS / control and security system / Sensor powered doors / Switch operated doors / Pressure detection doors / Delay mechanism synchronous doors / DOOR SWINGS / left hand LH / right hand RH / left hand reverse LHR / right hand reverse RHR / dual opening doors / bidirectional-mixed traffic / circular swinging doors / sliding or pushing doors / CONSTRUCTION OF DOORS / reinforced by mid bulging / doors of fragile materials / side impact thrust / auto opening and closing system / foot operated handles / automatic opening-closing sensors / buffer or banging plates / SCALE OF DOORS / very wide doors / barricades to channelize / multiple door system / tall doors / tall opening like effects / architectural door portals / functional door / large doors / additional lateral framing / dams and canal gates / 3D entities / extra lateral stability / DOOR MOVEMENT / holder or retainer / load bearing unit / self pivots / hinges / wood door frames / masonry surrounds / space to open shutter / sliding doors / demountable shutters / crossbars / shutters sliding in guides / Stacking of shutters / sliding and folding stack / DOOR HEADS / double shutters / gothic twin doors / Ganged or multiple doors / side lites.


DOOR MECHANISMS: Modern doors have many shapes, sizes and configurations. Traditional doors rotated on pivots or were hung by hinges from sides. Shutter opening downward from top, used gravity for fast closing in emergencies, but fall required a pit for parking and it hindered the surface movement, so was rarely used. Top hung doors or moat doors of medieval English castles opened to form a bridge over the pit. Door leaf opening upward is an action against gravity, and so it is difficult to handle, unless the lift is assisted by pulley based mechanical leverages. Sideways moving of shutters or pocket doors are aided by counter weights or sloped guide-ways. Such mechanisms are still used in cotton godowns doors where a fire could burn a fabric ring holding the door against sliding to a shut position, automatically. Utility delivery vehicles have doors sliding sideways. Modern garages have automatic doors with leaf opening upward and sliding parallel to the roof underside. Old style warehouse elevators have, part of the door sliding up and the other half sliding downward. Industrial units where large size goods and equipments are frequently transferred, door shutters are of collapsible or folding type. The folding action is either in horizontal or vertical directions. In case of very heavy vertical folds, the folded assembly slides while being supported and guided.

Doors nominally open on inside or the side that is controlled or protected by the owner. It is easier to push-shut a door and keep it shut against an intruder forcing against it. However, doors of public spaces such as stadia, cinema, etc. must open out towards a street or open space. Fire and emergency exit doors must also open out.

ACTIVE DOOR: When a door has dual shutters, the first shutter to enter or leave the house, nominally the right side one, is called an active door. These shutters have the locking device and the key hole. The other shutter is called secondary or less active or an inactive door. The secondary shutter is opened when the flush bolt (stopper) is released.

MANUAL DOORS: Manual doors are operated by a person, and in few cases by a trained pet. Manual doors have mechanism and configuration that are within the anthropometric capacity of the user. A heavy door shutter, but with well lubricated and balanced movement system can be operated by a child or infirm adult. Systems that have shutters (inclined or upward), opening against gravity, are difficult to handle. These categories include shutters sliding upward, hatch doors, etc. However, such shutters are made easier to operate by counter balancing and coiled spring mechanisms.

MECHANICAL DOORS -SEMI AUTOMATIC DOORS: Such doors have an assisting mechanism that helps make their opening, closing, locking and unlocking, easier. A wide door requires less pull, but the reach to the shutter due to a larger radius of opening makes it difficult, especially for a wheel chaired, infirm, or a person with crutches or walking sticks. Lever armed handles, double shutters in place of one, askew fixing of hinges for towards gravity auto closing or opening, double hinges, auto (hydraulic) door closer, floor springs, etc. are some of the common methods of mechanical automatisation.

AUTOMATIC DOORS: Automatic doors are single or dual shutters and often operate as multi door system. Such doors usually operate as a sub system of a larger control and security system of the building.

Sensors powered doors activated by some photo-voltaic or infra red sensors that detect the presence of a person or an object, coming into its path, open the door and keep it open for prefixed duration, opening width, and scans the path again.

Switch operated doors are manually operated such as when a person pushes a button to open the door or certain conditions such as the identity checks have been confirmed.

Pressure detection doors operate when: the pressure increases or decreases beyond prescribed levels, by temperature or moisture level settings of the room and by the weight of the person or object through a floor mounted weighing scale.

Delay mechanism synchronous doors do not allow the paired door to open out till the other door has closed properly and an adequate seal is achieved, and other intermediate operations have been completed. Intermediate operations include scanning, cleaning, pressure equalization, disinfection, etc.

DOOR SWINGS: Door swings or Handing, are always specified as from the outside, i.e. outside to inside or public to private.

Left Hand LH: If the hinges are on the left and the door opens in, it's a lefthand door. You push the door with your left hand.

Right-hand RH: If the hinges are on the right and the door opens in, it's a right-hand door. You push the door with your right hand.

Left-hand Reverse LHR: If the hinges are on the left and the door opens out, it's a left-hand reverse door. You pull the door with your left hand.

Right-hand Reverse RHR: If the hinges are on the right and the door opens out, it's a right-hand reverse door. You pull the door with your right hand.

Dual opening doors: Doors for bidirectional-mixed traffic like, a restaurant’s pantry, laboratories, etc. need to open both ways, and here the pivot that provides ideal mechanism for dual opening. Salon and flap doors also open both ways.

Circular swinging doors: Revolving doors for office entrance foyers, railway stations and other public places are circular swinging doors, though here movement is restricted to clock or counter-clock wise.

Sliding or pushing doors: Sliding doors have left and right sideways movements. In counter balanced and automatic doors a slight push opens both the shutters simultaneously.

CONSTRUCTION OF DOORS: Sliding panels of doors need to be stiff and could be reinforced by mid bulging or assisted by guide channel or rail, at top or bottom, or both. Fire prone areas have doors of fragile materials, (easily to break in an emergency such as, ordinary -non toughened glass, no fixed grills, thin body shutter leaves) which in case of an emergency can be broken. Car and other vehicle doors are designed to absorb the side impact thrust through provision of extra depth and reinforcement.

Certain doors need to be opened without touching them, as both the hands are occupied (kitchen-pantry service) or hands are likely to get contaminated (operation theatres), such doors have an auto opening-closing system or have a foot operated handles. Similarly doors with high degree of wheelchair commuters, heavy and long trolleys (hospital patients, industrial plants) require automatic opening-closing sensors. Warehouse doors have touch sensitive buffers or banging plates that help the door to open out and away from the direction of pressure or push.

SCALE OF DOOR: Historically very wide doors have been a necessity, for functional as well as for splendour. Wide openings are provided for ceremonies, processions, etc. but wide doors are incapable of regulating the traffic. Such openings have either barricades to channelize the traffic, or multiple door system is used.

Tall doors were less of a functional necessity but a compulsion in monumental structures with royal or public patronage. For very tall doors, the construction of strong shutter and relevant opening control mechanism has been the greatest deterrent. Tall opening like effects are created with architectural door portals, where the functional door is very much smaller.

Large doors require lateral stiffening, as the usual thin shutter leaf construction is insufficient against buckling forces, wind, blasts, and often sonic boom pressures. Aircraft hangers’ and spaceships’ assembly workshops (Apollo, Columbia, USA) have very large doors with additional lateral framing. Similarly dams and canal gates have to resist not only the pressure of retained water but dynamic pressures of waves and eddy currents. Such doors are designed as a 3D entities. Stadia and such public spaces where people are likely to push the gates, extra lateral stability is required.

DOOR MOVEMENT: Doors have shutters, and the variety of ways these are fixed show the nature of functions that can be served and the level of technology available. In the pivot system, the upper unit is a holder or retainer one and the bottom one is the load-bearing unit. Pivots are still considered ideal for very heavy shutters. Replacing an old style pivot on a shutter was difficult, often requiring reconstruction of the door frame and surrounding structures. Over the years, for lighter panelled doors, shelf-pivots were used. The shelf-pivots became hinges, but later more hinges were used to keep a thin shutter straight. It was possible to fix metal hinges to wood and cast metal door shutters, but to fix the other end of the hinge to a stone or masonry wall was difficult. Wood door frames replaced the masonry surrounds.

For side-hung shutters, a space to open the shutter is required on inside or outside. This is not available in small rooms, narrow passages and also where the immediate terrain is upward-downward-sloping or stepped. For such situations sliding doors or doors with demountable shutters are preferred. Side hung shutters with latches or backside closing crossbars cannot resist an intruder pushing in, for such situations shutters sliding in guides (rails or channels) at sides, top or bottom are ideal. Stacking of shutters by using multiple channels or guide rails allow larger opening. Where multiple tracks are not, feasible shutters are joined together like the bellows of an accordion to form a sliding and folding stack. Folding or collapsible doors were first used in cabinets and cupboards. For a folding or collapsing shutter stack the first or primary shutter is supported on pivot and other shutters are hinged to them.

DOOR HEADS: Doorway width was restricted by the spanning lintel or the arch, but width of the door shutter depended on the materials and technology used for shutter construction and mechanisms of movements such as a pivot, hinges, slider guides, etc. Large doorways require equally large shutters. Double shutters remained a common choice for wide openings. Gothic twin doors had an intermediate support elements. Ganged or multiple doors became popular due to the size restrictions imposed by the glass panes. In verandahs and public places such multiple doors provide the localised choice of controlled opening. Doorways’ gaps are also narrowed by placing side lites or side windows. Small shutters were inset within large shutters (such as fort doors). A door within a door is also provided for pets, delivery of milk and postal articles.

The gates at Balawat (now in the British Museum) were of two leaves, each about 8 ft.4 in. wide and 27 ft. high; they were encased with bronze bands or strips, 10 in. high, covered with repousse decoration of figures, etc. The wood doors would seem to have been about 3 in. thick, but the hanging stile was more than 14 inches diameters. Other sheaths of various sizes in bronze have been found, which proves this to have been the universal method adopted to protect the wood pivots. In the Hauran in Syria, where timber is scarce the doors were made in stone, and one measuring 5 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 7 in. is in the British Museum; the band on the meeting stile shows that it was one of the leaves of a double door.      DOOR STYLES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: GOTHIC REVIVAL STYLE / Revival Style Architecture in America / Collegiate Gothic / CLASSICAL DOOR / Federal, Georgian, Classical Revival and Greek Revival / MEDIEVAL DOOR / horizontal and diagonal braces / RUSTIC DOORS / rough hewn / INDIAN SHOP (MARKET - BAZAR) SHUTTERS / lock bar or rail bar / INDIAN SHOP (MARKET - BAZAR) SHUTTERS / GEORGIAN STYLE / crown or pediment / pilasters / ADAM or FEDERAL STYLE / fanlights / MOAT DOORS.


GOTHIC REVIVAL STYLE: Gothic style of high middle ages used in cathedrals in Western Europe was used as Revival Style Architecture in America in the 19th C. It was widely used for churches and universities, where it was called Collegiate Gothic. Gothic Revival buildings often feature a panelled front door set into an arch, partially glazed with Gothic motifs, tracery or a simple rectangular or diamond-shaped pattern.

CLASSICAL DOOR: A general term referring to a door constructed according to the architectural style based on classical Roman or Greek forms. Examples of classical door styles include Federal, Georgian, Classical Revival and Greek Revival.

MEDIEVAL DOORS: European medieval wood doors typically consisted of vertical planks backed with horizontal and diagonal braces. These were strengthened with long flanged iron hinges and stud nails.

RUSTIC DOORS: Rustic doors are similar to medieval in construction but the wood is unfinished or rough hewn (or saw cut) and fixed as the panels but without the framing.

INDIAN SHOP (MARKET - BAZAR) SHUTTERS: These shutters are formed of loose wood planks that are inserted in the top and bottom grooves within a wooden door frame, stone or other masonry. The planks are held together by a lock bar or lock rail of wood or steel.

GEORGIAN STYLE: A style of architecture that took its name from the Kings of England and it was prevalent in the American colonies from 1700 AD until about 1780. Georgian houses usually displayed a strict symmetry with a panelled door as a centerpiece. Typically the door was capped by an elaborate crown or pediment, and often bordered by pilasters (flattened columns) on each side. The style lost favour after the American Revolution, when the Federal and Classical Revival styles gained more widespread use.

ADAM OR FEDERAL STYLE: A style named for British architect Robert Adam, who introduced the use of fanlights, semicircular windows integrated over the door section, to accentuate the doorways of London townhouses.

Adam or Federal style (It is also style of architecture) that was popular in post-colonial North America from 1780 to 1820. Both the Federal style and the Classical Revival style came into favour following the American Revolution, symbolizing the new republic and replacing the earlier Georgian style and its association with England. It is characterized by elegance and lightness compared with the Georgian style.

MOAT DOORS: Moat doors of the forts opened out on the bottom horizontal pivots or hinges. Such doors dropped down into a pit space or formed a bridge over the moat. The moat door had an advantage that it could be opened out swiftly with least effort, but closing was difficult. Doors also were pushed up by use of counter weights for clear width opening. Closing of such doors was aided by gravity and so was effortless. Modern cars are often fitted with doors opening up.       COMMERCIAL CATEGORIES OF DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: LEDGED AND BATTENED / early and rustic versions / plank-style door / boards or battens / ledges / LEDGED, BATTENED AND BRACED / struts or braces / free-end from dropping / LEDGED, BATTENED AND FRAMED / mounted frame / superfluous entity / surrounding element for insertion / pol houses of Ahmedabad / LEDGED, BATTENED, FRAMED AND BRACED / Collegiate Gothic and Gothic revival style doors / PANEL FRAMED OR PANELLED / forts and Indian traditional houses / multi sectional panel doors / traditional wood panel doors / six panel door / cross / Bible / cross and Bible door / panel fixing battens / Lorenzo Ghiberti / PANEL DOORS / stile and rail doors / FLUSH DOORS / laminate or wood veneer / plastic and fibre sheet skin / embossed and printed designs / metal sheet skins / inset ventilators / view windows / postal article delivery slots / pet doors / SOLID CORE FLUSH DOORS / rigid foams / CAVITY CORE FLUSH DOORS / hollow core doors / NON WOOD FLUSH DOORS / MOULDED DOORS / cast or pressed in moulds / architrave borders.



Doors are of many types depending on their materials, methods of construction, opening mechanisms, decorations and finishes, purposes, and cultural settings. Similar doors have unique names depending on the purposes served in various geographic locations.

LEDGED AND BATTENED: Early and rustic versions have two or three thick boards placed side by side without joining, but kept together by nailing the top and bottom ledges. Plank-style door, or unframed doors as found in early American Colonial architecture in New England have several narrow vertical boards or battens that are secured by two or more horizontal ledges, on one or both faces. Decorative hinges, bands, straps and nailheads are used for keeping the battens together and also for ornamentation. The narrow battens reduce the chances of bending-warping. Battens are joined together by rebate, tongue and groove, ploughed and tongue method.

LEDGED, BATTENED AND BRACED: These ledged and battened doors are additionally tied by one or two inclined struts or braces, placed upwards from the hanging edge or bottom free-end, to prevent the bottom free-end from dropping.

LEDGED, BATTENED AND FRAMED: These are similar to ledged and battened doors, but are further held by a mounted frame. The frame is a superfluous entity and not a surrounding element for insertion. Pol houses of Ahmedabad have such doors but with a hollow frame mounted over the boards in place of the ledges. The frame does not participate in fitting of hinges or pivots and mortice lock, etc. However, the absence of braces causes dropping of doors towards the free bottom end.

LEDGED, BATTENED FRAMED AND BRACED: These are ledged and battened doors, but are also braced and frames mounted. The presence of bracing prevents the dropping of the free bottom edge, a necessary precaution in wide doors. The braces are part of the framing system and free of the battens, or alternatively the braces are nailed to battens. A sophisticated form of the basic plank-style construction, frame-and-plank doors are often seen in Collegiate Gothic and Gothic Revival style doors in universities and churches.

PANEL FRAMED OR PANELLED: One of the oldest methods of creating a panel door was to fix boards on the back (inner) face of a frame. The frame was mounted over the boards with nails, rivets, spikes and in recent times with screws or nut-bolts. Ropes, wires and resins have also been used for fixing. Forts and Indian traditional houses have such doors. Greeks and Romans used similar multi-sectional panel door construction. Greeks, however introduced lattices in the upper sections and Romans covered the panel gaps with cast metal units. Romans also began to insert panels of wood, cast bronze, copper, wrought iron, marble, abater, granite, etc., instead of mounting boards on back face. In modern period panels of plywood, particle and pulp boards, fibre composites, glass, glass wool, polyester fibres, plastics (acrylic, PVC, polycarbonate, vinyl, polypropylene), stainless-steel, Aluminium and their composite sheets, etc. are used. Extruded plastic sections are also used to form panel sheets.

Traditional wood panel doors are of single, two panels (top+bottom), and have up to eight panels. A panel doors is referred to by the number of panels it contains. Panels are invariably thin and often hollow or of expanded materials and so reduce the overall bulk of the door. In a six-panel door, the top four panels are proportioned to delineate a cross and the lower two panels represent the open Bible. Such doors were popular in colonial America and so often called a Colonial door, or Christian door, or cross-and-Bible door.

Panels are inserted while assembling the frame, or could have rebates to receive the panels which are then closed by battens. Panel fixing battens are elaborately designed as mouldings. Panels are also cast moulded or rebated to create designs or patterns. One of the best panel door ever created was by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistery in Florence (1403–52).

PANEL DOORS: Panel doors are also called stile and rail doors, are built with frame and panel construction. The door could have one or several panels of Glass, wood, wood composite, metal plate or sheet, plastic or polymer composite or fabric and woven mats. Panel doors were used by Greeks.

FLUSH DOORS: Flush doors have a completely flat surface on both sides. A flush door has a core formed of strips of wood glued together, surrounded by wood edges, and covered with 3 to 4 mm plywood sheets or veneers on both faces. Commercial are glued urea formaldehyde resins, and water resistant varieties are bonded with phenol formaldehyde or other compounds. Flush doors can be pre-ordered to have a laminate or a wood veneer on one or both faces. Plastic and fibre sheet skins with embossed and printed designs are also available for flush doors. Hospital and some industrial plants have flush doors with metal sheet skins. Flush doors for commercial spaces have inset ventilators, view windows, postal article delivery slots, pet doors, etc. in various functional positions.

SOLID CORE FLUSH DOORS: Solid flush doors have a core formed of tightly spaced strips of wood, compressed wood fibre or particle boards or PU, polystyrene, polythene and other rigid foams.

CAVITY CORE FLUSH DOORS: These are also called hollow core doors. Between two comparatively stiff skin layers a cavity is left-out or filled-in with spacers or distancing elements. The cavity is often filled in with honeycombed particle boards or solid foams to reduce the druminess.

NON WOOD FLUSH DOORS: Modern versions of flush doors are made from synthetic materials. Plastic and metal sheets, plain and design embossed, form the skin and the decorative face, whereas the core is filled with solid forms and expanded materials such as polyurethane (PU Foam), expanded styrene (Thermocole), cement + particle boards, paper pulp boards, mineral wool, glass fibres, corrugated paper boards, etc. These materials provide sound and heat insulation, while providing a body that prevents denting.

MOULDED DOORS: Moulded doors are created by many different techniques. Composite materials such as particles, wood waste or wood pulp, etc. as the ‘filler’ with their matrix or binding compounds are cast or pressed in moulds. Alternatively after board forming the surface is engraved by a router machine. In both the techniques the surface is provided a coating system or affixed with a laminate or film. Moulded doors are also created by use of thinner panels then rails and stiles to create a setback, offset or set-in type of panel door. Such doors are further ‘moulded’ by mounting architrave borders at the junction of panels and stiles or rails.


STANDARD DOOR DESIGN NOMENCLATURE: by Steel Door Institute USA: as per SDI 106-99.

FLUSH DOOR (F) The term 'flush' describes a plain surface door without lites or louvres.

FULL FLUSH DOOR: Features no visible seams on the face, though full height vertical seams are visible on sides of door edges.

SEAMLESS DOOR: Features no visible seams on the face or on the vertical sides of door edges.

STILE AND RAIL OR STILE AND PANEL DOOR: Stile and rail are either mitred or butted. Mitred joints are welded and ground smooth so that no mitre joints are visible on the face. Butted joint seams remain visible. The panels are interlocked with stiles and rails and they may be flush or recessed with perimeter surfaces.

EMBOSSED DOOR (E): Full flush or seamless door featuring door faces fabricated or embossed steel.

TEXTURED DOOR (T): Full flush or seamless door featuring door faces fabricated of various patterns of textured steel, i.e. leather or wood grain. Textured Embossed Door (TE): Full flush or seamless door featuring door faces fabricated of various patterns of textured embossed steel.

HALF GLASS DOORS (G): The size and location from the finished floor to the glazed opening will vary as per requirements. Multiple lite patterns are created by inserted muntins. Doors with or one or more glazing panels will have bottom of at least one panel a maximum of 43" from the finished floor.

FULL GLASS DOORS (FG): A maximum 7" rail and stile occur at the top and at the vertical edges. An 8" minimum rail occurs at the bottom. The bottom rail shall be minimum 10" measured vertically from the floor.

NARROW LITE DOOR (N): The glass cutout occurs near the lock stile. The width of the lite shall be minimum 3" and height varying between 10" and 60".

VISION LITE DOOR (V): A lite of 10" x 10" on the vertical centre line of the door. The horizontal centre line can vary between 10" and 60".

LOUVRED DOOR (L / LL): A louver is an opening with a series of slats or blades to allow passage of air.

FULL LOUVRED DOOR (FL): The rail size as specified for full a glass door applies here.


DUTCH DOORS (D): It is a door divided in two sections, the upper opens first, or both open out independently.


1G: One / single glass panel, and shutter frame.

1G3: One / single glass panel divided by 2 horizontal thin muntins into 3 sections, and shutter frame.

1G6: One / single glass panel divided by 2 horizontal muntins and 1 vertical member into 3 x 2=6 sections, and shutter frame.

G3: A shutter frame divided by two horizontal members into three glass panes.

F: Full flush door

FL: Full flush door with Louvre opening (usually at the bottom as used for public toilets).

FV: Full flush door with view window (usually at top / eye level as used for offices and hospitals).

FVL: A combination of FL and FV.

FNV: Full flush door with a narrow / slit view window (usually at top but on free edge of door as used for hospitals).

FNLV: Same as FNV but narrow / slit window is longer, almost for full height.

FNVL: A combination of FNV and FL.

FNV2: Full flush door with two narrow / slit view windows (usually at top).

FV4: Full flush door with four view windows.

F#V: Full flush door with four view windows, where # specifies the shape of vision window, such as: O=oblong or oval/ R=round/ D=diamond/ C=cross/ etc.

L1: Full lovers within a shutter frame.

L2: Louvers in 2 sections within a shutter frame.      VARIETIES OF DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: FRENCH DOORS OR WINDOWS / low sill windows or doors with a small threshold / louvered shutters / DUTCH DOORS / stable doors / two divisions / TRAP DOORS / loft doors / SALOON OR PARLOUR DOORS / café doors / bat-wings doors / one way or two way hinges / fixed or adjustable louvers / NURSERY DOORS / SCREEN OR FLY MESH DOOR / REVOLVING DOOR / counter clockwise / clock wise / speed retarder / LEAFED OR WINGED REVOLVING DOORS / two, three and four leaf cental pivot revolving doors / separated the commuters / American revolving doors / automatic sliding shutters / hydraulic door closing with double shutters / dual winged doors / BUTTERFLY DOORS / two winged / two separate channels / push door / TURNSTILE DOORS / symbolic presentation of a barricade / PLATFORM SCREEN AND PLATFORM EDGE DOORS / SLIDING DOORS / top hung system / bottom supported system / Roman times / stacked door system / bypass door system / POCKET DOORS / BYPASS DOORS / FOLDING AND SLIDING DOORS / closing-in-edges / opening-out-edges / as space dividers / BIFOLD DOORS / ACCORDION DOORS / sliding pivot mechanism / Kashmir style room divider / COLLAPSIBLE GATES / single or double sided / portable type / folding panels / piano hinges / CANOPY OR GARAGE DOOR / up and over doors / remote control / canopy door / ROLLING SHUTTERS / quick shutting of the door / timer chain / TAMBOUR DOOR / AMA-DO SHUTTERS / exterior shutters / to-bukuro / SHOJI DOORS / wood-framed sliding panel / Shoji paper / washi paper / FUSUMA / sliding door system / RANMA / REED DOORS / FOLDING DOORS / LOUVER DOORS / Louvred Panelled doors / small width horizontal slats / PET DOOR / dogie door / GARDEN, KITCHEN DOOR / French door.


FRENCH DOORS OR WINDOWS: French Doors are garden side verandah doors. French doors are also known as low sill windows or doors with a small threshold. Such doors may not have a sill or threshold, but often have a drop in the floor (step down) immediately on the outer face. French doors with double shutters (solid panelled shutters and glazed shutters) were used in English and American architecture in the 17th and 18th C. French doors with louvered shutters have been used in the Southern states of United States. The shutter is a framed construction with multiple panes, all or some which have single or double layered glass. Doors may have decorative grilles embedded between the glass panes, or superimposed on the top of the single glass pane. The doors are placed in a designed gap or doorways, such as flat or segmental arch, and as such may have a matching head design.

DUTCH DOORS: Dutch doors or stable doors have two divisions, the upper part remains open for light, view and feeding the horses, and the lower part mostly remains closed to prevent pets and children venturing out, and rodents and animals coming in. Dutch doors are used in shops, stables, barns, tax offices, and ticket booths. The door style was introduced by Dutch colonists who settled in the Hudson River Valley in the early 1600’s.

TRAP DOOR: A trapdoor is oriented horizontally on a floor, and often accessed by a ladder, or has a ladder falling out of it. Trap doors or loft doors are used in lofts, for access to services embedded in ceilings and cellars. Some doors also incorporate a collapsible ladder. Boats and ships have a deck trap door that seals the lower chamber in case of a sea storm.

SALOON OR PARLOUR DOORS: Saloon, Parlour or Café Doors were standard features in American ‘West’ bars, Barber shops, Banks, Butcher’s shop, Government offices, Hospitals, etc. In India, these are extensively used in Government offices, hospitals, clinics, bungalows, and guest houses. These are both single and double shutter systems. The shutters cover the mid or the lower section of the opening. Saloon doors that only extend from knee-level to chest-level are known as bat-wings doors. The lightweight swinging shutters have a one way or two way hinges that allow its opening in and out. The Mediterranean and mid East have a version with fixed or adjustable louvres or cloth curtains within the shutter frame.

NURSERY DOORS: Nursery Doors are low level shutters fixed in addition to the main shutter. These provide floor level privacy and keep infants in. The shutters are hinged to side jams or loose boards (panels) are inserted inside grooves. These are often with lattices.

SCREEN OR FLY MESH DOOR: This was an inevitable feature of Dak bungalows in British and Dutch colonies, including the USA. The shutter usually opened out and within its frame a fine mosquito net or wires woven net (to prevent sparrows, squirrels and rats entering the premises) was placed. The fly mesh shutter reduces the amount of light and intensity of wind entering into a room.

REVOLVING DOOR: A revolving door has a top-bottom pivot in the middle of door shutter that forms a shaft. The revolving door’s shutter is allowed to move in one direction. Between the point of access and the point of an exit a user walks a circular path between two moving panels. In right-hand drive countries, revolving doors typically revolve counterclockwise, allowing people to enter and exit only on the right side of the door. In left-hand drive countries, revolving doors should revolve clockwise but not always. The user pushes one panel to open the door. With a large diameter of opening the segmental space may accommodate multiple users, trolleys and luggage racks. The glass panes in the doors allow people to see and anticipate each other while walking through. Manual revolving doors rotate with push bars causing all wings to rotate. Revolving doors typically have a speed retarder to prevent people from spinning the doors too fast.

This door design is used primarily to maintain an air seal from the outside face, but minimizing the leakage of the climate controlled air from the interiors. This type of door is also often seen as a mark of prestige and glamour for a building.

LEAFED OR WINGED REVOLVING DOORS: During 19th and 20th C, innovation like the two, three and four leaf cental pivot revolving doors were used to keep the warmth in hotel lobbies, foyers and large shops. It also separated the commuters going in or out. Early revolving doors’ patents do not mention the term Revolving door but ‘a Door without draft of air’, ‘a door to exclude the noises of the street’, A ‘Storm-Door Structure that is noiseless’, and one that ‘effectually prevents the entrance of wind, snow, rain or dust’.

American revolving doors are now collapsible (as per law, so it becomes a double partition collapsing at 180°) or have to be flanked by a hinged door. The revolving doors occupy too much space and so are now being replaced by automatic sliding shutters or by hydraulic door closing with double shutters arrangement. Sliding door systems, work on photovoltaic sensors, lasers, or pressure devices. To emulate the locking out of draughts, noise etc. dual winged doors separated by a small corridor are used.

BUTTERFLY DOOR: A butterfly door is a two winged’ revolving door. It consists of a double-wide panel with its rotation axle in the centre, effectively creating two separate channels when the door is open. Butterfly doors are made to rotate open in one direction and rotate closed in the opposite direction. The door is not equipped with handles, so it is a push door. Such doors are popular in public transit subway stations, as it has a large capacity when the door is open. The door shutters in subways are heavy to resist the impact of air currents created by the movement of trains.

TURNSTILE DOORS: Turnstile doors are similar to winged doors but are half or of lesser height and sometimes in the form of a thin bar. These are used in subways and other rapid transit facilities to prevent people from avoiding a fare or a symbolic presentation of a barricade. These doors open out automatically triggered by the presence of a ticket or a credit card. The door or the barricading bar is lifted up or down, folded sideways or retracts into the panel. Modern Metro stations have such doors at the edge of the train platform placed to match the door position of the railway carriage, and open out only when the train stops and open its door.

PLATFORM SCREEN AND PLATFORM EDGE DOORS: Singapore was the first metro system to introduce such doors. These are now widely used on railway stations. Platform screen doors are total barriers between the station floor and its ceiling, whereas platform edge doors do not seal the gap completely.

These doors help: Improve climate control within the station such as disturbed by the high speed trains, in terms of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It isolates the tunnel from the platform, prevents accidents and suicide attempts. It reduces unauthorised access to the tracks and tunnels. It eliminates the need for motormen or conductors for train door operations.

SLIDING DOORS: Sliding doors are top hung or bottom supported or both. Top hung system have a wheel system that carries the weight, and bottom guides (continuous or intermittent) to prevent sideways displacement of the shutter. Bottom supported system have floor level wheels and to guide it may have a floor level channel or rail track. In both systems wheels for carrying the load move in vertical rotation, but extra horizontal wheels are also incorporated for guiding the movement. Modern systems are made of drawn metal sections, and have complex support, movement and guidance systems.

Sliding doors have been in use since perhaps Roman times. Channels carved in stone have been found at Pompeii. Sliding doors are preferred in many situations as these do not disturb the space. Sliding doors are of many different types. Simplest sliding doors have one shutter, moving over a wall, panelling, side-lite or into a cavity (pocket doors). Functional slide doors have dual shutters moving in opposite directions. In a stacked door system the shutter (each on a separate track), slide to form a stack on one or both ends. Wardrobes use sliding+hinged doors combination. In 4 door system two end shutters are side hinged and middle two doors slide behind or over the hinged doors. Such a system is called bypass door system.

POCKET DOORS: Pocket doors are sliding doors that slide away from the opening, into a specific parking area concealed by a panel or partition, or into an open cavity like a niche within a wall. It is similar to sliding or stack doors’ system, but by hiding the stack of shutters it provides a neat opening.

BYPASS DOOR: Bypass doors have two or more sliding shutters that move past each other. The shutters are commonly used for closets and shop or showroom cabinets. The shutters overlap slightly to seal the gap.

FOLDING AND SLIDING DOORS: Nominal sliding doors do not provide 100% open gap. This is corrected with an integrated folding and sliding mechanism. The system, has two or more shutters side hinged in one set, like folds of an accordion. The shutters’ closing-in-edges have top and bottom hinges with the axial pin forming the pivot. The shutters’ opening-out-edges have simple hinges. The pivot-end hinges are mounted in a ‘fee wheel’ set, or is a ball gliding in a channel. The end shutters are often hung the side frame through a set of ordinary hinges. Such doors are used for closets and as space dividers in auditoria, indoor sports facility, banquet rooms.

BIFOLD DOORS: Bifold doors are paired doors that are hinged together to fold onto one another. The end shutters are hung with hinges and also have a top-bottom sliding pivot as part of the bottom hinge. These are often mounted on a track that hangs from the head. It is a popular configuration for wardrobes and cupboards. It is also used for patios, internal doors’ partitions such as between dining and drawing room. These doors, when open, occupy very little room space. The doors have a tendency to sag and have a weak lateral strength, so are not ideal for external use. Internal doors are intentionally made to be very lightweight.

ACCORDION DOORS: This are multi fold doors, almost like tambour doors but with vertical slats or shutters. The slats have a backing of canvas or flexible plastic. The shutters, have flexible metal (spring steel), plastic (Teflon) straps or regular hinges. The end, top and bottom hinges often form a sliding pivot mechanism. The door system is often designed to negotiate curvature or form angular or polygonal shape. Kashmir style room dividers are an example of accordion system.

COLLAPSIBLE GATES: Collapsible gates are formed of several vertical members which are joined together by small length members forming a scissors like pin joint. The top and bottom ends of the vertical members are housed in a sliding channel with or without wheels. The vertical members can be pulled to open out to a lattice form or pushed together to collapse into very small width. Collapsible gates are single or double sided and portable type. The portable types are used as a folding barricade. Collapsible gates are mounted with an accordion like folding panels and piano hinges to form an opaque shutter. Collapsible gates were once used in elevators, public passages, etc., but are now not allowed in elevators.

CANOPY OR GARAGE DOOR: Canopy, garage or up & over doors, came out of necessity to have a clean width for parking an automobile in a garage. This door moves up and takes a horizontal position very close to the ceiling line, allowing full width of opening and without the shutter occupying any floor space. Most such doors are automated, so can be opened or closed through a remote control. The door is called canopy Door because when this is mid pivoted for counter balancing, a section of it remains outside forming a shed against weather or sun.

ROLLING SHUTTERS: Rolling shutters became popular to cover up large openings of industrial buildings, warehouses and wide glass fronted shops. These are fabricated with horizontal or slats that are loosely inserted into one another to form a movable joint or hinge. All such slats are held in side channels, and roll up into a cylinder at the top. The slats are fold-shaped or have concave curvature to add to its lateral stiffness. The rolling up into a drum form tightens a winding coil spring which helps in quick shutting of the door. Very small sized rolling-up shutters are used on TV cabinets, wardrobes, cupboards, showcases, dumbwaiter or service elevators. These do not have coil springs. Very wide and very tall, that is heavy shutters are opened and closed through a winding ‘timer chain’ with sprockets.

TAMBOUR DOOR: It is made of narrow horizontal slats that are joined together by rope or strap at the middle or ends, or by a continuous backing of flexible material like canvass or leather. These doors either roll up or down, or sideways along the tracks or channels. These are typically used in TV cabinets, jewellery boxes, small bureaus, and cabinets.

AMA-DO SHUTTERS: These are exterior shutters in traditional Japanese homes, The shutters are placed on the outer face of the traditional Japanese house to provide a protective cover to Fusuma and shoji doors at night and during bad weather. The shutters when closed make an interior space dark and block ventilation. So some ama-do, in old traditional houses, have small sliding panels that can be opened for ventilation.

The shutters, when open, are stored in special box to-bukuro or an architectural space. The shutter closet is placed just outside of the opening to be closed and the groove in which the shutters are to run. The groove for shutter movement is just one shutter wide. Shutters often have mortises -hozoana, on the edge of one side and tenons -hozo, on the adjoining side, or have a mortise and tenon (tongue and groove) -sanehagi, for a close fit. The shutters are secured by special wooden bolts -otoshizaru that drops down into the sills, or by vertical wooden bolts -agezaru pushed into holes in the lintel -kamoi. A sliding horizontal wooden catch holds the agezaru in place. The last ama-do secures all other ama-do shutters.

First ama-do appeared around the latter part of the 16th C. They are found on temple buildings -jiin, some shrine buildings -jinja, vernacular dwellings -minka and mansions -yashiki. Theatres built in the Edo period (1615-1867) had ama-do positioned on the upper story behind the audience's gallery -sajiki. They were closed in order to darken the interior during a performance.

SHOJI DOORS: The traditional Japanese Shoji is a wood-framed sliding panel, covered with a thin paper, pasted over the wood grid. The lower section of Shoji is sometimes treated as a wood panel. The wood is normally left unfinished. Shoji doors come in sets of four and are usually six feet high. The traditional function of shoji was to divide the interior space from exterior space. In more modern homes they are also used to partition areas where house-slippers are worn from, tatami rooms where house-slippers are not worn.

The Fusuma and Shoji both slide on wooden rails at the top -kamoi (literally -duck's place), and bottom rail -shikii. The sliding doors do not have wheels, traditionally the grooves were waxed, but modern versions have a vinyl self lubricating strip.

Shoji sliding doors actually come from China. In China, the shoji were only used as partition in interior areas. Lightweight sliding door system inspired by the Japanese arrived in Europe and USA during 1850.

Some call Shoji paper as rice paper, but it is made from washi paper, which is produced from pulp of a kozo tree. By changing the fibre direction and thickness, the transparency, the washi paper scatters light evenly and softly and is also used as lamp shade.

FUSUMA: Fusuma is a Japanese partitioning system. It is a sliding door system covered with a thick opaque paper or cloth on a wood lattice like a grid. Traditional doorways were 90 wide and about 170 tall, but today 190 height is common. These vertical rectangular panels slide, side-stacked or removed to make a larger room or redefine traditional tatami rooms. The Fusuma doors, even though made of fragile material like paper, are easy to replace. It has the function of protecting against cold and conditioning humidity. It also makes a room decorative.

A Fusuma is made by a wooden frame. The frame is covered with paper in the front and back, and then a piece of decorative paper or a cloth is affixed over it. Finally the Fusuma is finished by placing another wooden frame around the perimeter of the door. Fusuma partition doors are often painted with beautiful natural scenery on one or both sides, as a single continuous picture extending across several panels. They typically have a black lacquer border and a round finger catch. Today Fusuma feature plain rice paper or have industrially printed graphics of fans, autumn leaves, cherry blossoms, trees, or geometric graphics.

RANMA: Ranma or transoms are carved on both sides, and used between Shoji and the ceiling to provide air circulation and light. Ranma come in a variety of sizes. These are placed over the shoji, on a wall, with lights behind them as decorations.

REED DOORS: These are sliding doors made of reeds. They can be used as room dividers, wall accents and more. They are used in the summer instead of shoji.

FOLDING DOORS: Folding doors have an even number of sections, generally 2 to 4, folding in pairs. The doors can open from either side for one pair, or fold off both sides for two pairs.

LOUVER DOORS: A Louvre Door has fixed or movable wooden fins called slats or louvers, which allow air movement, restrict the solar incidence, reduce the glare inside by distributing the harsh light from outside, control the vision and provide privacy. Such doors are ideal for high moisture areas like sea coast regions and are widely used in Mediterranean regions. Such doors occur as an external or internal appendage to a glass or fully opaque wood shutter door. The louvre doors are comparatively light weight and weak, so are used as wardrobes shutters and in drying rooms. Louvred Panelled doors can have small width horizontal slats with one edge overlapping the other at a slight inclination to the main face, creating an impression of closed louvres.

PET DOOR: A pet door, also called a cattie or dogie door, a small opening within a door to allow the pet to enter and exit without the main door being opened. It may be simply covered by a rubber flap or it may be an actual door hinged on the top that the pet can push through. Pet doors may be mounted in a sliding glass door as a new (permanent or temporary) panel. Pet doors may be unidirectional, only allowing pets to exit. Pet doors may be electronic, allowing pets with a special electronic tag to enter.

GARDEN, KITCHEN DOOR: A garden door is any door that opens to a garden or backyard. Its size is designed to allow service equipment and large objects. It is often like a double shutter French door.      OTHER TYPES OF DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: COTTAGE DOORS / RUSTIC DOOR / CUSTOM DOOR / CASTLES AND FORT DOORS / lateral stiffness / HATCH DOOR / WICKET DOOR / MOAT DOORS / PORTCULLIS or DROP DOWN DOORS / GOODS ELEVATORS DOORS / PORT GODOWNS’ OR WAREHOUSE DOORS / COTTON GODOWNS’ DOORS / flexible shutters / BARN DOOR / CARRIAGE DOORS / AIRCRAFT HANGER DOORS / Suez and Panama canals’ gates or ‘locks’ / DAMS AND CANAL DOORS / SHOWER DOORS / FIRE PLACE DOORS / RAILWAY CROSSINGS GATES / AIR CURTAINS / invisible and material less barrier / cascade an air flow / sonar cascade / FLAP DOOR / lap joint / BUBBLE DOORS / BLIND DOOR / disguised functional door / fake or make-believe door / partitioning system / FALSE DOOR / mihrab / FAKE DOORS / fake door and painted windows / speakeasy joints / SECRET DOORS / Bab Al-Sirr / Door of treason / RESTAURANT PANTRY DOORS / FURNITURE AND CABINET DOORS / work or writing surface / removable shutters / fold-out shutter / hand rest / hingeless shutters / STRONG ROOM OR VAULT DOORS / in-fill of mineral blocks / Armour doors.


COTTAGE DOORS: A rustic door design used in homes, garden walls or other locations, based on an architectural style typically found in rural cottages. A cottage door can include many different style elements, including frame-and-plank construction, and the Dutch door style.

RUSTIC DOOR: A general term used to describe a simple door typical of those constructed by early American settlers or often found in rural homes and buildings. Plank-style doors, Dutch doors and Cottage doors are examples of rustic door styles.

CUSTOM DOOR: A door that does not fall into a standard category or period of architectural style, but designed specifically for a client or site. It may include many different styles. All historical doors are custom designed because every door is unique.

CASTLES AND FORT DOORS: Fort doors are called gates due to their large size. The doors are large for functional reasons, such as: passage of horse, camel or elephant riders, chariots and defence equipment, for ceremonial parades, passage of processions and for prestige reasons such as awe, power, grandeur, etc. Castle or fort doors due to their large size require lateral stiffness (provided by larger width or thickness of the shutter leaf, metal-bands of bronze or iron, large sized hinges or pivot rings). Large and heavy gate doors cannot be operated manually and require opening and closing mechanisms (provided by counter weights, inclined hinges, chain pulley blocks). The doors often have a small passage or service door within the main door, view windows for peeping out, and delivery gap for small items. The doors have cross bars on the back face to add to stiffness and provide resistence to forced entry. Gates have spikes to prevent anyone forcibly pushing the shutters in.

HATCH DOOR: It is a door opening placed in a floor or ceiling, in homes for accessing the terrace, lofts or underfloor sections; in boats for under the deck zones; and in aircraft both under and over the floor compartments. The floor and the roof or ceiling hatch doors are opened by lifting out as a free lid or hinged shutter, or by pushing in as plug-lid or hinged leaf. The hatch doors rise up the floor with a marked perimeter or are levelled with the finished floor. The hatch doors often have an attached ladder. Hatch doors are designed as less frequently used opening system. A small hole between two rooms, with a cover is also called a hatch, as for example between chambers in submarines and sub units of space ships. Automobiles also have a ceiling level opening.

WICKET DOOR: A wicket door is part of a gate system to allow only human being while barring cattle and vehicles like cycles, etc. It is nominally hinged or pivot hung door but placed in a segment of a circle barricade to restrict the space of movement.

MOAT DOORS: Moat doors are castle or fort doors that open out on the bottom hinges to form a bridge over the moat or pit. Though this seems a romantic as a concept, it is doubtful if it can span a large distance or carry the weight of the traffic over it.

PORTCULLIS or DROP DOWN DOORS: (Fr. porte=a gate, coulisse=a groove). This consists of a panel or a lattice of wood or iron that can drop down along a channel to close an opening in case of an emergency like invasion, fire or flood. The weight of the door moving downward is assisted by gravity for instant closing, but to lift it back for opening requires pull through pulleys or counter weights.

GOODS ELEVATORS DOORS: These often have a lower half falling down and a linked counter weight mechanism that lifts the upper half upward, while closing the upper half provides the counter force to lift the lower half upward. This arrangement provides an edge to edge opening width.

PORT GODOWNS’ OR WAREHOUSE DOORS: During the industrial revolution period godown were erected on lake or sea fronts and had to face storms. To keep the size of opening just bare minimum the height allowed a bent down ‘coolie’ with a heavy back load. These doors often had additional upper shutters to allow a porter carrying a taller head load.

COTTON GODOWNS’ DOORS: Cotton godowns’ Doors (and such fire hazardous materials' warehouses) have doors with a combustible string tie, which on burning allowed the hung counter weight to fall and let the door shutter to slide down over rail (towards gravity) automatically, and seal the premises to prevent the spread of fire. Warehouses now also have flexible shutters of striped material that allow both way movement of cargo laden vehicles.

BARN DOOR: Barn doors are wide enough to move in and out the farm goods and equipment including tractors, trolleys, etc. Barn doors often have another door at upper level for accessing the loft level floor stocking the fodder. Barn doors have a braced shutter frame with mounted panels of plywood, wire lattice, plain metal or corrugated galvanised iron sheets.

CARRIAGE DOORS: A door for horse-drawn and automobile carriages. It was a small lower section door with upper section as a framed hollow, or left open, hinged to a side and opened out. The style was used in saloons, parlours and items of furniture. It carried the emblem of family or company.

AIRCRAFT HANGER DOORS: These are very large and being heavy move on wheels and rails. Space craft assembly workshop doors are perhaps the largest sized doors ever used. The movement is helped by counter weights or electric motors that provide sideways pull. Suez and Panama canals’ gates or ‘locks’ regulate the water level.

DAMS AND CANAL DOORS: Dams’ doors open out easily due to the force of gushing waters but require high power to shut off. Canal and dam gates take on substantial side thrust of retained water and so have heavy lateral bracing and wide seams. Dutch have devised dams, canals and dyke flood control systems, whose key element is the complex door system. These are sometimes automatic but otherwise triggered by the water level and movement of currents. Suez and such other canals have doors that become a wall to store the water to lift the sea faring vessels.

SHOWER DOORS: Shower cubicles or cabins have doors such as: bypass or sliding door, swinging door, or a combination of both -the bifold doors. The doors are fixed over the shower stall curb or over the bath-tub edge. A major problem is of cleaning and draining the tracks within which the doors move. So shower doors preferably must not have a bottom track to providing free access for the wheel chaired and other infirms. A swinging door is preferable but must open out and that takes up a lot of space for opening. Circular bath tubs, like with Jacuzzi facilities require bifold or multi fold doors. These are able to negotiate curvatures or angles.

FIRE PLACE DOORS: Fireplace doors are of two types: Glass and very fine a metal lattice. Fireplace glass doors retain the heat and so increase the energy efficiency of the fire place. Metal lattice doors become warm and help re-radiate the heat into the room. In both the cases, the sparks are eroded minimizing the risk of fire.

RAILWAY CROSSINGS GATES: Railway crossings have barricade gates consisting mainly of a horizontal bar counter balanced by weights. The bar is pulled down by release of the locking lever and pulled up by chain pulleys.

AIR CURTAINS: Air curtains form an invisible and material less barrier, which can be breached, so function like a door. Operation theatres, food and pharmaceutical plants have air curtain fans to cascade an air flow over the openings. Similarly a sonar cascade in electronic plants removes dust from goods and people entering a clean space.

FLAP DOOR: Flap doors are very common in tents, mosquito net tents, isolation-tents in hospitals, It consists of a flap that overlaps all sides of the opening to form a lap joint. Flaps are made of same material as the tent, or of cotton, canvass, woven polypropylene or fibre glass or such other fabric like materials. To seal the edges other than by overlapping, strapping, velcro, fly chains, etc. are also used.

BUBBLE DOORS: Bubble doors are formed out of glass, metal, or plastic. The shape is a segment of a bubble, or any other rounded bulge, the sectional edge of which matches the shape of the opening. The ‘bubble’ is hinged to top or side. Bulged shape is capable of taking large pressure, so such doors with or without a reinforcing frame and gasket systems are used in pressure chambers, marine vessels like the sub marine, etc. and for entry out in sky lights, industrial roofs, domes, etc.

BLIND DOOR: A blind door is not visible, as it is designed to blend with the adjacent wall finish. It has no visible trim or operable components. It is a disguised functional door, but not a fake or make-believe door like early Egyptian buildings. Such doors are used in offices and study rooms (to hide secret exits, toilets, etc.) Blind doors are also used to merge the doors, windows and fixed panes openings as one partitioning system. Modern day uses include merging cupboard shutters with other shutters such as toilet, dressing, closet, etc.

FALSE DOORS: A false door is not a real door but a representation of a door in 2D form such as painting or 3D form like an engraved motif or a bas relief. In ancient Egyptian architecture, in a tomb it represented a gate to the afterlife. The door was engraved on Alabaster, stone or wood or painted over the wall of the burial chamber. The door was placed on the Western face, as the side from which the Sun god and the departed soul go over to the other world. (For more ref to Door Myths and Legends). Such a feature may have influenced the mihrab in a mosque as a passage to the god.

FAKE DOORS: Fake doors are make-believe entities that are not doors but made to look like a door, or actual doors hidden by other elements. Make-believe doors were devised to create a balanced interior scape or house front. Fake doors were also used in cabinets to create secret chambers.

The facade at Leinster Gardens, West Kensington, was put up to hide an open air gap created over an underground track in 1868. Between Paddington and Bayswater open-air sections were created by knocking off two houses, to relieve pressure and keep the tunnels free from smoke. When residents complained about noise and nuisance, a five feet thick concrete wall was built fitted with fake door and painted windows, to fill in the gap and hide the blast of fumes caused by trains passing underneath.

Real doors between two adjacent suites, doors to toilets, store rooms, vaults, etc. are often concealed behind library cabinets or panelling. Hidden doors were used in speakeasy joints during liqueur prohibition in USA. -an illicit liquor shop or drinking club. In New York City, in 1928, just prior to Prohibition, Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns purchased a former bordello and converted it into a bar and restaurant called the ‘21-Club’. In 1930, they hired architect Frank Buchanan to design a secret door to hide the liquor supply in the cellar, as the place was converted to a speakeasy. To conceal the hidden door from Federal prohibition agents, Buchanan designed the door so that it would appear to be a solid cement wall. The door, which weighed two-and-one-half tons, was supported by massive precision hinges and faced with a cement slab. The secret door could be opened only by inserting a 18" length of wire through one of several cracks in the cement.

SECRET DOORS: Traditional Arabic houses, sometimes have a secret door, Bab Al-Sirr, as an emergency exit. It was camouflaged by cabinet, bookcases or hidden with a window sill. The name comes from one of the six gates cut through an ancient wall in Aden (Yemen), which was opened only in the event of a state security emergency. In modern-day Spain, the Arab fortress of Benquerencia has a Bab al-Sirr known as the Door of Treason.

RESTAURANT PANTRY DOORS: These occur as a set of doors, both of which can move inside or outside, and a mechanism rests the door in closed position. The double door channelizes the in and out traffic, though a mid member is not required between the door shutters. The doors have striking plates at a hand-held tray level and also at feet level, or an automatic mechanism for closing-opening in the required direction.

FURNITURE AND CABINET DOORS: Furniture pieces like cabinets, wardrobes, clocks, etc. require light weight shutters. Bureaus have a door shutter that forms the work or writing surface (like a table top). Kitchen cabinets have upward opening shutters so that work is not hindered by the shutter opening out. Kitchens also have removable shutters for easy cleaning. Computer keyboard drawers have a foldout shutter that becomes the hand rest. Radio (large sized valve sets of the past) cabinets had shutter sliding in the top part above the radio set. Similarly early TV models had pliable shutter sliding to the sides. Clocks had hingeless shutters that were held by mechanical catches.

STRONG ROOM OR VAULT DOORS: Strong rooms where the valuables like precious metals, jewels, cash, documents, art pieces, heirlooms, etc., are stored, require doors that can defy armed robbers, fire and natural calamities. Such doors have combination locks and attached alarms. The doors are made of un-cuttable and non-fusible steels or alloys. The thickness and constructions are such that these are able to resist blasts. To insulate the doors against heat and other radiations, the doors have in-fill of mineral blocks. Strong or Armour doors of hardened steel are also provided in some industrial plants, boilers, kilns and ‘bombing’ shelters.

Most 19th and 20th Century gallows featured a trapdoor, usually with two flaps. The victim was placed at the join. The edge of a trapdoor farthest from the hinge accelerates faster than gravity, so that the victim does not hit the flaps but falls freely.       DOORS LIKE UTILITIES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: CAR DOORS / SUICIDE DOORS / trailing edge / rear hinged doors / CONVENTIONAL CAR DOORS / front edge fixed doors / CANOPY DOORS / aircraft canopy / BUTTERFLY DOORS / GULL-WING DOORS / seagull’s wings / SCISSOR DOORS / beetle-wing doors / jackknife doors / switchblade doors / Lambo doors / SCISSOR-CONVENTIONAL HYBRID DOOR / VLS DOORS / SLIDING DOORS / POCKET DOORS / VERTICAL DOORS.


CAR DOORS: Automobiles have had many varieties of doors, some bizarre in shape, size and styles. Some new features, if not entire doors have inspired many radical opening systems, others have been obscured. Car doors had radically different design approaches because these were produced in sophisticated production facilities, often for one or few clients and in many cases were not even required to be even modestly functional.

SUICIDE DOORS: Horse and other carriages had doors opening outward, and the style was continued in early the automobiles, till first half of the 20th C. The car doors were hinged on the edge closer to the rear of the vehicle, known as the trailing edge -rear hinged. Rear hinged doors made it easier to enter the vehicle and occupy the seat.

Rear hinged or suicide doors were supposedly very thrilling in the gangster’s era of the 1930's because it was easier to shove somebody out of the car with the wind holding the door open. The suicide doors, however at a practical level posed danger of the door falling open or getting unattached in a moving car.

Some modern cars have ‘suicide doors’, but for the back seats only, and that too overlapped by front edge fixed, front doors. The back door thus cannot be operated unless the front door is opened first.

CONVENTIONAL CAR DOORS: Conventional current day cars have front edge fixed doors. In a moving car, the wind pressure pushes the door shut.

CANOPY DOORS: Normal car doors open out of the car's wheelbase and so can obstruct the road or pavement when opened. This is not an issue with canopies as Canopy doors lift-up to open vertically and stay on the top of a car to provide access for passengers. It is similar to an aircraft canopy. There are many varieties such as the articulated canopy, a bubble canopy, a cockpit canopy, etc.

BUTTERFLY DOORS: Butterfly doors move up and outward making it easier for entry-exit at the expense of saving space. Butterfly doors have been used in top sports car racers.

GULL-WING DOOR: These car doors are hinged to the roof rather than the side. When opened out the doors evoke the image of a seagull's wings. The door opening requires very little street space. In an accident, if a car rolls over, the exit is difficult. The gull-wing doors were designed for housewives owning a Volvo concept car, because lifting the shopping bags or putting down children into the car was easy. Gull-wing doors have a leakage problem in the monsoon and during car washing.

SCISSOR DOORS: Scissor doors rotate vertically at a fixed hinge near the end of the windshield. The doors open out upwards, but stay within the car's wheelbase. They are also known as beetle-wing doors, jackknife doors, switchblade doors, and Lambo doors (Lamborghini).

SCISSOR-CONVENTIONAL HYBRID DOOR: Some scissor doors are also designed so they can open vertically, and horizontally like a conventional car door. The double facility allows the door to be opened in whichever style is best suited to the situation. It is a very complex mechanism.

VLS DOORS: VLS doors have a scissor door configuration. The biggest difference is that they are designed to initially open slightly outward before opening upward to allow the top edge of the door to clear the door frame and A-pillar. Although butterfly doors also move upwards and outwards, VLS doors are not butterfly doors, this is because VLS doors move outwards to a very small degree compared to the angle of butterfly doors. VLS doors also can rotate to 130 degrees.

SLIDING DOORS: A sliding door opens by sliding (usually horizontally), for which the door is either mounted on or suspended from a track. These aren't usually used in small vehicles, but generally more common for minibuses and busses to provide a large entrance or exit for passengers without obstructing the pavement. They are often used on the side of commercial vans as well, as this allows a large opening for equipment to be loaded and unloaded without obstructing access. Drivers or passengers with limited mobility are provided with sliding doors. Their own bulk and the large holes in the body frame require extra strengthening.

POCKET DOORS: A pocket door is a sliding door that slides along its length and disappears, when open, into a compartment in the adjacent wall, or as in terms of vehicles, into the car's bodywork. Pocket doors are often used in architecture, but rarely in vehicles. (Kaiser 1953)

VERTICAL DOORS: A vertical door is a type of sliding door that slides vertically, usually on a rail or track. They slide into a compartment within the car's body and so are also technically pocket doors but they aren't classified as such because they don't slide along their length into an adjacent compartment. The Lincoln Mark VIII concept car's doors slide into the frame underbody and disappear from view.      DOOR LIKE PRESENCES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: PRESSURE COOKER SHUTTERS / pressure doors or plug doors / PLUG DOORS / passenger aircraft / CHEMICAL REACTION VESSELS SHUTTERS / non-plug doors / locking devices / holding vices / nut-bolts / NON-PLUG DOORS / hinges or pivots / free lid / butter fly valves / ball valves / FLY DOORS OR CAMERA SHUTTERS / AUTOMATIC OPENINGS /


PRESSURE COOKER SHUTTERS: These are pressure doors or plug doors. As the pressure inside increases the shutter leaf presses itself harder on the seams. The bulge (convex) shape of the lid has increased area adding to the efficiency of sealing. A well-designed plug door relies only on the strength of the wall around (seams) it and the material the door itself is made from.

PLUG DOORS: Plug door like situations occur on high altitude flying passenger aircraft. Due to the higher air pressure within the aircraft cabin than that of the surrounding atmosphere, the door seals itself closed as the aircraft climbs and the pressure differential increases. This prevents the opening of a plug door on board a pressurized aircraft. However, at lower altitudes or on landing the decompression, allows a door to be opened. Rapid Transit Series buses feature front and rear plug doors. Plug doors are used only on the outer hatch doors on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station as well as on the hatch between the Orbital Module and Descent Module on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

CHEMICAL REACTION VESSELS SHUTTERS: These are non-plug doors and rely on the locking devices such as holding vices or nut-bolts to resist the pressure.

NON-PLUG DOORS: Such shutters are not accompanied by traditional ‘shutter hanging’ mechanisms such as hinges or pivots. The shutter is like a free lid, though often casually tied to the base. A paint tin lid is a common example of a non plug door, relying on the wedge shape of the seam edge. Canvas sheets in artists’ frames are held by clamps.

VALVES: Valves have a closing diaphragm or a plunger to seal an opening and thereby curtail the flow. Butter fly valves have a central pivoting diaphragm similar to wings of a butter fly. Ball valves have a ball which gets displaced by the pressure of liquid or gas but shuts the opening by falling down due to gravity, and thereby prevent any reverse direction flow.

FLY DOORS OR CAMERA SHUTTERS: Camera shutters have multiple flaps, which are hinged close to the outer edge, and the inner edges are overlapped. The flaps open and close very quickly by a rotating mechanism that actuates the outer edge section. The inner edges form a polygon or nearly a circle, thus giving a smooth edge to the picture being shot.

AUTOMATIC OPENINGS: These are of many opening systems that serve functions of a door. Such systems are add-on systems to traditional doors or are independent controllers of openings.

Mechanical systems have a coiled spring which winds or unwinds while closing and opening a door and the stored kinetic energy is used for the reverse operation. Mechanical systems also use gravity drawn counter weights to either open or close the shutter, but for reverse action other resources are required.

Automatic systems are electric powered to open and close. Both mechanical and electric powered automatic systems could have sensors to activate the closing and opening. Smoke detectors sense a fire but also close the doors to prevent spread of a fire. Hotels create swipe cards for their guests and staff. A guest’s card remains operative so far as credit hold well. Staff cards allow access to the rooms for servicing when the room is not occupied. The sensor continuously transmits the use of card and its schedule or duration of use to the central computer. In addition automatic doors are fitted with safety sensors which control the speed of opening and closing. Heron of Alexandria created the first automatic door in the 1st C AD.       REAL AND PSEUDO DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: OPENINGS / sides / head / size, shape, position and duration of the openings / gap in mountains / ships passage / deep openings / GATEWAYS / node / ‘Gateways’ in communication field / symbolic / landmarks / a gate that leads one nowhere else / DOORWAY OR DOOR PORTAL / architectural corrective / pylons / colonnades / Torii gate / Sanchi stupa gateway / DOOR / opening / doorway / door / shutter / controllable opening system / real, unreal, present or absent / physical door / abstract adornments or attachments / deceptive character / nonphysical door / unreal or metaphoric / virtual doors / invisible doors / make-believe doors / frames or markers / notional or representational doors / shutter like configuration / painted doors / real-functional size / debased scale / pseudo doors / prehensions for a door / make-believe doors / entrance or boundary of an ethereal world / metaphoric doors / signs and symbols / allegories / variations in barriers / passageway / mythological associations / door symbolism / metaphors / breach-able points or weak spots / electrical circuit diagrams / pipe layout drawings / communication field / ‘gateway’ / closed doors / open doors / door forms / Real door within a Real door / Real door within a Pseudo door / pseudo door / real or functional door / Pseudo doors within a Real door / stepped or recessed flutes / microcosm.


OPENINGS: A gap, crack or a cut in a barrier is an opening. Openings have two omnipresent sides and sometimes a head or top cover. The sides and the head make openings a finite entity. Openings have two faces, and between them some imbalance always exists. Transitions flourish between two sides for an equilibrium to occur. At the opening things may be allowed, accelerated, delayed or stopped. The size, shape, position and duration of the openings impose restrictions and cause changes over the transition.

Openings can also be defined as structures that facilitate the efficient transfer. An opening is also a possibility where a change is likely or can be better managed. A valley is a gap in mountains and so convenient for crossing over. A seaway is deep dredged channel for ships passage. A runway is an efficient place for an aircraft to land. A bridge is best way to get across a difficult terrain. A pipe, duct, cable or a bridges are deep openings.

GATEWAYS: A Gateway marks the node, start point or potential for a transit. Such points are marked, enhanced or endowed with translation or conversion capacities, as called ‘Gateways’ in communication field. A gateway could also be symbolic, where in spite of the transition, no change may be experienced. The gateways like: Arc de triumph (Paris), Char Minar (Hyderabad), etc. are landmarks in the form of a gate, -a gate that leads one nowhere else. Japanese gate Torii has no lead. Gateway of India (Bombay) does not denote the physical entrance-exit points of India.

DOORWAY or DOOR PORTAL: Openings are of finite size and their potential is realized with a doorway and door. A doorway or door portal, is an architectural corrective to enhance a gateway, functionally, physically and symbolically. Egyptian temples have massive pylons or massive sloping towers fronted by obelisks, to define the doorway. Greeks and Romans have used colonnades as doorways. The serrated portals of Gothic cathedrals add to the size of the door. Bulund Darwaza of Fatehpur Sikri is a large gateway over a small door. The Torii gate and the Sanchi stupa gateway has three lines of eaves as a heading.

DOOR: The opening, the doorway or the portal, the door and the shutter, together constitute a door opening system. A door with a shutter is controllable opening system. The opening, doorway, door and shutter, could all, one or few of them be real, unreal, present or absent.

A physical door essentially requires a real gap and a real shutter. The shutters open, close, or take up many intermediate positions. Shutters have specific configuration, materials, size and scale. Physical doors, however, can have abstract adornments or attachments that give a deceptive character to the door and belie their reality.

A nonphysical door may not have: an opening to transit, a doorway to distinctively mark the opening, or an operative door system to make it functional. A nonphysical door could be unreal or metaphoric.

A virtual door does not reveal itself physically, but otherwise it is functionally as effective. Modern industrial plants, estates and institutional campuses have ‘open’ gaps or invisible doors with control systems that activate a ‘shutter’ (a control system) when required. To indicate the position and presence of such monitoring devices, few make-believe doors like frames or markers, are placed. Metal detectors’ door frames at airports and public spaces, colour coded markings on the floors, are examples of these.

Notional or representational doors: Over the years, in our minds, a shutter has become so strongly associated as the door that its presence or even notional indication suffices for the opening to be evident. ‘A shutter like configurations over a barrier satisfies our expectation that there is a way out or in.’ The notional or representational doors, such as the painted doors on Egyptian tomb walls do not take one anywhere, but do satisfy the spiritual needs as an entryway to the other world. Such doors, drawn or carved are of real-functional size as well as of debased scale.

A pseudo door exists with inadequate or no opening system. The door has no real gap for transit, no perceptible doorway, or there is inadequate shutter system. The prehensions for a door are at many levels including: functional, perception, size and scale. Such doors also exist without any apparent barrier system.

Make-believe doors are created to denote an entrance or boundary of an ethereal world. Stage side-wings become exit-entry points. An actor, to enact a departure from the realm, at a certain point on the stage, ceases to act or shows the backside of the body. Door frames standing in a wide terrain or the gate structure such as the Japanese Torii standing in wide stretch of water is an entrance.

Metaphoric doors: Metaphoric doors manifest through signs and symbols. Such doors may not have a functional size, scale and other physical characteristics or functional utility of a nominal door.

The allegories used are:

variations in barriers (representing an overlap or a gap or aperture),

○a scaled or functionally sized gap,

○a passageway (indicating a pathway to or from somewhere),

○signs, symbols and graphics to mark linearity (a lead to some place),

○frames (to enclose a view and other sensual perceptions),


mythological associations with doors or openings such as: Janus -Roman, Re -Egyptian, Ganesha and Kshetrapal-the keeper of the estate -Indian, two brothers, Shen Tu and Yu Lei -guardians of the passageway -Chinese.

Various forms of these are used individually and in combinations, to enhance the essence of a door.

Door symbolism: A symbolic door is a representation of the nominal door or its important components or essential qualities. Door symbols are abstracted as well as scaled versions. Metaphors are also used to present physical characteristics, crucial functions, essential qualities and historical associations of the doors. Doors denote a break and so the symbolic presentations are used to indicate the breach-able points or weak spots. In electrical circuit diagrams and pipe layout drawings the door symbols are used to denote a break, open position, or a switch. In communication field a door stands for connectivity with the world so a ‘gateway’ is where traffic converges and redistributes.

A door is a point where change from the known world of inside versus the unknown world of outside is experienced clearly. Closed doors isolate an exuberant interior and open doors permit incursion of wild exteriors. Doors are accordingly shown to be open or closed. ‘Heaven is always door-less and shown with its interiors, whereas hell is more represented as an entry point or from outside of its doors’. Symbolic doors are more focussed by framing, detailing, scaling, sizing to offset them from the surroundings.

Various types of door forms are combined like:

A Real door within a Real door: Smaller doors are often placed within larger doors, e.g. forts’ doors, shutters for pets’ entry, flapped gaps for milk and postal articles.

A Real door within a Pseudo door: Fatehpur Sikri Buland Darwaza is a large structure signifying a pseudo door but with a very small real or functional door within it.

Pseudo doors within a Real door: The pattern or image of a door as a miniature is repeated, often each facsimile receding in scale. Gothic cathedrals have door portal with stepped or recessed flutes on sides and in the arch formation suggesting several layers of door frames. Temple doors are often subdivided into smaller panels, each of which is a miniature version of the main door or a sub temple, a microcosm.       DOORS : SIZES AND PROPORTIONS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: SIZE / size of a door economics / technology / large door / contextual structures / doors of smaller sizes / fort gates / PROPORTION / vertical rectangular / sliding doors / WIDTH / actual width / width of passage / architectural door surround / wood framed and hinged doors / pivots / social concern / simple sliding doors / automatic sliding doors / revolving doors / folding doors / garage doors / HEIGHT / within the opening / door head / threshold / passage height / low level doors / heat gain or loss / French windows / transom lites / visual correction.


SIZE: Doors are primarily designed for humans, and sometimes exclusively for passage of goods and animals, but more often sized for all purposes. The size of a door is in relation to: the proportion of the inside room space, fore-space, architectural schema, etc. besides the functional needs of transit, transport, exchanges of environmental elements (breeze, heat, energy etc.) vision across (framing), sound leakage and ingress, illumination, participation, privacy, etc.

The economics and the technology are two main conditioners for the size of a door, but never restricting factors. Doors of extra ordinarily large sizes or monumental proportions have been used through ages. A large door denotes unrestricted transit or reception, fearlessness or power, affluence, dominance, etc. The size of a door is referential and so contextual structures are conceived to enhance the size of the door. Doors of smaller sizes than nominally required are used to slow down and thereby control and check the chaotic traffic of entrants. Doors are made smaller, if are insignificant or to be concealed, such as the secret or escape doors. Smaller doors are stronger, but not necessarily easier to open or shut. Smaller openings reduce the nett opening size and so increase the integrity of the load-bearing structure.

The size of a door is also governed by the architectural scheme of the built mass and its relation with the surroundings. Fort gates and other gateways have not only large doors but also have elaborate structures like abutments, ramparts, bulwarks, bastions, bastilles, battlements, belvederes (Chhatri), buttress, campaniles (bell towers). (for more see chapter 4.4 Opening Systems : Gates).

PROPORTIONS: Traditionally doors have had a vertical form. The vertical rectangular form makes the opening taller then its width. It reduces the load on the hanging devices such as hinge or pivot, and so easy to open. The smaller width doors are technologically more efficient to construct and operate. Doors with two shutters divide the door further, and create a narrower version. The widths are decided primarily on functional passage needs, but heights above human head level (or with head loads) are extravagance. Sliding doors have easier handling if are wider then their heights. Proportions of doors relate to the architectural design, and so are the proportion of doors. Most common set of proportions (Width: Height) have been: Two squares 1: 2, or Golden proportion 1:1.61.

Some famous doors are: Treasury of Atreus, Mycenae 9'-0” x 18'-0", Parthenon, Rome 0'-0" x 24'-2", Erechtheion, Athens 8'-0" x 17'-2", S. Martin, Worms 5'-8" x 11'-3", Palazzo Pietro Massimi, Rome, main entrance door 6'-10" x 13'-8",

WIDTH: Width of a door determines the density of traffic and the size of articles that can pass through it. Height of a door is determined by the architectural requirements, but width of a door is in proportion to its height. Actual width or width of passage is less for door openings set with architectural door surrounds, compared to wood framed and hinged doors. Pivots other than at the extreme corner of a shutter restrict the nett opening available.

In modern times, as a social concern, it is essential to provide doors widths suitable for disabled persons, using walking sticks, crutch, a walker, a wheel chair, stretcher or assisted by others. Width of a door for, toilet, elevators, closets, store rooms, change rooms, and such other lone user utilities are considered more critical for such users. Simple sliding doors allow very exact control over the width of opening. Automatic sliding doors such as for elevators and for entrances of public buildings open to width governed by the density and frequency of traffic. Revolving doors have optimum opening size to maintain the air lock and prevent anyone forcing a reverse movement. Folding shutter doors allow incremental width of the opening. Garage doors sliding up were deiced to get a maximum width of opening

HEIGHT: Height of a door is checked for three parameters: the height available within the opening, the height of the door head, and the height of the threshold. The actual passage height of a door is affected by the level of terrain immediately inside and outside the door. Low level doors have been used to reduce the heat gain or loss (e.g. igloos), the storm water (e.g. sea front warehouses in America).

A threshold protects the interior from dust, rain or snow storms, however a taller threshold reduces the door passage height. A high threshold makes a door little less functional for entry-exit, and takes it closer to the identity of a window. French windows are only high threshold doors.

Egyptian temples had very tall openings, the lower section was shuttered and the upper section was a window like opening. Gothic churches had upper section of the door converted into a rose window. Very tall doors, unless required for passages are turned into transom lites. Very tall doors require a visual correction. Romans constructed tall doors with a wider base and narrower top.       DOOR : FUNCTIONAL SIZES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: door design primary factors / ergonomic factors / new opening systems / dimensions for door design / ISO preferences for modular design / architectural entities / multiples of 100 mm /FUNCTIONAL WIDTH / stretchers / fowler beds / FUNCTIONAL HEIGHT / anthropometrics.


For door design primary factors considered are comfortable passage, safety and universal application and usage. Ergonomic factors also determine the location and operations of various utilities such as latches, handles, door stops etc. Physiological factors for door design are: preferences such as left or right handed or footed, counter or clockwise movements, angle of vision, reach of various limbs, kinaesthesis, sensorial aspects, grips, etc. These issues are often taken for granted because doors have been with us for ages. However, to devise new opening systems one may need to have fresh look at such design considerations.

Many national and International standards have specified dimensions for door design. One of the prime dimensioning systems is the ISO preferences for modular design: for architectural entities the modular size is 100 x : which translates into door sizes in multiples of 100 mm.

FUNCTIONAL WIDTH: i.e. Passage width + the side jambs, structural members or other obstructions, are:

700 mm > This width is used for services areas, toilets, etc. provided disabled and aged persons, requiring accompanying help, are not going to use it (by provision of other options). Such a door size will have very small thickness of framing, etc. as the actual opening will barely meet the ergonomics norms> 619 mm for entry (see 8 below).

800 mm > This width is used for services areas, toilets, etc. provided disabled and aged persons, requiring accompanying help, are not going to use it (by provision of other options). Such a door size will allow reasonable thickness for framing, etc. With Aluminium section framing or no framing (pivot or sliding doors) it can be used for office cabins, bedrooms etc.

900 mm > This is a width very commonly used for bedrooms and office cabins (with a hydraulic door closer) public toilets and services areas. It can be used by disabled with wheel chair or stick, and aged persons requiring accompanying help. The door width allows cabinets, almirahs, refrigerators, washing machines and study tables.

1000 mm > This width, is useful for people carrying a bag, as in transport stations and shopping centres. It is also used for main doors (to allow large size furniture) and for offices (with a floor level hydraulic door closer). Hospitals’ rooms require such a size for movement of stretchers.

1100/1200 mm > This width is useful for dual traffic (simultaneous entry-exit) as between restaurant kitchen-pantry-dining area. Hospitals’ treatment rooms require such a size for movement of fowler beds.

FUNCTIONAL HEIGHT: i.e. Passage height + threshold + door head, structural members or other obstructions like a door closer, are:

1800/1900 mm > This is a barely adequate size for passage (without framing deductions) as some exceptionally tall persons may have to stoop down (even if for fear of striking the head) to enter.

2000 mm > This is a height size that works for Indian ergonomics, but not for people of many other regions. It is a very common height in mass housing schemes.

2100/2200 mm > These are universal height sizes.

2300/2400 mm > These more used for warehouses (with head load entrance) and auto garages.

Anthropometrics: Users of a door have different levels of physique, abilities and abnormalities (disabilities). These are studied and standards are drawn. A higher percentile (95%) is used for height or width, so that maximum number of people use it comfortably and safely. But a public entity, to provide extra ordinary service may opt for the largest size. A lower percentile (5%) is preferred for reach so that most of the shorter height persons are also able to operate the handle, latches, stoppers, etc.

1           Height of Indian Male                                              @ 95 percentile 1751 mm

2           Height of Indian Female                                          @ 95 percentile 1615 mm

3           Height of common Indian (M+F)                              @ 95 percentile 1741 mm

4           Erect stature of common Indian (M+F)                     @ 95 percentile 1771 mm

5           Raised hand of common Indian (M+F)                      @ 95 percentile 2289 mm

6           Width of Indian Male                                               @ 95 percentile 619 mm

7           Width of Indian Female                                           @ 95 percentile 599 mm

8           Width of common Indian (M+F)                               @ 95 percentile 619 mm

9           Sideway width of Indian Male                                   @ 95 percentile 409 mm

10         Sideway width of Indian Female                               @ 95 percentile 439 mm

11         Sideway width of common Indian (M+F)                   @ 95 percentile 419 mm       DOOR OPENING’S : STRUCTURES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: load of upper structure / lintel-beams / corbelled / arch / pointed arch / transom lite / horseshoe shape / rubble or irregularly coursed masonry / door surrounds / wood frames / casings / arched openings for windows / upper parts of door openings / tympanum / Toran / inclined brackets / metaphysical entrance.


Doors openings have to carry the load of upper structure. Square headed doors had lintel-beams of wood or stone beams that spanned 2 to 3.5 mts. For larger spans the openings were corbelled. In spite of corbels the actual door remained square cornered. For very wide openings, masonry in arch forms was used. During the middle ages a variety of arches were used like: semicircular, elliptical, 2/3/4/5 centred, rampant, compound and interlaced and flat. Materials of arch construction were mainly stones and burnt bricks. Roman arched gateways were typically 4 to 7 mts. in the span, though in public buildings concrete arched vaults of very large spans were used. Pointed arches allowed spanning different widths yet remain within the required height. Pointed arched openings were bulged to increase the size of transom lite opening, and the lower or door level (i.e. below the arch spring line) section were narrowed. The resultant horseshoe shape was slightly gravity defiant and looked delicate, as in middle-east architecture.

Door head entities such as lintels, arches, etc. were supported on door surrounds, instead of the rubble or irregularly coursed masonry walls. The door surround was masonry framing against which the pivoted door shutters were abutted. However, Gothic period (and equivalent time in other cultures) saw well layered masonry and introduction of wood frames for fixing hinged doors. Wood door frames were non load bearing elements placed for ‘hanging’ the door shutter, and so were just minimal in size. Rest of the opening sides were covered with casings (a door side panelling).

The upper sections of the arched openings for windows were filled with traceries or i.e. pierced panels as a continuation of the pattern from lower section. However, in the upper parts of doors openings, a solid panel was inserted like a tympanum. The tympanum panel was a separate piece, usually placed over a lintel. So a Gothic opening had arch spanning the door portal, and an inset lintel spanning the door opening. The dual arrangement for support allowed the gothic door surround to have chamferred corners or have a serrated form.

In Gujarat and other parts of western India a stylized stone archway -Toran is placed. A Toran is a set of inclined brackets that additionally support the centre of the square headed beamed opening, and pass the load to columns. Toran acquired status equal to the threshold as a metaphysical entrance. The presence of a Toran marked the entrance. Decorative Toran of glass beads, glass tubes, embroidered cloth, flowers, leaves, coconuts, etc. are hung even today to signify a door during celebrations on auspicious occasions.       DOOR OPENINGS IN THICK AND THIN WALLS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: load-bearing / non load-bearing / outer, inner edges or anywhere in between / Byzantine openings / Romanesque architecture / deep-set opening / perceived size of the door / door portals / splayed or chamferred / Gothic buildings / flush-set doors / un-buttressed front walls / curtain wall glass buildings / revolving doors / butterfly doors / door level climate control devices.


Openings are set in various types of barriers, i.e. load-bearing and non load-bearing structures. Load bearing barriers or walls have certain depth. The doors are set either on the outer, inner edges or anywhere in between. The depth to which a door is set affects its architectural and functional qualities. Byzantine openings were set on the external face compared with Romanesque architecture where openings were deep-set or on the inner face.

A door placed deep-set or on interior face must open sideways for resting the shutter or outward but within the wall thickness. The deep-set opening gets a natural shading, but allows reduced amount of illumination. A door placed on the outer face offers a side wall for parking of the shutter. The door gets no natural shading and amount of illumination is curtailed.

Door openings set back in thick walls compress the perceived size of the door. To improve upon this aspect either door portals are added as opening’s treatments or openings’ sides splayed or chamferred. The angled side surface is further carved, fluted with ornate borders or architraves.

Walls of Gothic buildings became thinner due to the arrangement of flying buttresses and use of load bearing columns. The flush-set door allowed better view across and fuller distribution of light. But the same structural advantage was not available in case of un-buttressed front walls. The entrance doors of Gothic churches were deep set in thick walls but with serrated edges.

Modern curtain wall glass buildings have walls and doors of same thickness. The barrier and the opening both provide illumination and view. Boxed revolving doors or butterfly doors provided the functional depth to the opening. Door level climate control devices such as surface heaters, air curtain fans, floor level suctions and other electronic control devices serve the functions earlier offered by thick wall set door openings. (Also refer to Windows in thick and thin walls      DOORS AND VASTU SHASTRA

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: Canons and customs for building design / Vastu Shastra / ORIENTATION OF DOOR / Vijay dwar / Kuber dwar / Magar dwar / Yam dwar / back side / Bhunga houses / Chinese traditions / LOCATION OF DOOR / Sinha dwar / orientation and alignment / Utsang pravesh / Purnabahu pravesh -apasavya / turn to the right / Hinbahu pravesh -savya / turn to the left / Pratyakshya or Prushth bhanga pravesh / turn to the backside / Agni purana / centric doors / TOPOGRAPHY OF DOORS / level of threshold / Utarang / DOOR THRESHOLD / door passage / pedhi / MATERIALS FOR DOORS / Suprabheda / ELEMENTS OF DOOR / VASTU SHASTRA DOOR SCALE AND PROPORTIONS / Tala-mana / Angul / Ganya-mana / Hast / Tunga Ganya / Vistara Ganya / IDEAL WIDTH / GODS STATUES AND DOOR HEIGHT / position or siting for various gods / eye level of the statue / PLACEMENT OF A DOOR IN TERMS OF VEDHA / vedha or obstructions / Tal vedha / Kona vedha / Taalu vedha / Kapal or Shish vedha / Tula vedha / Dwar vedha / Metaphorical forms and deities / Dwarpal / Kshetrapal / Yaksha and Gandharva / Ganapati / Bhairav.


Canons and customs for building design have been formulated in many cultures. These inevitably and importantly relate to the door. According to Hindu canons for buildings, Vastu Shastra, a door is conceived to be the most important conditioner of our experiences of the space within and without. Vastu Shastra deals with doors in terms of: orientation, position, location, size, proportion, obstructions, surrounding elements, appendages, metaphorical meanings and mythologies.

ORIENTATION OF THE DOOR: The most preferred orientation is the East -the Vijay Dwar. Second choice is North -the Kuber Dwar. Third preference is West -Magar Dwar. A South-the Yam Dwar is considered unfortunate, and if unavoidable, must be placed off the central axis. Vastu Shastra treats the back side and South side as the same. Bhunga houses of Kutchh, Gujarat, though dominantly have South facing door.

According to the Chinese traditions a South door is preferred orientation for entrance opening. Neolithic-period houses were rectangular with a south-facing door. Zhou period settlements were also organized on a north-south axis. Houses from the Ming dynasty, show a tendency to face south. Houses built today, if space allows, are also built facing south.

LOCATION OF THE DOOR: An entrance door -Sinha Dwar to the house must preferably be on the front side of the estate. It is ideal, if the house door and the estate (compound) doors have the same orientation and alignment -Utsang Pravesh. However, one of the best arrangement for an entrance door and for visual security is to use the Purnabahu Pravesh -apasavya, in this case after entering an estate one has to turn to the right side to enter the house. Hinbahu Pravesh -Savya: In this case, after entering an estate one has to turn to the left to enter the house. Pratyakshya or Prushth bhanga Pravesh is one where after entering an estate one has to turn to the backside to enter the house. Hinbahu Pravesh is considered inappropriate, whereas, the Prushtha-bhang Pravesh is considered inauspicious. According to Agni Purana the door must always be on the centres of four sides, but never in the corners. But most other canons permit centric doors on good sides, i.e. East and North

Chinese courtyard houses have a main door that did not align with the estate entrance. One entered the house after turning a corner.

TOPOGRAPHY OF DOORS: Door threshold level has been given a great deal of importance. The level of a threshold should be higher than, both the front yard or room, and the room being entered into. Top level -door head: Utarang of all doors in one axial sequence, should be equal, but the level of the threshold and floor level of inner rooms should rise. In other words the inner most door (and by implication the innermost room) should be at a higher datum than the entrance room.

Steps (ramp or any such element that changes the level, colour or texture) must not be accommodated within the door-passage or doorway, in close front or back of it (immediately before or after). Steps should be as wide or wider then the door opening.

DOOR THRESHOLD: Dwar-shakha, Umara, Udumbara, Dehlij, Shankhavati: Important considerations for a door design are its size, proportion and the threshold. The essence of an entrance is in its threshold. A threshold marks a point of change. A door in level with the floor has no Maryada (restrain). It provides a definition -a Laxman-Rekha. A threshold is Dehlij, a border line, a slightly raised sill or obstruction at floor level, a moderate barrier which can be ‘prevailed over with due consequences’. A threshold is also a neutral zone. A person on the threshold seating or during the process of crossing is unreliable or unsettled, till one crosses either way. The doorway or the door passage in very thick walled structures is called a Pedhi -an alcove like area usually a place of rest or -the place for kotwal, chowkidar or caretaker. Before leaving fort, large estate or a temple precinct one must sit for few moments in the Pedhi to rest and contemplate, but cross the threshold without hesitation and never look backward.

MATERIALS FOR THE DOORS: Suprabheda recommends Gates (of public buildings) must be placed in all the four directions (Chatur Dwar or Chatur Dikshu). Eastern Door must be of Palash wood, Western door of Udumbara wood, Southern door of Aswattha wood and Northern door of Nyagrodha wood.

ELEMENTS OF DOOR: Dwar-shakha (jamb), Kavata (door panels), Dwar-sandhi (door joints), Phalaka (door plank), Kila-bhajana (bolt), Udumbara (threshold), Dwar Gopura (door tower or doorway), Dwar-Koshtha or Pedhi (the chamber within a doorway), Chitra Toran (drawn, for doors of Vaishyas), Patra Toran (made of plant leaves for doors of Sudra of) and Makara Toran (made of vessels for doors of temples and Brahmins).

VASTU SHASTRA DOOR SCALE AND PROPORTIONS: Two measurement scales are relevant for design of Door. Tala-mana (for sculpture) has the Angul (finger) as the basic unit for sculpture and fine-detailed work. Ganya-mana (for building) has the Hast (hand or arm) as the basic unit. Vertical measurements follow Tunga Ganya scale, and Horizontal measurements are derived from Vistara Ganya scale.

IDEAL WIDTH: Width : Height ratios for a door according to Vastu Shastra are: 9 : 16, 2 : 3 or 1 : 2. Door height should be at least 2/3 of the room height. Doors situated on an axis must maintain the axial alignment. The entrance (first) door must be larger in size compared to the next or the following doors. However, door head level must be maintained and the inner floor level should be slightly at an upper datum.

GODS STATUES AND DOOR HEIGHT: In a temple the position or siting for various gods (statues) follows certain regimen. The eye level of the statue is positioned matching the door height. For this, a door gap is divided into eight vertical sections. The top 1/8 section is left free for Gandharva, Rakshash and Yaksha. The remaining lower seven sections have been assigned to various types of gods. Typically Shiv is placed at the bottom section.

PLACEMENT OF A DOOR IN TERMS OF VEDHA: Doors should preferably be of 2 leaves. Vastu Shastra mentions many types of Vedha or obstructions against a door.

Tal Vedha includes elements like uneven land, Kumbha of oil seed crushing plant, neighbours drinking water storage area, etc.

Kona Vedha occurs with uneven angles of plot or house.

Taalu Vedha is caused by beams of uneven heights, a miss-match pattern

Kapal or Shish Vedha is caused by a beam crossing the door path. Stambha Vedha is formed by a column or well or any such obstruction in the axis of a door.

Tula Vedha develops when beams or columns are not aligned with doors’ position.

Dwar Vedha occurs with a tree, well or such other elements in front of a door but within twice the height of building, or due to front or back of a temple but without a public street in between. It also occurs due to mismatched axial placement of doors.

Metaphorical forms and deities are assigned to doors. These include a Dwarpal (bearer or keeper of the door) and Kshetrapal (the commanding deity of the Kshetra -field). These are placed as a direct representation like statuettes or symbolically, at the lower level in the door way. Yaksha and Gandharva are placed on the top side corners of the main door. Ganapati is the prime deity to be worshipped in any ceremony, so is placed, at the top centre of an opening and/or below the statue of the main deity. Bhairav is placed on a door side. (For Chinese and other mythological associations ref to: Door myths and legends)       FUNCTIONS OF DOORS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: prime openings / control many things simultaneously / attached layers / detached layers / sequential placement of doors / ganged doors.


Doors are the prime openings in spite of development of other opening systems such as windows, skylights, and curtain wall systems. A door besides serving the function of entry and exit, is a source of illumination and ventilation. Doors as an element of transit regulates the passage so provide safety and security. Doors also control the passage of energy through their body-material and configuration. Doors when open or if latticed or glazed allow vision in or out, and so become important element for visual linkage between spaces.

Doors are required to control many things simultaneously. No single size, location, or type can satisfy all the demands, and so doors are composed of several attached layers (for example cushioned doors for sound proofing) or detached layers (Jali door or curtain over the entrance door). Sequential placements of doors create a step by step filter as in chambers of Shaolin or in pharmaceutical plants. Ganged doors distribute the traffic into small controllable segments (railway platforms, air ports, public building foyers).

Following functions are discussed:

Sub-index for chapter FUNCTIONS OF DOORS Illumination Ventilation Passage and Control Safety and Security Insulation View through Other Issues      ILLUMINATION

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)

Keywords: level and direction of illumination / Control of illumination / lattice or glazing / depth of the door / exterior and interior components and fields / orienting the door / siting of activities / EXTERNAL DOOR / Sky Component or SC / Externally Reflected Component or ERC / Internally Reflected Component or IRC / INTERNAL DOOR / ‘borrowed’ illumination / Internal door like situation / louvres / DOOR ORIENTATION / consistent level of illumination / Eastern entrances / Western entrance doors / taller door / wider door / transom window / rose window / side lites / within the door lattices / solar radiation through a door.


In all climates, geographic locations and cultures, a door is a major, preferred and often the only source of illumination. The degree of shutter being opened or closed provides easiest control over both the level and direction of illumination. Besides this, the shutter in the form of a lattice, glazing, louvres, windowing etc., provides other options for illumination control. The shape and scale of the opening such as tall, wide, large, small, flush or deep set, etc. offer other means of administering the illumination. In tropical houses the door area is the chief activity zone of the house. It allows safety of indoors and illumination of outdoors.

Control of illumination through a door is availed of:

1        by adjusting the size and shape of the gap on opening the shutter,

2        by providing lattice or glazing within the main shutter or by providing additional shutters for such options,

3        by increasing or decreasing the depth of the door and by shaping the sides of the opening (chamfer corners or splaying),

4        by defining the exterior and interior components and fields near the door to adjust the Sky Component -SC and Externally Reflected Component -ERC.

5        by orienting the door and siting of activities.

EXTERNAL DOOR: The external door of an enclosed space is very relevant for illumination and ventilation. The illumination is substantially determined by the Sky Component or SC, which checks the light reflected from the sky directly into a room. Any overhang or side projection reduces the sky component. The other major factor is the Externally Reflected Component or ERC. ERC depends on the quality of the surface (texture), colours, reflectivity of the foreground and other side areas (side walls). The third important factor is the Internally Reflected Component or IRC. It consists of light reflected from the internal surfaces of the room. Adjustment of IRC is very helpful in controlling the glare through the open door (Glare is the high difference of light between the opening and its surrounding surfaces). The depth of the door affects the sky component SC and so the illumination. To enhance the illumination, thick walls around the door opening are burrowed (as in Gothic buildings) by serration, fluting or chamferring, to increase the width.

INTERNAL DOOR: The internal Door is not very useful for illumination, unless the other side of the door (room, passage, etc.) can contribute some reflected illumination. Such ‘borrowed’ illumination may be sufficient for ‘passive’ activities or less used areas like stairs, passageways, etc. However, in hot arid climate and coastal areas like the Mediterranean or Kerala, where external brightness is very high, an external door may bring in radiant heat along with light. This is controlled by placing doors in verandahs or with deep awnings. An internal door like a situation is created by many other means. Doors with louvres are widely used in Mediterranean climates to reduce the brightness and glare. Deep-set doors are also created by placing doors on the inner edge of a thick wall (where possible) or by creating deep portals. A deep-set door has a natural protection against inclement weather.

DOOR ORIENTATION: Door orientation has a direct bearing on the level of illumination. In early Egypt the Sun god was revered and the main doors of temples were East facing. The East and West have been prime directions for illumination in many historical buildings, however, with the ascent of the clear storey openings the importance of a door as the chief illumination provider has decreased. North and South doors have high inclination of the sun, so horizontal penetration of illumination is not very deep, but these two sides (depending on the N or S hemisphere) have consistent level of illumination.

Early Church buildings had Eastern entrances to illuminate the altar from front, but an altar with a back glass lit windows (Eastern) proved to be a better alternative, and gradually churches began to have Western entrance doors.

SIZE OF A DOOR: The size of a door has a direct relationship with the level of illumination. A taller door is more effective then a wider door in illuminating deep interiors. Monumental buildings have tall doors not just for architectural grandeur, but the upper section of the door opening provided the deep illumination during a crowded ceremonial function. In Egyptian temples the upper section of the door was supposed to bring in the Sun god with the first rays of rising sun. The tall door was unmanageable for shutter mechanisms and useless as a passage. The upper section was either left without a shutter or latticed to form a ‘transom window’. It was more practicable to leave a transom window or a rose window than load a wall over the door lintel.

The illumination through a door is enhanced by providing side lites or sidelight and ‘within the door’ lattices. Greek buildings had panelled doors that were partly latticed in the upper sections, or had additional latticed shutters. Side lights or side windows decrease the size of the door shutter and reduce the structural span of the lintel, but increase the perceptive width of the opening.

Illumination through a door invariably accompanies radiation. The solar radiation through a door varies depending on the geographical location, orientation, time of the day, shading devices, nature of the foreground and surroundings, etc.      VENTILATION

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)

Keywords: ventilation in primal buildings / optimal opening / ventilation needs / air change / outside conditions / high sill level opening systems / smaller opening / leakage zone / entry-exit points / narrow width door opening / optimum opening size / speed of opening or closing / width / synchronized dual door system / air locking system / air curtain fans / revolving doors / louvered opening / adjustable louvered shutters / gasket and joint masking system.


A door is a major and often the only source of ventilation in many buildings, but a door remains open during day time and in good weather only. Ventilation in such primal buildings during rains and storms (rain, snow or dust) and during night hours is achieved by other means, such as by roof level ventilating holes, permeation through thatched roofs or walls, or through loose fitting doors.

For ventilation most building approval agencies specify an optimum opening of 8% of the floor area for a fully enclosed (room with both a roof and walls) space. Micro openings like roof holes, cracks and other crevices, if any, add to ventilation for the enclosed space. Country tiled and thatched roofs, woven mat walls, and upper level holes also provide additional ventilation capacity. An optimal size door, for passage by a human 700 x 2000 = 1.4 sq. mt (15 sq. ft) has sufficient ventilation capacity to serve a room space of 17.5 sq. mt (190 sq. ft), @ 8 % of floor area.

Ventilation needs are greater for rooms:

                  that use larger volume of oxygen such as occupied by large number human occupants or animals, or being used for intensive physical work such as gymnasiums, workshops, etc.

                  that generates noxious gases including carbon dioxide such as in food and other chemical processing areas,

                  that produce large volume of heat such as in kitchens and foundries,

                  that output moisture such as bathing, washing or ironing areas.

Greater amounts of air-change from an enclosed space dilute the pollutants, foul air and latent heat. Inversely lesser ventilation helps conserve heat. Tall doors add to the ventilation capacity and low doors curtail the air movement, as in case of igloos.

A door as a ventilation system works better in conjunction with another opening, provided outside conditions support it: such as air pressure and temperature difference across the openings and prevalent air movement conditions outside the door. In warm and humid climates a door allows a floor level draught so it is preferred to many other high sill level opening systems like windows, clerestory openings, roof holes, etc. However, such an arrangement could be a disadvantage in many colder regions. In hot-arid climates, a smaller opening is preferred for cutting down the radiation, but not over the advantages that a door nominally offers in-terms of illumination and ventilation, (e.g. Bhunga houses of Kutchh, Gujarat and mud houses of Rajasthan).

A door is also a major leakage zone in many process areas like electronics assembly, pharmaceutical plants and medical operation theatres. For such spaces as a prime effort number of doors or entry-exit points are reduced. Shaped doors reduce air leakage. Warehouses have narrow width door opening in upper section for bearing columns of forklift or gantry girder trolley. Other strategies include doors of optimum opening size (height and width). The speed of door opening or closing is made quicker by automation. Synchronised dual doors’ system (only one of the two doors remains open at a time) with a passage in between is very traditional air locking system. Air curtain fans that cascade a flow of air over the door opening, are also used. Revolving doors with 3 or 4 leaves are common features in lobbies of multi storey buildings.

Openings in very heavy wind areas such as mountain slopes or sea coast regions have very fine latticed door shutters to reduce the breeze velocity entering the enclosed area. Water fountains close to the opening, cascading water over the door or over Khus mats mounted on door gap help add moisture to the room.

For toilets, change rooms, storage areas are provided with louvered opening in the lower section of the shutter to provide some air change. Adjustable louvered shutters for doors in galleries are very common in Mediterranean climates.

Ventilation or leakage through a door is curtailed to save on energy of heating. The door openings are provided with complex gasket and joint masking system.       PASSAGE AND CONTROL

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)


Keywords: Passage and control / natural control systems / contrived control systems / make-believe control system / PASSAGE THROUGH DOOR / nominal passage / normal posture / extra effort / non routine passage / short duration / depth of passage / straight passage / twisted or askew passages / stepped floors / rotating doors / air seal / dual synchronous doors / intervening passage / environmental integrity / simultaneous entry and exit / a person carrying a child or handbag / for couples / narrower at lower level / wider at upper level / side hung and pivoted door shutters / passenger elevators / warehouse elevators / garage doors / facing body / sideways body / allowable opening / density of traffic / grouped or ganged doors / EGRESS / egress specifications / PLANNING FOR DISABLED / passage width of a corridor / revolving doors / exit doors for fire and other emergencies / security checkpoints / invisible door / difference between a door and window / functional division / distinct identification / environmentally varied / doors and windows are merged / doors and windows are merged.


The size, shape and configuration of the gap, the shutter and other control systems define the nature of passage and controls over it. Passage and control through a door is natural, contrived or make-believe. Natural control systems form due to the size, shape, configuration and setting (context) of the opening. Contrived control systems function as on add-on devices triggered by programmed logic or other decision making processes (e.g. fuzzy logic). Make-believe control system are unreal but their effects genuine or substantial (a ‘do not enter’ or ‘danger beyond’ signs may stop many attempts).

PASSAGE THROUGH DOOR: The size of the door, the height and width of the opening acts as a cutoff for entry of over sized things. The nominal passage is one where a person, animal or goods make an entry in the usual position, least effort and routinely. Entry to an Igloos or tent is not in a normal posture. A hatch door requires a little extra effort to transit. Similarly an emergency exit may not be of nominal size as it is intended to be a non routine passage. The unusual posture and the extra effort are usually for very short duration, except in openings where the depth of the passage is stretched.

The configuration of the passage before, through and just beyond the opening (nature of surrounding terrains) affects the nature of passage physically as well as psychologically. A straight passage is easy to negotiate, but twisted or askew passages, sloped or stepped floors, moats, etc. have been used to control the passage through the door. The predictability or clarity of intentions also facilitates passage through the door. The visual scale and architectural treatment of the doorway, portal or the opening, help in organizing, the passage through the door.

Rotating doors allow only one or two persons to pass through while maintaining the air seal. Dual synchronous doors (when one is opened the other remains shut) with intervening passage such as in pharmaceutical and electronic plants help maintain the environmental integrity. In case of elevators, bus and railway carriages doors designed to be wide enough to allow simultaneous entry and exit. And in case of Airport field buses the doors are wider to allow a person carrying a child or hand bag, or often both. Restaurant doors are designed for couples to enter together. Restaurant kitchen doors, if single shutter, open both ways and if double shutters, marked for entry and exit. But the door gaps are wide enough to allow a waiter to pass through with food trays. Automobile doors are narrower at lower level (feet level) but wider at upper level (the seat level). Automobile doors are small in height, because one never passes through it in upright position. Japanese economic hotels have cubical (coffin) rooms with doors like an igloo to allow a person to slide in.

Side hung and pivoted door shutters opening inside or outside occupy space, which cannot be used for other purposes. Typically corridor abutting doors pose such a problem. Doors in such acute conditions are made to slide sideways or upward or downwards. Passenger elevators have doors sliding sideways, whereas warehouse elevators often have doors that slide up and down. Garage doors slide up to provide unhindered drive way.

The passage through a door if adequate, a person passes through ‘facing body’, but if narrower then one may have to pass through ‘sideways body’. The change of body position from facing to sideways to facing is not easy for infirm persons with olde age, carrying goods or children, etc.

The allowable opening is formed by the angle the door opens. At a very small angle of opening the passage becomes askew or zigzag. Sliding doors on the other hand allow a consistent straight passage in all widths of openings. Public buildings have electronic sensors over gates to adjust the opening size to match the density of traffic. Passage through doors is also controlled by placing a series of doors in a row -grouped or ganged doors, such as at airports, railway stations and multi storey buildings’ lounges. Such doors have specific width, usually allowing one person to pass through, but since there are many number of doors, lot of people transit through simultaneously.

EGRESS: Egress requirements for Entrance / Exit are governed by the applicable building code based on building use, occupancy load, and door type (swing, sliding or revolving). Egress specifications cover aspects like: minimum door height and width, maximum door shutter width, panic hardware, steps down dimensions to the exterior, requirements for threshold topography, door swing direction, illumination, operating force, signage, etc.

PLANNING FOR DISABLED: Doors’ shutters obstruct nominal passage width of a corridor. The door should open inwards, be sliding or fully opening sideways (with a parliament or similar hinges). In crisis all doors should open to their fullest possible opening size. Bye laws require revolving doors to fold flat in the direction of egress, and must have an additional out swinging doors in nearby location. Exit doors for fire and other emergencies must open out to a safer zone or an open area.

Passage through a door though mostly meant for humans, exclusive doors for dogs and such other pets are designed. Passage through doors is curbed by high sill or thresholds. Indian temples have a high threshold to exclude the ominous spirits.

Doors are security checkpoints or often the security check nodes operate like an invisible door. The security node requires certain speed of passage, which are achieved various speed regulating devices. The security nodes have marks, which by themselves denote an allowable opening -a door.

The real difference between a door and window is in terms of transit or entry exit only, so doors are placed for accessible terrain and windows for the non accessible terrain across. Doors could occur across a space that needs a functional division or distinct identification, whereas a window usually occurs across a space required to be environmentally varied.

In modern architectural paradigm doors and windows are merged or created with a uniform vocabulary such as curtain-wall structures, shop fronts, etc. Sometimes corridors, passages, and transit spaces are so designed that they take over many functions of the door system.       SAFETY AND SECURITY

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)


Keywords: transit zone / safety measures / security strategies / DOOR SAFETY / openings related hazards / door and shutter related accidents / door mechanisms / hardware / OPENING RELATED HAZARDS / adequate passage width / insufficient width / generous width / fire and disaster emergency exit / blind shutters / DOOR AND SHUTTER RELATED ACCIDENTS / speed of closing-opening / closing of shutters / banging noise and vibrations / very wide shutters / infirm persons / very narrow shutters / glass doors without any framing / DOOR MECHANISMS AND HARDWARE RELATED HAZARDS / pinching or crushing injuries / sharp edges / door catch / buffered door catch / lining with gasket / automatic doors / thresholds, floor drops or risers / colour or texture difference / DOOR SECURITY / intruder / other ‘soft’ points / high speed winds, rain storms, birds and insects / forcing an entry / fire or accident / caution the users / strength of a door system / security perception of a door / fewer doors / adequate emergency exits / holistic terms / well planned and managed community / community surveillance system / domain or bastion with single entry / integrated security surveillance systems / method of building management.


An opening system is a frequently used and very important transit zone, so must serve the designed functions, any failures on these counts often have hazardous consequences. Safety measures are predefined strategies for managing the hazards. A door is considered a prime and ‘soft’ target for break-in by an intruder due to its weaker construction then the barrier system within which it is set, and due to its strategic location. Door security strategies help correct such conditions.

DOOR SAFETY: Door safety relates to two major aspects: Openings related hazards and door and shutter-related accidents. The opening related hazards relate to nature of opening such as location, size, configurations, passages way, usage etc. Opening related hazards also arise due because other side of the opening is unfamiliar or less controlled. The door and shutter related accidents concern to door mechanisms and hardware.

OPENING RELATED HAZARDS: Adequate passage width for transit is very important. An insufficient width retards the speed, or even makes it difficult or impossible to transit through. A very generous width fails to enforce the discipline in transit. Instead of a wide door, multiple (ganged) doors are used for entry and for an emergency exit in public buildings. Doors to safety areas like bombing shelters must be carefully small sized for increasing resistance to blast pressures. Door shutters for a fire and disaster emergency exit must open outward to a street or safer zone. Similarly shutters opening into a corridor or passage are hazardous. Blind shutters, one without a view window or aperture can open out over an entrant. Separate openings or channels are required for each category of traffic, such as people, service staff, equipment, animals etc.

DOOR AND SHUTTER RELATED ACCIDENTS: The speed of closing-opening of the door is controlled by the user. However, for automatic closing-opening of doors and for doors aided by situational conditions (closing towards gravity, pushed by forces like a gush of wind, vibrations, etc.) the speed of closing needs to be governed. Closing of shutters with mechanical, hydraulic or other door closing mechanism, if too rapid can injure an entrant, and when too slow it allows environmental leakage. An automatic door closer (kinetic or spring loaded, pneumatic, hydraulic, magnetic) has special mechanisms to retard the speed of closing in the final stages or moments. Similarly sliding doors in elevators and transport vehicles recognise not only any obstruction in the path but also any imminent obstacles. Sliding downward shutters have mechanisms to (drop) shut very softly in the final stage. Very fast closing causes banging noise and vibrations in certain conditions.

Very wide shutters have an opening gap larger then 800 / 900, the mandatary width of passage necessary for infirm persons. Very wide doors are easy to shut as extra length or leverage is available. However, infirm persons cannot move own body, the wheelchair or the crutches to such a wide arc nor reach out to hold the handle at the edge. Very narrow shutters -less the 550, require a person to turn sideways during the passage, an act difficult for infirm people.

Glass doors without any framing are often invisible and pose the risk of unintentional collision. Their presence must be made conspicuous by means of graphics or hardware fixed to the door’s surface.

DOOR MECHANISMS AND HARDWARE RELATED HAZARDS: The accessibility regulations relate to use of door systems by persons physical disabilities to use it safely, comfortably, with dignity and as much as possible independently.

Pinching or crushing injuries of the hand occur due to sudden closing of the shutter, more at jamb level then the head and threshold levels. Sharp edges over handles, stoppers, etc. are hazardous. Insufficient space between the door handle and jamb face injures knuckles of the hand. Doors’ catches are essential to prevent door closing due to wind and vibrations. Doors create a banging noise on striking a wall while opening and the jamb while closing. In the first case buffered door catch or lining with a gasket can prevent the noise.

‘It is essential that children's fingers be protected from being crushed or otherwise injured in the hinge space of a swinging door or gate. There are simple devices available to be attached to the hinge side to ensure that as the door closes, the hand is pushed out of the opening, away from harm’.

Automatic doors require special measures to prevent injuries. Motorized sliding, revolving and rolling doors and security grates require a safety system that on encountering an obstruction reverse the direction of door movement. This prevents injuries from pinching or crushing. Elevators have built in a mechanism that will not permit it move unless doors have been properly closed. New bye-laws do not permit latticed doors for elevators.

Thresholds, floor drops or risers must be surmountable by the disabled person in a wheel chair and with crutches. The optimum limit for threshold height is 12. Just near the door opening any colour or texture difference across a floor, preferably be aligned with the door.

DOOR SECURITY: A door is a prime target for an intruder for two reasons: a door is the entrance to a building, so a break-in here equals to capturing the building; and the door (entrance, back or any other exterior door) is a node where other interior openings (of rooms, stairs etc.) verge, and for the intruder it becomes easier to spread out from here. However, buildings have many other ‘soft’ points for easier intrusion, like windows, thin walls, weak roofing, etc.

Door security also relates to integrity of the door against entry of high speed winds, rain storms, birds and insects, etc. Security also relates to forcing an entry to save lives. A very strong door virtually unbreakable or impenetrable can pose equally a large problem in case of a disaster. Similarly a toughened glass door is difficult to break during fire or accident.

There is a tendency to caution the users for the security risks and hazards a door system could have, through signs, signage and other forms of alarm systems. But it is always ‘better to reduce the risks, do away with the hazards through design than warnings’.

The strength of a door system derives from: its location, size, composition, materials of construction, the support framing and the nature of basic hardware and additional safety appendages.

Security perception of a door varies from one situation to another. A door visible from a street, such as set flush with the wall surface is less a security risk than the one set back in a niche. Doors supported on all sides (e.g. a hatch door) are stronger then supported on one or two sides (e.g. sliding doors). Doors opening both ways are stopped by the hardware and are poorly secured (e.g. pivoted doors). A transparent (or see through) door of ordinary glass is a security risk being a see-through and breakable. An intruder prejudges the entry but also remains fearful that someone can see from the outside. Malls, stores have glass doors to make the interiors visible and so safe. Fewer door makes a building safer but adequate emergency exits must be provided.

Door security is now considered in more holistic terms. A well planned and managed community provides better security then the strongest door system. Electronic and other surveillance systems can eliminate the need for heavy doors.

Community surveillance systems if a community or a building is safe, its units (offices, residences, etc.) may not require strong individual security arrangements. Community security system consists of organising units of a building and sub units within each unit as a domain or bastion with single entry. Several buildings within a community form a precinct, though not bounded by walls but one that can be patrolled circumferentially. Many colonies discourage erection of high compound walls or hedges, so that individual units remain visible by other members. Yet in case of a complete blackout or during riots some form of security is necessary.

Integrated security surveillance systems solve many of the individual security issues. It works on observation of oddities, recording it for post analysis, warnings, activating the multiple precautionary measures (cutting of exists, power cuts, sprinklers, etc.) Such security systems are part of both the door and the opening system, or even spread across a building. An integrated security system is not an appended system but rather designed and compounded with the building’s structure and functions as a unified method of building management. The system to be successful requires coordinated working of many different agencies. An individual user cannot hope to install and operate such a system, but must contract out such a service.      INSULATION

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)


Keywords: regulating the transmission of energy / Insulation qualities / sound and heat / better insulation capacity then the wall / leakages / SOUND INSULATION / background noise / select range of sound frequencies / sound attenuation / sound privacy / doors with an absorbent surface / surrounding areas / doors with very thin body / mass increasing treatments / transmission of physical vibrations / isolating the door / door rattling / THERMAL FUNCTIONS / Thermal Performance / heat gain or loss / outside-inside temperatures / nature of door operation / fast opening or closing / very slow shutting / swinging shutters / sliding shutters / revolving doors / air curtains / colour, texture and the latent heat capacity / radiate heat immediately / black coloured elements / Thermal Insulation / heat conduction / radiant heat / black coloured frames / Thermal Leakage / conduction / frequently used entrance and exit doors / revolving doors / air curtains / entrance vestibules with separate entry and exit doors / Moisture protection / storm water penetration / condensation resistance / inward-opening doors / storm water sprays / outward-opening doors / air penetration in hurricanes / deep-set doors / threshold / resilient gaskets / thermal packing.


Insulation relates to regulating the transmission of energy, thorough a door frame, shutter section and reflection off the surface. Insulation qualities of a door are checked on main two counts: sound and heat. Doors are normally expected to have slightly better insulation capacity then the wall within which they occur. However, the leakages through crevices, and gaps remaining at the junction with jambs, heads and at the floor level can often be more then the designed superior insulation qualities across the door section.

SOUND INSULATION: The sound transmission can occur in either of the directions (interior to another interior, interior to exterior, or vice versa) depending on the scale difference of sound level. A noisy exterior can disturb a very quiet interior and a noisy interior activity can disturb the neighbours. However, a little interior noise or background noises can balance the sound intrusion from outside and make the situation bearable. If doors are not properly sound proofed, important information can leak out of executive office doors, even at nominal voice level. On the other hand a telephone booth must cut off road noise without a full enclosure. Mobile telephone units rely on select range of sound frequencies for the pick-up and output sound for clarity.

Sound attenuation through doors can be improved by primarily by increasing the mass of the frames and sash, improving the airtightness of the glazing, sash-to-frame and frame-to-perimeter joints, placing sound-absorptive materials at the perimeter of the doors, single or homogenous material structure of the shutter, double shutter arrangement, an extra layer of sound absorbent material on the noisier side (such as cushioning, curtains), and avoiding tapering side walls or ceiling verging over the door. Other means of achieving sound privacy is to place a door away and in indirect position from the sound generating spot, adding extra noise near the door, reduce the reverberation by acoustic treatment around the door and in the interior space.

Doors with an absorbent surface reduce the transmission of sound across the door mass. Conference rooms, private rooms, recording studios have ‘cushioned’ or absorbent treatment on the door, or are provided with double shutter doors. Glass doors have thin mass, and cannot take additional insulation or ‘anti-transmission’ treatments. In such a situation, the surrounding areas such as the door portal, niche, the near by floor or ceiling have such treatments.

Doors with very thin body such as made of thin sheets and hung or supported inadequately vibrate due to physical movement and sound. Thin body door shutters can have mass increasing treatments, such as: thicker coating, additional lamination or bracing. Transmission of physical vibrations can be stopped by isolating the door through gasket and shock absorbers. Door rattling can also be stopped by having multiple smaller shutters in place of a large single shutter.


THERMAL FUNCTIONS: Doors have three major issues:

1        Thermal performance

2        Thermal insulation

3        Thermal leakages.

Thermal Performance: This not an exclusive mark. It results from a complex set of factors such as: nature of the surroundings, the layout of the building, the position and orientation of the door, solar inclination, opening protection systems (chhajjas, awnings, weather sheds), air movement near and through the door, nature of door operation (e.g. swinging, sliding, revolving), heat loss-gain during opening-closing operations.

A door’s thermal performance is measured in terms of heat gain or loss. The heat gain or loss occurs mainly due to the difference between outside-inside temperatures, which causes air currents. The temperature gradients are steeper in extreme climates, high pressure zones, with specific types of building and where there are counter openings or cross air leakage zones.

Outside air rushes in or interior air escapes out nearly simultaneously, affecting the temperature of the interior space. The heat gain or loss is affected by the nature of door operation. Fast opening or closing shutters disturb the air causing unusual currents, whereas very slow shutting shutters allow transfer of air. Swinging shutters (pivoted or hinged) displace substantial volume of air compared to sliding shutters. Revolving doors encased in an ‘air-locking’ module however do not displace air mass. Air curtains also act as a barrier between outside and interior space.

The thermal performance of a door is affected by the shutters shape, construction and materials. The colour, texture and the latent heat capacity of the door shutter affect its thermal performance. Industrial rolling shutters are thin body doors and radiate heat immediately on exposure to sun rays and warm outside atmosphere. Heat absorption by black coloured elements is very high and must be avoided.

Thermal Insulation: Doors absorb incident heat and radiate it to the interior (or exterior) if the door frame or shutter is of heat conductive material. Heat conduction is a function of mass of the material and its thickness. Glass shutters are worst performers. Radiant heat can be reflected back or filtered out to an extent by use of coating or polyester film cover. Heat loss-gain occurs from mild steel and aluminum sections of door frames. ‘Black coloured frames often conduct more heat to the interior space than the glazing of the door shutter’.

Thermal Leakage: Thermal leakage from openings like doors occurs through conduction across the door elements and the surfaces, and with air movement through the door and through material joints and component junctions. Heat loss-gain from air leakage is the most significant challenge for frequently used entrance and exit doors.

Several strategies to limit air loss and improve thermal performance are used: Revolving doors minimize heating and cooling losses from air movement. A revolving door remains shut most of the time and functions better for interior climate control. Air curtains provide a barrier of fast-moving warm air that limits penetration or leakage of air even while the door is open. Air curtains are frequently used with sliding doors in public spaces such as departmental stores, auditoria, and industrial plants. Entrance vestibules with separate entry and exit doors provide improved energy performance over a single entrance door, mainly by limiting loss of conditioned air during the door operation.

Moisture protection: It is checked for storm water penetration and the condensation resistance. Inward-opening doors resist storm water sprays better than outward-opening doors. The opposite is true for air penetration in hurricanes, because the exterior positive wind pressures compresses the door shutter against the frame. Deep-set doors, such as in alcoves, niches, and under awnings or weather sheds are well sheltered. The water resistance of doors can be improved by providing a taller threshold, but with the danger of hindering smooth passage. Aluminum and plastic extruded sections have fine grooves (unavailable with wood sections) to house resilient gaskets, and so increase the water resistance capacity manifold. In colder climates hollow door frames without adequate thermal packing lead to wintertime condensation. At macro level water resistence is improved by designing drip moulds, sloping and anti splashing sections for ledges, sills and door head bottoms, encasing by moulding and architraves, using mastic compounds over joints and by using non-drying (ever green or perma-soft) putties for glass fixing.      VIEW THROUGH

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)

Keywords: connects spaces / double sided entity / ground plane / visual link / open door / Janus / inside to outward / outside to inward / contrast of dark and light / dynamically scales the door size and shape / interior side / exterior side / during daytime / during twilight hours / nightfall / open door / shut door / frames the view / foreground / ground plane / shape of the door / rectangular door / Gothic cathedrals / twin doors / multiple doors / door heads / architectural treatments / the head level of a door / taller door / upper section of a door / transom lite, rose window or tympanum / depth of opening / field of vision / wall facing the main door / pol houses / Muslim houses / turnstile or thin bar as door / Indian temples / eye sight line / free of obstruction / blind shutters / aperture, view windows or lite / peepholes and security holes / latticed door / fixed or rotating louvres / hinged or sliding window shutters / Glass / fuzzy view / white painting of the openings / glazed doors / white glass doors / laced fabric white curtains / see-through doors / Venetian blinds.


A door connects spaces more effectively compared to a window where the high sill level blocks the access and discourages the flow. A door is a double-sided entity for passage and so the floor seems to flow through it both ways. The floor or the ground plane provides a continuous reference and strengthens the visual link between spaces, across an open door. In spite of all the hazards and the security risks, an open door is preferred, as it provides enlarged field and greater choices. An open door is a measure of social, cultural and political efficiency of a community. The temple doors of Janus, the mythological Roman god of gates, were kept open during war times so that he can connect with the people. Janus was always associated with some form of duality, depicted with two faces, like a door, looking in opposite directions.

A door is viewed from inside to outward and outside to inward. In both the cases the contexts of illumination level, background reference and comparative scales (of physical sizes) are different. The door as an opening system also frames the view and imposes its own regimen. It is the contrast of dark and light across the opening that dynamically scales the door size and shape.

From an interior side: An open door gap stands out against the extremely bright exterior. A small bright spot is viewed against a large shaded surface.

From an exterior side: The interior seen through the door gap is dark, and so contrasts, at least during day time, with a large, modulated or textured but highly a visible architectural surface. The door gap is framed by the bright doorway, door portal and the surrounding architectural mass. During twilight hours the illuminated interior is balanced against the fading exterior sunlight. By nightfall the interior stands out sparkling against the dull street.

An open door, during day time, from outside is just a recessed dark niche, but at night the same door opening begins to reveal the depth of the space. A shut door is a surface variation of colour and texture and occasionally architecturally modulated elements, standing on its own strength or merging into the larger entity, the building.

The door as an opening system frames the view by shaping, scaling, sub dividing, and filtering it. The door is seen at eye level, or up / down a level, but always with foreground leading to it and proceeding through it. The ground plane becomes the link for the transition.

The shape of the door openings has very strongly affected the view through it. A rectangular door, H:W = 1:2, has been the most common and proportionate shape for a door. A double shuttered door is symmetrical and is considered a classic entity. Gothic cathedrals have had twin doors with column support between them, but where multiple doors are required, the doors’ openings are in odd numbers such as 3 or 5.

Door heads are flat or rounded, pointed or ‘bulged’ arched. The shape is further moderated by architectural treatment and by other appendages, under the door head and over the sides or jambs. The architectural treatments include splaying the edges by chamferring, serrating, fluting, masking by casing, architraves and beading, adding masonry elements such as pilasters,

The appendages include pediments, eaves, brackets and Toran.

The head level of a door, if taller then the nominal height of usage, allows view of the sky from inside or greater view of interior including its ceiling from outside. Greater height also illuminates deeper section of the interior space. Taller doors were created for proportioning with architectural scheme or width of the door. Upper sections of door opening however were difficult for shutter fixing, so provided with transom lite, rose window or tympanum.

The depth of the opening affects the view through a door. A door (set on outer or inner face) in a deep gap restricts the field of vision. Historically this has corrected by splaying the edges or by increasing the size of the door portal manifold.

In Indian traditional one room houses the wall facing the main door is intensely decorated with utensils, photo-frames and other showpieces, as it receives the best illumination and immediate attention. In pol houses the brightness of the central chowk gets highlighted against the dark interior of the front room or ‘khadki’. In Muslim houses the view through the front door is baffled by a woven mat or curtain. Latticed doors have been used as secondary shutters for providing privacy. Greek temples had latticed door matching the architectural regimen of the building. Dutch doors though first conceived for horses’ stables, are now used for curtailing view in the lower section. Saloon shutters serve the same purpose for mid section privacy. Metro stations have turnstiles or thin bars as door for unrestricted view of the incoming or departing train.

In Indian temples the statues of gods are sited with their eyes levelled to a particular height zone within the door opening. Typically Shiva is placed low, often below the ‘threshold’ level, and forms of Vishnu are placed in the upper zone. The eye sight line of the statue is kept free of obstruction through the estate or precinct gate.

Blind shutters, i.e. a door without a view window is a hazard. Doors abutting a passage or corridor require an aperture, view window or lite of at least 75 width but optimally 200 wide, at eye sight level, centred generally between 1200 and 1600 from the floor. Such apertures are useful for observation of interiors and interior activities as in jails, hospitals, offices, etc. Peepholes and security holes are very small aperture hardware fitted either as a ‘talk through’ an open hole or with a magnifying view glass. These are now being replaced by electronic close circuit observation system (CCTV). Pol houses of Ahmedabad had a lattice in the floor just above the door to checkout the visitors. American colonial doors have side lites on one or both sides of the door.

Latticed Doors were used in Greek temples. Lattices were designed with geometric or floral forms and as a composition of a large single pattern or repeated units. Emphasis on horizontal, vertical, inclined or curvilinear lines was carefully planned. Door shutters with fixed or rotating louvres are used to restrict view. Doors with hinged or sliding window shutters also regulate the view. Partly covered latticed doors (mid, bottom or top sections) are used to selectively restrict the view. Pol houses, to cutoff view of street level movement, have no lattice in the lower section.

The Glass introduced a new quality of transparency and visual connectivity through a door. First glasses were small in size, wavy (non-flat), and muddy or fuzzy due to the deficient methods of casting. To overcome the fuzzy view, the glass pieces were small in size, coloured and contrasted with heavy mullions. But later as glass became clearer, the mullions, so as to dissolve their presence, were made thinner and painted white. Colonial architecture, first in USA and later in Europe (1875 onwards) shows this white painting of the opening’s trend clearly.

Glazed doors of stained glass had very thin mullions and muntins patterned to styles or to highlight the structure of the depicted picture. Clear glass of large size and free of manufacturing defects was not available till about the Industrial age. Till than door panes were assembled by combining clear, figured and frosted glass (called ‘water-white’) pieces and joined with cames -lead lined joints. The white glass doors of shop fronts and verandah were backed with laced fabric white curtains. After world war II large glass panes, toughened and fire finished were used as see-through doors. The glass panes doors were engraved or etched to create patterns. The doors were masked from inside with colourful curtains or horizontal and vertical Venetian blinds. The see-through glass doors showed the interior spaces, especially during dusk and at night. The ceiling, the panellings (inside front) were highly visible elements through such doors, and so were highlighted with illumination fixtures such as spot lights, down lights and chandeliers. Doors with one-way mirror glass, and tinted glasses, coated polyester films are used to control the degree of transparency. Some of the new technologies include LCD glasses, polarized glass and photo-chromatic glasses.      OTHER ISSUES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

(Click here to go to Chapter Sub-Index)

Keywords: DURABILITY AND SERVICE LIFE EXPECTANCY / detachable systems / replaceable elements / intensively used systems / sparingly used / door maintenance / service life worthiness / SUSTAINABILITY / sustainable systems / add-on systems / highly integrated components / separable and individually recyclable / disposable by degrading / naturally regenerating materials / local tools and technology / FIRE VULNERABILITY / allow time for evacuation / conditions for siting a fire door / passive fire protection method / isolate the fire / maintain its integrity / specific properties of fire doors / leaf or shutter of a fire door / frames of fire doors / coatings and treatments / hardware of fire door / general hardware / specific hardware for fire / inset windows / fire rated in hours / wall that separates two buildings / stairwells / corridors / edges of a fire door / intumescent strip / surrounding zone of a fire door / RECOGNITION / planes of sensory perception / use of identical material or surface colour and texture / de-shaped and descaled / methods of doors recognition / accentuating the door gap / passage to the exit.


DURABILITY AND SERVICE LIFE EXPECTANCY: Doors have shorter service life in comparison to structural components that constitute the shell of the building. During the life of a building a door system may need to be replaced several times, so door systems and their sub-components are designed to be detachable systems and are usually conceived as replaceable elements. Doors are intensively used systems in a building and so have higher maintenance requirements and shorter service life. Even doors that are sparingly used also require regular maintenance. Door maintenance covers attending to the wearing of the hardware and degeneration of the constituent materials. The service life worthiness is checked in terms of the functionality, accident proofing and aesthetics.

Intensity of use is measured by cycles of operation. ANSI typically specifies Level C, Standard Duty -250,000 cycles / Level B, Heavy Duty -500,000 cycles / Level A, Extra Heavy Duty -1,000,000 cycles.

SUSTAINABILITY: The concept of sustainability of doors is no different from other building systems and components. A good design practice is a prerequisite to make a door durable (maximum service life). Sustainable systems must have add-on systems -open-ended architecture, rather than highly integrated components. Sub systems of doors such as constituent materials, hardware, finishes, etc. each must be separable and individually recyclable. When materials are not recyclable, they should be disposable by degrading. Doors composed of single or fewer materials and with detachable subsystems make it easier to recycle the constituents. Recycling is less economical if the door systems contain sealants, high temperature ceramic and other coatings and glass fragments. ‘Naturally regenerating materials’ like timber are ideal choice but timber is not easily replaceable due to the large demand. Sustainability of a building system results from easy repair-ability with local tools and technology.


FIRE VULNERABILITY: A door is one of the few elements that allows escape during emergencies. A fire door contains fire and holds back the smoke to allow time for evacuation of people and goods. The term fire rated means that a door will not combust or burst for certain period of time. Some of the conditions for siting a fire door are: the walls around the fire doors must be more fire-resistant, the door must be away from other combustible elements such as carpets and curtains. Cracks and crevices around the perimeter of the door must be completely sealed with a less combustible material.

A fire door is a passive fire protection method. If the door nominally remains open, at the time of fire or smoke it must get shut through some device.

Doors rated for fire, are not necessarily all incombustible. But a fire door has the rated capacity to isolate the fire so that all people and important goods are evacuated, and maintain its integrity till fire runs out of fuel, air, or is extinguished. Specific properties of fire doors are like: catch fire after some delay, burn slowly, may not collapse all of a sudden, do not generate noxious fumes on burning, or have fire extinguishing treatments to retard spread of fire.

Door systems have three categories of elements: the door leaf, frame and hardware. These are affected differently by fire.

The leaf or shutter of a fire door is made of combination of natural woods, wood byproducts, wood composites, metal plates, glass, laminates, layered composites, etc., with in-fill materials like gypsum (as an endothermic fill), vermiculite-boards, glass wool, polymers foam (styrene).

The frames of fire doors are made of natural wood, treated wood, wood byproducts, wood composites, folded metal sheet sections (mild steel, galvanised mild steel, stainless steel, aluminium, bronze alloys), extruded or rolled sections of metals and polymers, cement concrete, layered composites.

Coatings and treatments substantially alter the fire rating of a door. Nominal coatings include various types of enamel paints, lacquers and polymer polish, these are not fire resistant, but coatings containing wallstonite and silica perform well in retarding the effects of fire. Similar instead of ordinary polymer films or skins, many ‘self extinguishing’ polymers can be used.

The hardware of fire doors is of two broad categories: general hardware that is for making a door operational and for handling and specific hardware for fire that is for closing the door when there is for or smoke.

Many fire doors have inset windows (view windows, pip holes, lites) so that one to judge if the door can be safely opened. The windows have wire mesh glass, heat-blast resistant Boro-silicate glass or liquid sodium silicate filled in between two panes, and these are also fire rated.

A door set is fire rated in hours, the time taken for it to resist a fire at a given temperature. Fire ratings are 3 hours to 30 minutes. A 3 hour fire door is commonly used in a wall that separates two buildings or two parts of a large building. The wall around the door in this case would be rated higher, for say 4 hours. Stairwells have fire doors of 1.5 hours rating. Corridors have a fire rating of 1 hour or less, and the fire doors in them are required by code to have a fire rating of 30 to 20 minutes (the intent of the later is to restrict spread of smoke). Generally smaller areas can do with a door of lower fire rating. A door of approved fire rating may not provide the due fire resistence because of faulty fitting and due to site conditions.

Edges of a fire door usually need to have fire rated seals which can be composed of: an intumescent strip, which expands when exposed to heat, gaskets of Neoprene weather stripping to prevent the passage of smoke.

Surrounding zones of a fire door must not support the spread of fire. Carpets, wooden or laminated floors running under the door, a large gap under the door allows the fire to travel past the barrier.

RECOGNITION: A door, even though a very distinguishing component of a building requires a recognition on many different planes of sensory perception. An unreal door, such as in Egyptian tombs was provided with extra ordinary emphasis so that no one missed its presence and thereby its importance. But real doors are often concealed or unintentionally shrouded and rendered unrecognizable even in nominal circumstances. Architecturally doors are merged into the base barrier system, the wall. The fusion is achieved through use of identical material or surface colour and texture. The door edges are matched with the members of the wall construction and opening hardware is concealed. The doors are de-shaped and descaled to look anything else but a door. In an emergency for egress, it is not only difficult to locate such an opening, but determine whether it opens inward or outward. There many regulations that make door recognition mandatory by visual and illuminated graphics. There are many methods of doors recognition: by signage over or beside the opening, by accentuating the door gap or portal and by emphasizing the passage to the exit through floor marks, as in air crafts, cruise ships and lobbies of buildings.      EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)

Keywords: developments in materials technology / design innovations / improvised doors / radically different types of doors / unusual opening systems / function like a valve / controller of opening / Isolation areas / research laboratories / nano technology plants / very large and light weight structures / doors of membrane or skin / heart valves / sonar zones / water gates / geometric or space structures / membrane or shell structures / industrial doors / flap curtains of non tearing polymer or composite sheets / barrier were to disappear, collapse (shrink) / camera shutter / transparency / flat sheet / cast-able materials / freedom to curve a door’s surface / any dynamic shape or size / expanding-contracting shutters or balloon doors / a self seaming door / biological healing / new modes of transfer, transport or travel.


New technologies of doors arrive more frequently due to developments in materials technology, but also occasionally due to design innovations. Improvised doors are offered by building components’ manufacturers, and sometimes devised by creative designers. But ideas for radically different types of doors have been adopted from literature like scientific fiction, children’s stories of adventures, media such as scientific movies, television serials, and from video games. New doors have been modelled on various gadgets and industrial equipments. Submarines, space capsules, cameras, chemical reaction vessels, dams, dykes, deep sea drilling units etc. need unusual opening systems. Such opening systems may not be recognized as a door, but rather function like a valve or controller of opening.

Such opening systems or devices, however, have inspired many building designers. Isolation areas in research laboratories and nano technology plants require hermetically sealed zones need doors with a positive seal (completely leakproof). Very large and light weight structures, such as domes and roofs require opening for access to external face. Such circular flexible doors of membrane or skin thin materials diverge to edges for closing, but bulge or sink to a concave or convex form due to suction or pressure. Heart valves are implants that beat but function like a door. Air curtain fans and showers create a wall of cascading air and water, but a breach-able door. Similarly sonar zones, in industrial plants remove particulate matter from the things that move in or out are also a door system. Offshore or deep sea marine structures such as oil-gas drilling platform and recovery or collection centres, coastal protection barriers such as dykes have doors for water. The water gates were once devised as very large geometric or space structures but are now built as membrane or shell structures.

Industrial doors are very large and intensively used openings. Normal sliding, folding or swinging shutters take a lot of time to close or open and with every such operation the interior environment gets corrupted. Air curtains are noisy and cold. Flap curtains of non tearing polymer or composite sheets have proved a better option. Ion charged openings and sonar barriers are not very satisfactory in many applications. Some radical solution is required.

A door is perceived to be an opening in a barrier, an open-able component of the barrier system. However, if whole of a barrier were to disappear, collapse (physically shrink) or become nonfunctional for a while, then it can serve the function of an opening. A barrier will have to collapse to its edge or perimeter, away from its centre, almost like the folding leaves of a camera shutter. Here the leaves could be of gaseous or liquid substance, or a field of energy. Games, science fiction and movies explore such radical concepts.

Wood has been the favoured material for door construction. Since Industrial revolution, steel has replaced wood for many types of large doors. Glass doors provided transparency to the nominally opaque door shutter. The door was still a flat sheet, till cast-able materials such as composites, polymers, formed metal sheets, provided a freedom to curve a door’s surface. Woven and knitted fabrics, co-extruded polymer sheets, formed composites, allow the door to be flexible to take on any dynamic shape or size. Elastomers have provided materials for expanding-contracting shutters or balloon doors. An opening that can be cut anywhere in the barrier, a self seaming door is a sci-fiction concept emulating the biological healing. The door is a necessity to transit through a barrier, and the barrier if was non physical, then the form of ‘door’ required in it is also likely to be very different.

A door has traditionally served the purpose of entry and exit to and from a space to another. New modes of transfer, transport or travel (movie Star Wars: Teleporting) may entirely change the shape, size and configuration of the door in future. Perhaps it will be a controller of opening rather than a door.      DOOR MYTHS AND LEGENDS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)


Keywords: Etymologically / objects and expressions / folklore and legends / physically and symbolically / mundane level / symbolic level / spiritual level / bridge head / illusive opportunity or intangible entity / narrow with dangers of falling off it / backtracking to the reality of home / MAKING OF A DOOR / three phenomenal elements Top, Bottom and Sides / Torii / eaves / Laxman Rekha. threshold / tall sides / columns, pylons or obelisks / ENTRY - EXIT / Aagaman / go in or stay out / Nirgaman / get out or stay in / homeward (return) journey / Vedic ritual / an open door / door knob / hinges / locked door / door opening outward / inward opening door / THRESHOLD / Grih-Pravesh / Udumbara / threshold / stumbles over a threshold / untouchable element / Havan kund / carry a bride over the threshold / trip over a threshold / confirming to Vastu / oriented entrance door / right shoulder to the right jamb / right foot first / EAST ENTRANCE / rising sun and the East face entrance / Eastern light / obelisks / masts / furling flags and festoons / eagles and wheels -Chakra / door heads / Dharma-Chakra / pre Gothic period cathedrals / Western entrances / Gate of the East / Gate of the West / FALSE DOORS / false door / west wall / GUARDIANS OF THE DOOR / horse shoe / portals, doors and gates / protectors or guardians / Dwarpal / Kshetrapal /door guardians / martial door gods / literary door gods / verses written on red paper / Buddhist temples / Taoist temples / musical instrument, sword, umbrella or snake / Confucius / JANUS ROMAN GOD OF DOORS / Roman mythology / god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings / some form of duality / two faces -looking in opposite directions / Janus / Cardea / goddess of thresholds and door-pivots / to open what is shut and to shut what is open / DOORS IN ROMAN HOUSES / doors that opened inward / owner’s place in society / JAPANESE DOOR / schools of etiquette / norms for opening a door and coming into a room / reishiki / REVOLVING DOORS / DOOR OPERATORS / trappers / lift operator boys DOORS IN LITERATURE / physical constructs / metaphysical effects / metaphorical forms / J R R Tolkien / door, window, gate, or other passageway / change in a character’s physical, metaphysical, or metaphorical state / function of transition / passage point that signals some type of change in a character / idea of ‘becoming’ / exploration of openings, and especially doors, gates, and windows / being inside with safety / being outside with danger / Revolving door / Amakudari / key to a door / MIHRAB IN MOSQUE / arched doorway / portent of change / supernatural realm / Bizarre and secret entry ways.


Doors are as ancient as the human abode and so have become part of our conscious and subconscious being. Throughout history and across cultures doors, doorways, portals, gates and thresholds have been potent objects and symbols of superstition, rites and rituals, psychological change, transcendental and religious experience. Doors occur metaphorically in our expressions and recur in our dreams.

Etymologically Doors have been known as: dor (middle English), duru (old English) dur (proto-Germanic), dwer-dwor (proto-Indo-European), Gothic (daúr), Danish dør, Tür (German), turi (old High German), dyr (Icelandic), dyrr (old Norse), foris (Latin), thýra (modern Greek, thura (ancient Greek), dar (Persian), and dver (Russian), Kiwad (Urdu= door shutter).

Doors are synonymous with many objects and expressions such as entrance, gate, gateway, passage, portal, access, adit, admission, admittance, ingress and way. Doors are also refereed to in terms of: indoor -inside a built or enclosed space, outdoor -outside in the open, next door -neighbouring property or territory, at the door -outside or inside the door but on the verge of crossing it, waiting for permission or opportunity to leave or enter, by the door -passing by, at one's door -as compliance or submission, for being responsible, door to door -going or made by going to each house in a neighbourhood, out of doors -deposition, thrown out, removed, through the door -through an appropriate channel, to show the door -thrown out, asked to leave, open-door policies -barriers less, closed doors -private, protected, doors of opportunity, door to success -change of position for success, doorways to the future -future reached through breach or opening.

Doors have been part of our folklore and legends, often with diverse meanings. Doors have been dealt in their interior as well as exterior expressions. The interior expressions relate to way of life, virtues, good manners, exemplary behaviour, restraints, and exterior manifests as supernatural, unpredictable, dilemmas. Doors are equated with other building elements like walls, windows etc. to juxtapose the physical character.

I'm talking to the door, but I want the walls to hear me. The ear is only a door. Walls have ears, paper sliding doors have eyes.

When God shuts one door, He opens another. At death's door a man will beg for the fever. The doorstep weeps for forty days whenever a girl is born. Misfortune only comes in when the door is open.

If you want to keep camels, have a large door. A doorstep is the highest of all mountains. The best kind of closed door is the one you can leave unlocked.

Every dog is a great barker at the door of his own house. Earth is like a prison: we all go in through the same door, but we stay in different cells. Insects do not nest in a busy door-hinge.

He who wants to tell the truth will always stand before closed doors. Luck stops at the door and inquires whether prudence is within. He who is outside the door has already a good part of his journey behind him. Many open a door to shut a window. When a door opens not to your knock, consider your reputation.

The door, physically and symbolically, involves a change of state. At mundane level, a door means control over illumination, intrusion, acoustical disturbance, visual engagement, social interference and movement of air and pollution and thermal emission. At symbolic level a door offers hope, new life or fresh beginning, isolation from the familiar, ventures into unknown, initiation into mysteries, fear and expanded communications. At spiritual level it provides an encounter with the supernatural, a communion and unification with the creator. As Christ said, 'I am the door,' and 'no one comes to the Father but through Me.'

A door leads one out of a space to another space and a door perceptible somewhere. The door here is a bridgehead over the connecting passage. The door also takes one out to exploration of an illusive opportunity or intangible entity. The passage, in the first case is narrow with dangers of falling off it, whereas in the second case there are no options except backtracking to the reality of home.

MAKING OF A DOOR: A door comes into being by three phenomenal elements: a Top, Bottom and the Sides. Japanese gate Torii is essentially composed of the eaves, the omnipresent top. A single stroke did not suffice, so two or three strokes emphasize the horizontal at top (as in Sanchi gate). An Indian door is epitomised by the Laxman Rekha. A territorial mark on the ground that defines wether one is included or excluded from the macrocosm. Here the threshold exists in spite there being no door. The Egyptian temple entrance consists of tall sides formed by a pair of columns, pylons or obelisks. The lintel or head is architecturally less significant, just incidental. A formal door requires all three to be present, and concurrently.

ENTRY - EXIT: During Aagaman -while entering one must either go in or stay out. And during Nirgaman -while exiting one must either get out or stay in. A door is a point of uncertainty. Ones action must be very certain, and one must never stay put in the door itself. One must be very cautious on crossing a door threshold, as trouble lurks in both directions. All activities in the door space or frame, such as standing, seating, eating, drinking or doing anything else is a taboo. One must not look backward during entry or exit, or the willpower and physical strength will dissipate. The homeward (return) journey must be accomplished without an intermediate stop or engagements. On Aagaman, before entering the house door, one must purify own self (disinfect) with appropriate Vedic ritual, like bathing, washing the feet or at least sprinkling of holy water over the head. The Nirgaman, if for a journey to an unknown destination or for an uncertain purpose must be conducted with the permission of elders, masters or gurus, and goddess of the family (Kuldevi).

Mystically, an open door represents good fortune, a new opening in life, or a desire to open up the feelings. A revolving door means a monotonous period ahead and a trap door predicts shocking news, a door knob means unexpected good luck, hinges bring family problems. A locked door shows missed opportunities, denial of opportunities, or can represent ‘need to close the door over the past’. A door opening outward may show that one needs to be more accessible to others. However, an inward opening door may represent the desire for inner exploration and self-discovery. A front door is a normal entrance and a back door a nominal one. A house with one door is a preferred abode. Evil spirits enter the house from a back door.

THRESHOLD: A Grih-Pravesh, -a ceremony of entering a home, by crossing over a threshold -Udumbara with right foot forward. It is conducted while entering into a new home, when a new member joins the family like a bride, new born baby, groom, a disciple or an apprentice, and when someone returns after some lapse of time such as recovery from an illness, achievement or trip. Grih Pravesh ceremonies have many forms but it is mainly performed at the door. Most common elements are: a Kumbha either filled with rice or water, a cocoanut and Arati.

The threshold is an element that is to be crossed without touching it. If one stumbles over a threshold by accident the entry or exit must be postponed. The western tradition of lifting the bride by the husband over the threshold reflects similar attitude. A threshold is not always considered an untouchable element, people do touch it with their head to pay obeisance to the place or its owner or touch it with right hand to take a few dust particles and place them over the forehead. The dust near the thresholds or doors of temples, prostitutes’ houses, and very rich persons’ mansions are considered auspicious, and are also used for construction of the Havan kund (ceremonial and sacrificial fire place).

The tradition to carry a bride over the threshold of the married couple's home is a very old one and followed in many societies of the world. The belief is nearly same everywhere, that a bride must not trip over a threshold. Some believed demons haunted doorways and could cause the bride to trip. Others felt that threshold was ominous of evil, and one must never step on to it, but rather cross over it. But people do touch the threshold in reverence. Some believe that one must open a door at midnight to allow evil spirits to depart, and that the first person to open the door on Christmas morning will have good luck. It's bad luck, some believe, to leave a house by a different door than the one used to enter the house or to eat in front of a door’. Ogden Nash has stated that ‘only a door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of’, and for some, the dame luck also stays on the wrong side, at least most of the time.

‘A woman who had just given birth was forbidden to tread on another family's threshold, for it was believed that the woman would become a threshold cleaner in her next life. In Liaoning province of Northeast China, people still follow the tradition during Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month) of sitting on the threshold of the door to eat an egg before sunset. After finishing the egg, they throw all the shells outside the house. Such an act is believed to clear the house of disease and bad luck in the following year’.

Houses confirming to Vastu have a properly oriented entrance door, so the place for home-entrance ceremony is also well set. In grih pravesh ceremony the home owner enters the house by touching the right shoulder to the right jamb, and by crossing the threshold with right foot first, but without touching it.

EAST ENTRANCE: The rising sun and the East face entrance have a very intimate relationship in many cultures across the world. The spiritual relationship of Eastern light falling on to an East facing deity (sited in the western section of the building) or place of worship is a well-established fact.

It was universal early practice for the great door to be 'the Gate of Sunrise.' This door of enormous size was properly the sole opening to the temple, serving as much for light as to enter by, it was thrown open at dawn. Dr Hayes Ward in the American Journal of Archaeology (Vol. 3), shows some dozen Babylonian seals, with intaglios of the Sun-god passing through the double-valved gate of the East and beginning to climb the mountain of the sky. The gate has two guardian figures.

It was usual to cover the Eastern door with shining metal for it to glow in the morning sun rays. Sunrays were also received on the metal-clad shiny inclined top faces of the tall obelisks, shining metal finials over tall masts and over furling flags and festoons. The Sun is also metaphorically represented by soaring eagles, circular objects like a wheel, red disc or the winged globe. Images of soaring Eagles and wheels (Chakra) were part of door heads. The moving Dharma-Chakra of the Buddhist temples and stupas atop a Stambha -pillar is perhaps reminiscent of this.

Babylon temples had ‘gate of glory as brilliant as the sun’. In Syria it was the same; at the temple of Mabog (Hierapolis) the doors were gilded, as also was the entire sanctuary, walls and ceiling. ‘Two immense columns, one hundred and eighty feet high, flanked the door, inside which, on the left, was placed the throne of the sun’.

The preference for East for the main door changed when in pre Gothic period cathedrals began to have Western entrances, so that deities could be backlit with stained glass in the morning sunlight.

Egyptian’s temples and tombs had two openings: the Gate of the East, and the Gate of the West. Through the former the sun enters in the morning to pass out from the other in the evening, and therefrom pursue its journey way back by the dark path of the under world.

FALSE DOORS: In the tombs of early dynasties a false door was the focus of the offering chamber that was adjacent to the tomb. It was here the family members placed their offerings for the deceased on a slab in front of the door. False doors were most typically placed on the west wall of the offering room. It was a threshold between the world of the living and the dead. It was a point through which the spirit of the deceased could transit. In some instances, there were two false doors affixed to the west wall, with the left one serving the tomb owner while the right door was meant for his wife.

In Egyptian tombs of earlier period, the false doors were indicated like the door of an ordinary house, low, small and narrow but not pierced through. These doors were not copies of real doors, bur rather a combination of an offering niche and a stela with an offering table. The doors were engraved on a single piece of wood, alabaster or stone panel, or drawn on the walls. They often had one, two or even three pairs of jambs leading to a central niche, so arranged to convey the illusion of depth and a series of frames, a foyer, or a passageway. The niche within the false door had carved statues and the side panels had inscriptions naming the deceased along with the titles, and a series of standardized offering formulas. These texts extol the virtues of the deceased and express positive wishes for the afterlife.

GUARDIANS OF THE DOOR: A door as an entrance needs protection so that evil spirits are warded off it, and as an exit point good fortunes or luck does not escape out of it. Doors have protective charms. The most common charm for the door is the horse shoe. Other objects include olive branches, statuettes of gods, angels and saints. (For more refer to Chapter: 4.3 Openings systems: Treatments).

Portals, doors and gates had inevitable protectors or guardians in the form of real or horrible humans, beasts and monsters. These figures 'fawn on all who enter, but rend all who would pass there again (after death)’. The creatures were such as: winged genii in the form of bulls, scorpions, human-headed lions -the sphinx, lions, Dwarpal, Yaksha. Other forms like Christ, Michael, Gabriel, archangels, Ganesha, Hanuman, signs of the zodiac and sculptures of the months. In India, China, Siam, Japan, the gates are protected by Dwarpal, and presence of the Kshetrapal (the guardian of the local territory) was also necessary.

China has many legendry door guardians. The guardians are brave warriors. The pictures of door gods are hung in pairs, facing each other, it is considered bad luck to place the figures back-to-back.

There are two types of door gods: martial door gods and literary door gods. Martial door gods are usually generals depicted in life-size proportions, wearing full battle armour and wielding weapons, loyal men, great fighters. Commonly seen door gods of this type include ‘Shen Tu and Yu Lu’, ‘Qin Qiong and Weichi Gong’, ‘Zhong Kui’, ‘Guan U’ and ‘Guan Sheng’. Whoever the door gods may be, the common denominator of all front gate door gods is their trustworthiness, strength and loyalty, bolstered by a fierce martial countenance and impressive weaponry. In the past, each Chinese household hosted numerous gods, such as the stove god, door gods, the property god, the well-ness god, etc. To keep ghosts and monsters at bay, prints of such door gods were pasted on front doors.

Emperor Tang Taizong (599 : 649 AD) was beset by demons howling outside of his bedroom at night. Qin Shubao and Hu Jingde, two generals volunteered to guard the door to the emperor's chamber. Thereafter there was no more trouble. In honour of the two brothers' bravery the emperor ordered pictures of the two to be drawn and posted on the palace gates. The two came to be associated as the Guardians of Doors or Door Gods. Qin Shubao has a white face, and Hu Jingde either a red or black one. They protect households from the evil forces outside, as well as marking ‘spaces safe’.

Shentou and Yulei are other immortals who were ordered by the Jade Emperor to guard peach trees which demons were gnawing at. Shentou and Yulei carry a battle axe and a mace, respectively. Zhong kui is not a door god but a mythical exorcist (ghost catchers) whose image is often displayed as the ‘backdoor general’.

‘According to an ancient Chinese text, "The Classic of Mountains and Seas" (shanhaijing?), there was a very large peach tree on Dushuo Mountain (dushuoshan?) whose branches formed an archway through which evil spirits could pass between the spirit world and the earth. The Emperor of Heaven (tiandi ?) was concerned that the evil spirits might harm the people on earth and so he assigned two brothers, Shen Tu and Yu Lei, to guard the passageway. If the evil spirits caused any harm, the two brothers were instructed to tie them up and feed them to the tigers which lived at the base of the mountain’.

A tradition gradually developed to engrave their portraits in peach wood which were then hung on gates and doors for protection from evil influences. Images were also painted on the doors, but only few could afford it. Ordinary people placed a light-coloured broom and a black piece of coal outside their doorways to represent Chin and Yu-Chih, respectively. With the advent of wood block printing in the Sung Dynasty, (960-1297) artistic renderings of deities became easily available. It was during this period that door God charms (taofu?) were replaced by auspicious verses written on red paper (spring couplets -chunlian?). The verses are hung above and at the sides of doors and gates. Traditionally prior to the Chinese New Year houses are cleaned and red trimmings are placed on doorways and windows to scare away the monster Nian as it is afraid of the colour red. Red banners featuring words like ‘longevity’, good luck’, ‘happiness’, etc., are displayed in homes.

Door guardians used for Buddhist temples are different from those at Taoist temples. At Buddhist temples, the most commonly seen door gods are Wei Tuo and Chia Lan, two guardians of the blessed state of enlightenment. The four Buddhist grand lords flank their sides, each holding, either a musical instrument, sword, umbrella or snake. At Taoist temples, such as those dedicated to Matsu, Goddess of the Sea, the most popular characters for painting on the entrances are the Thousand-Mile Eye God and the Wind Ear God. The Chinese temples dedicated to Confucius, are not decorated with door gods, for the Great Sage did not speak of superstition, deities or demons.

Over the years not only many different guardians for doors evolved but many different image versions became available. The door gods protected one from evil influences of demons and endowed luck, wealth, longevity and happiness. Each character is believed to have different powers. For example, images of the infant door god are suitable for the bedrooms of newlyweds, whereas the ox door god is appropriate for cowsheds.

JANUS ROMAN GOD OF DOORS: In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. Janus also represented the sun and the moon. Janus is always associated with some form of duality. Janus is depicted with two faces -looking in opposite directions.

Janus symbolized change and transitions such as: the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of all events like planting and harvesting, births, marriages, etc. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.

Janus once caused a hot spring to erupt to stop the would-be attackers and forced them to flee. In honour of this, the doors to his temples were kept open during war so that he could easily intervene. The doors and gates were to be kept closed during peace, which rarely happened. But in the time of Augustus it was closed, after he had overthrown Marc Antony, and before that, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls, it was closed for a short time; then war broke out again at once, and it was opened. Of the several places, Janus had a temple at Rome with double doors, which were called the gates of war.

Janus’s most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January. The name Genoa, the Italian city is believed to be derivation of Janus. The Latin word for door, ‘ianua,’ itself possibly came from the god Janus.

Cardea is the goddess of thresholds and door-pivots (cardo =door-pivot). She protected little children against the attacks of vampire-witches. She is also a goddess of health like Carna. Cardea obtained the office from Janus in exchange for her personal favours. Her powers were ‘to open what is shut and to shut what is open’.

DOORS IN ROMAN HOUSES: Roman houses had doors that opened inward. Roman society permitted only rare individuals of high honour to have doors that opened out on to the Street. Plutarch wrote that the Roman people complimented Marcus Valorous, a founder of the Roman Republic, after his triumph with a house built on the Palatine at public expense, but with doors to open outwards as perpetual recognition of his merit as if ‘he might be constantly partaking of public honour’. Caesar was given this plus an additional pediment which Livy mentioned as a decree by the senate for honour and distinction.

For the Romans a door represented the character of the household and was an expression of the owner’s place in society. The front door was always open to a stranger and community. An open street door showed a willingness to serve the community participate fully in political and social life.

‘Pliny the Younger interpreted that an unwillingness to participate with the community was the same as a willingness to engage in a destructive manner against the community. The Roman’s inability, to see behind, the closed doors always caused fear and suspicion, an implication that the paterfamilias had something to hide. A place of concealment was a place of potential revolution as can be seen by the conspirator Catiline in 63 BC. Sallust wrote that Catiline gathered his most trusted friends behind closed doors to attempt overthrowing the Republic’.

The formal entrance to a Roman house was set with certain depth from the street. It was a decorative entryway flanked by half columns or pilasters to create a picture-like frame. Strangers and formal guests were impressed by the passage through the fauces and atrium. The family members, neighbours and other regular visitors however, used a simpler side or back doors set flush with the street. ‘In Roman culture, the front door was always open to a stranger and community but to understand and be treated equal to the family, one had to approach from other means’. Hillier and Hanson state that the side or backdoor was left ajar for the working class and to encourage neighbours coming in unannounced. Since the back door typically led to the kitchen, an important room to a house, the entrance carries a high level of presence availability.


JAPANESE DOOR: For the Japanese ‘the door to happiness opens outward. A door simply imposes itself upon the room when it opens inward. Having the door open inwards has the outside intruding upon the inside’. Feudal schools of etiquette prescribe all kinds of norms for opening a door and coming into a room. Sukisha, well-bred people use the hand, nearest the door to open it a few inches (the length of a forefinger, to be exact) and then switch hands to slide it back the rest of the way. A man is judged by how he opens a door and a woman by how she shuts. This is so because in a room with a group of men, a woman served the food and take a leave. She would be observed closing the door behind her with grace. The balanced and graceful action of folding down one's knees on the floor, moving into a room, keeping at a level equal to others already in the room, were part of larger ceremony. The skills of opening and closing a sliding Japanese doors are part of reishiki, proper form or etiquette.

REVOLVING DOORS: Revolving doors, when began to be used in American buildings, were marketed with a lot of hype, as ‘doors that always remain closed’. With a clear Victorian attitude they declared as capable of avoiding the ‘noxious effluvia’ and ‘baleful miasmas’. The doors were supposed to save life, by preventing those deadly lung and throat diseases which are sure to overtake the unfortunate salesman, cashier, or clerk whose duty keeps him near the constantly opening front door.

DOOR OPERATORS: In the early part of Industrial age children hired to work as trappers to operate trap doors in mines and railway yards. They sat in a hole hollowed out for them and held a string which was fastened to the door. When they heard the coal wagons coming, they had to open the door by pulling a string. This job was one of the easiest down the mine but it was very lonely and the place where they sat was usually damp and draughty. This was like lift operator boys who opened-closed the elevator doors, working for long hours, but in fancy places, in late 19th and early 20th C.

DOORS IN LITERATURE: Doors in literature are used in their various physical constructs, metaphysical effects and metaphorical forms. J. R. R. Tolkien the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings refers directly or indirectly to a door, window, gate, or other passageway that leads to a change in a character’s physical, metaphysical, or metaphorical state. While not quite as omnipresent in The Silmarillion, the motif is still used extensively throughout the text. The function of transition refers to a passage point that signals some type of change in a character. Barriers are thresholds that represent the dichotomies of safety/danger, us/other, inclusion /exclusion, and control/chaos.

One of the metaphorical meanings of doorways and openings in Tolkien’s work conveys the idea of ‘becoming’. As one passes through the doorway and enters a new stage of development or experience, having gained the ‘key’ necessary to move forward, one ‘becomes’ something more—more capable, more perceptive, more knowledgeable. Although, we often cling to our comfort zone, it is only by venturing outside our experience that we come to know our true selves. In other words, we must cross the thresholds that paradoxically lead us both outward and inward to a deeper understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and recognition of our relationships with the cosmos, just like Tolkien’s fish out of water.

Tolkien’s exploration of openings, and especially doors, gates, and windows exist not only as a motif within his written works, but is something he contemplated outside Middle Earth through his sketches. It is likely that his attraction to such passageways grew out of his daily surrounds as he lived and worked among centuries old architectural icons. Images of tunnels leading to and from openings appear to represent these complex initiatory ideas within Tolkien’s work. Like the ‘Before and Afterwards’ sketches, tunnels, caves, and mines function as extended thresholds between what came before and what new challenges wait on the other side, and as the inner realm of conflict where obstacles are met and overcome.

Much of Tolkien’s dark woodland imagery is also tunnel-like. He juxtaposes the open land with forest. Forests are entrance points and open lands exit points. In most natural environments he inverts that usual association of ‘being inside’ with safety, and ‘being outside’ with danger. More often than not entering a forest is depicted as entering into a dark unknown, as is entering water, caves, and barrows. Coming out into the open light of the fields is to have survived the dark dangers of woods, water, and earth with newly gained knowledge and confidence. For Tolkien passageways as barriers are usually artificial constructs like gates, fences, doors, and bridges and much less frequently a natural element like water or forests. Tolkien has used artificial barriers to symbolically represent the artifice of separation between peoples. (For more Refer to 4.0.3 Openings in Literature).

Metaphorically, a Revolving door is an instance of the easy movement of individuals from one position or situation to another, and back again. For example, from government-related jobs to lobbying jobs and vice versa, resulting in a conflict of interest for those chosen to represent the public and/or special privileges and benefits to former government officials and personnel. A similar metaphor in the Japanese language is Amakudari, it refers only to former government employees joining companies they were once supervising. This is also used when describing early release of criminals who often end up back in prison after a short time.

The key to a door, permission to enter a door or a domain is given to a person of faith. It is at the door the alienation begins to manifest. To enter a premise, one needs to be consecrated by a person of authority, which means the visitor agrees to abide by the rules that prevail within.

MIHRAB IN MOSQUE: A mihrab originally was a room for the great prophet to pray in. It was the focus of the wall that was indicative of the direction of Mecca. It later on became a decorative niche in the wall. Mihrabs vary in size, are usually ornately decorated and often designed to give the impression of an arched doorway or a passage to Mecca.

Doors and doorways frequently appear in metaphorical or allegorical situations, literature and the arts, often as a portent of change. Old buildings, castles, haunted houses, lair of villains or mansions of super heroes have secret passages accessed through doors, traps or openings. One enters or exits a building by triggering concealed levers, buttons or even surprising mechanisms. But one enters a supernatural realm, gets transported to another time and space setting, or even gets transformed into a different form by simply crossing a point or invisible threshold. The change is often secretive that is perceptible to few. Bizarre and secret entry ways are used in mythological stories, fiction, television programmes or films, and now video games to denote a change that is out of normal range. In Batman fiction and movies such secret entryways are used. In computer games such points may lead to new complications, new leads or bonuses, termination of the game or could be a false situation. In architecture entry ways are delayed in time and space that is the transition is not simple or immediate.

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.1 Index)





4.2.0      Windows : General   Historical perspective : Windows   Historical perspective : Windows : Periods   Historical perspective : Windows : Recent   Historical perspective : Windows : Types Historical perspective : Windows : Types : Roof level windows Historical perspective : Windows : Types : Wall windows Historical perspective : Windows : Types : Windows projecting out Historical perspective : Windows : Types : Floor level windows Historical perspective : Windows : Types : Other shaped windows   Varieties of Windows   Elements of Windows   Components of Windows   Materials and Technologies   Windows Mechanisms and Hardware   Other types of Windows   Windows like Utilities and Presences   Real and Pseudo Windows   Window Sizes, Shapes and Proportions   Windows Functional Sizes   Architecture of Windows   Spatial character of Windows   Window Opening’s Structures   Windows Openings in Thick and Thin Walls   Customs, Cannons and Vastu Shastra   Functions of Windows   Illumination   Thermal Management : Insulation   Ventilation   Passage and Control   Safety and Security   Vision in-out   Other Issues   Emerging Technologies   Windows Myths and Legends

Click here to goto next chapter 4.3


4.2.0         WINDOWS : GENERAL

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

Keywords: evolved from the door / serve many functions of the door / placed almost anywhere / upper section of the door gap / as extensive as the barrier system / single aperture element / sub-windows / separately and selectively functional / Government rules and regulations / changes in the form, shape, size and configurations / artificial illumination systems / heating, cooling and ventilation systems / security enforcement systems / health, comfort, and productivity / energy conservation movement / thermal efficiency of openings / exterior into the interior / the interior to the exterior / shop fronts.


A window, like the door, is a gap within a barrier system, and so an opening system. Windows have evolved from the door and even today, continue to serve many functions of the door. A window, however, unlike a door, is generally not meant for anyone to pass through, so can be placed almost anywhere including upper sections of walls or roofs. Windows first evolved as a distinctive opening to manage the upper section of the door gap. Apertures in roof and upper parts of walls were devised to let in light and for smoke ventilation in rooms bounded by other interior spaces.

A door is effective, if it is smaller than the mother-barrier system (such as a wall, fencing, etc.), whereas a window can be, as extensive as the barrier system itself, and still be an opening system (e.g. curtain wall system). Yet windows have to be prudent to be effective.

The primitive window was a single aperture element, but today windows are multiple opening system composed of several subwindows, each of which could be separately and selectively functional. Windows control many aspects simultaneously like: Ventilation, Light, Vision in-out, Emergency ingress-egress.

The word Window originates from the Old Norse ‘vindauga’ (composed of ‘vindr= wind’ + ‘auga=eye’, i.e. ‘wind eye). Window as a word first used in 13th C, referred to an unglazed hole in the roof. The word window replaced the Old English usage ‘eagþyrl=eye-hole,’ and ‘eagduru=eye-door’. Latin word ‘fenestra’ describes a window with glass.

Primitive windows were just holes which later were covered with animal hide, cloth, or wood. Next came the shutters that could be opened and closed. Over time, windows were built to protect the inhabitants from the elements and transmit light. The Romans were the first to use glass for illumination. In Alexandria 100 AD, cast glass disks and plates, albeit with poor optical properties, began to appear. Paper windows were economical and widely used in ancient China, Korea, Japan, and windows made of panes of flattened animal horn or oiled parchment were used as early as the 14th century in Northern Britain. Mullioned glass windows were the windows of choice among European well-to-do. In England glass became common in the windows of ordinary homes only in the early 17th century whereas Modern-style floor-to-ceiling windows became possible only after the industrial glass making processes were perfected.

Windows have continuously evolved and inturn, have forced many technological advances. Government rules and regulations have at times slowed down the pace of development (such as window tax of England) but only for a while. Changes in the form, shape, size and configurations have occurred with equivalent changes in architectural styling and living standards of the society. Some of the major infinitives for change have come from artificial illumination systems (gas, liquid fuel and electricity), Heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and Security enforcement systems. These have changed our lifestyles and daily schedules, in turn are changing how, where and when we use a window. Windows have been used as relief to confined spaces for experiencing the outdoors or nature. This too is about to change with remote sensing, view capture and environment duplication systems.

Windows have long been used in buildings for day-lighting and ventilation. Many studies have shown that health, comfort, and productivity, etc. are improved with well-ventilated indoor environments and access to natural light. Victorian age saw the advantage of brightly lit interiors. Poor quality of interior environment and life in workers’ colonies of industrial age once again made way for better window system. The energy conservation movement during 20th C has highlighted the need to optimise the thermal efficiency of openings.

There has been a historical struggle to bring the exterior into the interior, like bring in more illumination, superior ventilation, greater visual clarity and so on; however, during the last one and half century shops fronts have reversed this process, it is now how to bring out the interior to the exterior, such as how to show off maximum interior space, better perception of displayed items, greater security, etc. At another level the conflict persists on how to manage the illumination, vision and ventilation all through the same opening system, or perhaps devise a separate but compatible system.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : WINDOWS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

Keywords: early Egyptian, Greek Sumerian or Harappan / roof holes / punctures / wall gaps / clerestory / densely populated settlements of Harappa and Rome / Egyptian temples / Mesopotamian architecture / eye in the Roman pantheon / ethereal feel / Viman / Interiors of tropical buildings / cold climates / humid climate / size and shape / Harappan main streets / Aryan and Vedic cultures / Size of a window / width / lintel, beam or arch spanning capacity / depth / wall thickness and span-width / height / Mediterranean climates / inner face of thick walls / North European buildings / outer face of the wall / colder climates / tropical climates / solar insolation / covered / translucent materials / lattice like frame work / grills / low or eye level windows / eye level windows in upper floors / demountable storm panels / multiple manageable shutters.


The concept of a window in a human habitat is comparatively a later phenomenon. The most primitive opening system functionally distinct from a door, was a hole in the roof or aperture in upper part of the wall. Its primary function was to let the smoke escape, and later on it was also recognized as a source of light. Early Egyptian, Greek, Sumerian or Harappan architecture had no window openings. Roof holes were singular and strategically located. The size of a roof hole was structurally and climatically very critical.

Punctures were also made in upper sections of the walls. These wall gaps were simple holes or leftover spaces in the masonry at a roof junction. A sophisticated version of this was the multi layered roofing system with a gap in between, the clerestory. Though, in densely populated settlements of Harappa and Rome, where dwellings and public buildings were complex and double or more storeyed, features like roof holes, wall gaps and clerestories, for light and ventilation were not feasible.

Egyptian temples had a vertical cleavage in the wall, in front of the altar. The lower portion was covered initially by cloth or woven mats and later a shutter to form a Door. However, the upper portion, mainly used for light and ventilation, remained an open gap. In Egyptian temples clerestory openings by split level slabs were added to brighten up the ambulatory space around the main hall. The concept of a window as an opening was also not clear in Mesopotamian architecture, ‘the tall doorways normally sufficed to admit light, ventilation was contrived by terra cotta pipes carried through the vaults.’

An aperture in the roof or upper part of a wall such as the ‘Eye’ in Roman pantheon dome created very dramatic illumination. In many civilizations upper level openings signified the entry point for the super powers, high spirits or gods. Upper level lighting gives an ethereal feel to the space, best described as ‘Viman’ temple (Ranakpur, Rajasthan) in Indian architecture.

Interiors of tropical buildings remained essentially dark, even with the advent of roof holes and clerestory openings. Darkness or less light in a room meant less gain of heat. Whereas, wind catchers of Pakistan and other arid regions provide for ventilation, but without illumination that is heat gain. A North European cold climate requires more heat gain and hence there was a very rapid adaption of a window. In humid climate, upper level apertures or windows do not provide the required work or body level air movement, so a door like or low level openings are preferred.

Size and shape of openings vary from region to region mainly due to the differences in climates. Harappan main streets were bereft of any openings, doors like openings were placed on courtyard face of the house. Compared to this, later Aryan or Vedic cultures had very distinctive life style of open and semi-covered living, obviating any need for the opening systems.

Size of a window was governed by three factors. Width of the aperture in a wall was, restricted by the lintel, beam or arch spanning capacity. Depth perception of an aperture was related to wall thickness and span-width. Apertures in thick walls seem to be deep and small. Height of a window aperture was never a major structural problem, but was left unexplored for a long time.

In Mediterranean climates where summers are warm, winters mild and sky conditions mostly bright, the windows were placed on the inner face of thick walls. Against this, windows in North European buildings were placed on the outer face of the wall, to trap heat like a green house. For the design of a window, in colder climates, the entry of light and heat while excluding the breeze, and in tropical climates the entry of breeze and light, while excluding the heat gain are the important factors. In tropical areas heat gain is reduced by smaller size of the opening, dispersing the openings, and by means of latticed cover over the opening. Deep verandahs, chhajjas, awnings etc. help to reduce the heat gain by cutting the solar insolation. In colder climates the cold breeze is avoided by the upper level placement of openings, indirect openings and by closing the opening with translucent or transparent material.

Window openings either were open or covered with translucent materials like: leather, parchment, thin marble slabs, plates of alabaster, fabric, woven matings, cast glass, etc. Window units were divided into several sub parts to fit in the small sized and fragile covering materials. The lattice like frame work reduced the span of the lintel and provided security. Where lattice work was not strong and small enough for security additional grills were attached to the adjoining masonry structures. For reasons of security, privacy and street level noise, low or eye level windows, were not favoured, except in very private courtyards. Roman multi-storeyed dwellings had eye level windows in upper floors only.

In cold climates windows were covered with translucent materials, but with a few open sections that were adequate for ventilation needs. In warm climates, windows required more open sections or open-able sections. But in mixed climates windows with open-able sections were required. Doors like inside shutters were used to close a window. For high-level windows these were difficult to operate from inside or outside. Old Japanese houses prone to frequent hurricanes had demountable storm panels. Windows consisting of multiple manageable shutters came in very late.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : WINDOWS : PERIODS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

Keywords: EARLY INDIAN ARCHITECTURE / Harappa period / woven matt walls thatched roof / mud filled terraces / roof holes / Gupt dynasty / Rath / Hindu temples of stone / Mandala / four cardinal points / circumbulatory or pathway / Parikrama or Pradakshina / windows on sides / backside window / South face opening / open or lattices on sides / BUDDHIST ARCHITECTURE / miniature chaitya / Ajanta chaitya windows / hermitages like Nalanda, Taxshila, Elora / harappan labourer’s cell / chaitya motifs / style statement / VASTU SHASTRA OPENINGS / revival of Hinduism / Veda / Vastu shastra / palace complexes / temple complexes / large buildings / courtyards / small dwellings / chowk / interior windows / articulated surrounds / sill ledge / Gavaksh or Gokh / Indian window / installing minor deities / aedicule / microcosm / an abode / ground floor windows / upper floor windows / protection bars / lean out and see sideways / chhajja / ISLAMIC INFLUENCES / Gokh or Gavaksh / niche / balcony or gallery / Northern parts of India / Zarokha / Ghori / verandah / a private domain / public street facing windows / conservative Mughals and Rajputs / low-level seat-out facility / MUGHAL ARCHITECTURE / chhatri, barasati, roof facilities / half or truncated forms / jali or lattice / small clear openings / Hawa Mahal, Jaipur.

BRITISH RAJ PERIOD / Kothi or Bunglow / double window / awning or chhajja / floor level activities / folding type fly mesh shutters / double hung sash windows / verandah door / higher sill level openings / tapered ledge / outside tapered ledge / inside sloped sill / ceiling level ventilating apertures / awning casement shutter / shutter less latticed opening / transom lites / top hung awning casement shutter / coloured pieces of figured glass / Venetian shutters / Chettiar houses of Tamil Nadu / Government offices of Calcutta.

BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE / puncture like windows / clear surface of the massive walls / bands of marble and glass mosaic / sparsely spaced windows / interior walls / clerestory / ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE / colonnades and piers / jambs or sides / a series of receding moulded planes / rounded arch / receding concentric rings / fluted pier / triforium clerestories / wheel shaped window / rose window / Early Medieval period / Romanesque semicircular arched opening / semi circular arches / pointed arches / interior space that was tall and vertical / sloping intrados / inclined sill / surrounded by a border of slender shafts/ GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE / pointed arch / buttress / sub frames of transoms and mullions / tracery / cusps / floral form / late Gothic or Flamboyant style / shafts / flutes / stained glass / mosaic or paintings in oil or stucco / enlargement of the windows / different widths / same floor height / early English Gothic period / lancet windows / Decorated period / circles / flamboyant tracery / Perpendicular style / latticework grid / rational use of building materials / Gothic ‘Lantern church’ / perpendicular windows / Spain and Italy / Roman style wall with punctured windows / square headed / Spanish architecture of late Gothic era and early Renaissance / composite facade style / TUDOR STYLE / Perpendicular style / Elizabethan architecture / Europe classical revival / Gothic Revival / Tudor style buildings / distinctive features / oriel windows / overhanging windows / Hardwick hall / false windows / lead cames / casement windows / false windows / lead cames / casement windows / RENAISSANCE STYLE / cultural and artistic movement / symmetrical and proportioned / early part of Renaissance France / Post industrial revolution period / chimneys and glazed windows / Elizabethans / glittering expanses of glazing / Greek and Roman antiquity / ‘Mannerist phase’ of Renaissance / Palladian arch / Germany / Spanish / Italy / rusticated masonry or moulded bands.

BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE / wall surfaces / curved, undulating and highly ornamented / sash windows / English Renaissance / astylar treatment / quarry-faced ashlar / breast-moulding resting on consoles / Mannerist phase / static composition / one perspective of observation / dynamism. / ROCOCO / Baroque style / French style / neoclassicism.

PALLADIAN ARCHITECTURE / Andrea Palladio's / Palladian or Serlian window / PALLADIAN WINDOW / Italian architect Palladio / Palladian motif / Venetian window / Serlian window / Sebastiano Serlio / Philip Johnson / Andrea Palladio / Roman Renaissance style / Le antichità di Roma / Palladianism / I Quattro libri dell'architettura / Inigo Jones / Christopher Wren / Thomas Jefferson / Palladio’s architecture / GEORGIAN STYLE / early Georgian architecture / regular style / later phase of Georgian style / Federal style architecture / Colonial Revival / Neo-Georgian / VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE / REVIVAL OF TUDOR STYLE / Victorian period.


Historically windows have been distinctive architectonic elements with the peculiar style or the era. The style represents the vernacular culture, materials of the region, and technological virtuosity. It also reflects the outside influences, political conditions. An architectural element as style comes into being by being the most pertinent solution at the time and so widely accepted. Styles have flourished as a fashionable element of the rich and famous.

EARLY INDIAN ARCHITECTURE: Residential buildings of the Harappa period were made of rooms or cells around a courtyard. The door was the main opening for the room for entry-exit, light and ventilation, obviating the need for a formal window. This was a common feature in all domestic buildings across cultures of the time. In the Indian subcontinent the built structures were perhaps small in size, as the climate permitted outdoor living during substantial period of the year. In interior spaces the woven matt walls and thatched roofs allowed the smoke to escape, and some light to penetrate. In case of mud filled terraces, roof holes were placed for the same purpose. The formal window arrived, perhaps between 12th and 8th BC, as strategic gap in the wall, ‘more to connect to the outside then for illumination’. No temples or such other structures of period till the Gupt dynasty have survived. The temples were either mobile structures like Rath or fixed structures, but both made of wood.

The first indication or recognition of an opening other then door comes with the Hindu temples of stone that began to be built from 1st C AD. These were conceptually based on the Mandala -the square, with four cardinal points. The openings were oriented to the cardinal points. The Garbha Grih, the inner sanctorum had no other openings except the front door, for which East was the favoured direction. However, an inner sanctorum had a peripheral corridor, a circumbulatory or pathway around the deity for Parikrama or Pradakshina. This path was day-lighted by windows on sides, but a backside window was considered equal to a South face opening and so not preferred. The main prayer hall of the temple was columned structure with open or lattices on sides. The lattice allowed the breeze to pass through and reduced the glare. In some instances the latticed gap was covered by deep chhajja projections, completely obviating the need for a window.

BUDDHIST ARCHITECTURE: Stupa and monasteries were mostly executed during 2nd C BC and 5th C AD, some 400 to 1000 years after Buddha. These buildings were either non residential or ‘Spartan’ -cells for a hermitage and have an opening for entrance but have no door or windows. The sculptural remains at Pitalkhora (2nd Century BC to 1st C BC) include animal motifs, miniature Chaitya windows, elephants and guardians, and Yaksha figures. The Ajanta Chaitya opening carved in stone is very similar to the contemporary Byzantine openings with a lattice like a framework in stone. The rooms in educational campuses and hermitages like Taxshila, Nalanda, Elora, etc. were barely functional and without the luxury of a formal window, almost like a Harappan labourer’s cell. Similar Chaitya motifs have been found in sculptures and wall frescoes at many places. The Chaitya as a wooden architectural window or its representations prove it to be a style statement of the age. Lot of literary references to life styles of the rich and the famous of the 4th and 5th C AD, are available, but with little description of the dwelling environment or structure. Life style, was perhaps, a ‘matter of what artefacts (clothes, ornaments) one possessed or adorned, and not the space one stayed in’.

VASTU SHASTRA OPENINGS: From 5th C AD onwards a revival of Hinduism, against the politically favoured Buddhism occurred. Temples were now built of more permanent materials like stone. This was a period where temples of both North and South of India show adherence to traditions prescribed in the Mandala concept of Veda and the Vastu Shastra. This period also saw execution of large palace complexes, but mostly in perishable materials. Large temple complexes with fortifications, gates or Gopuram were patronized by Srenis or Mahajans.

Large buildings now had the courtyard and small dwellings had chowk as the focus of all opening systems. The chowk or courtyards were abutted by verandahs, which provided access to rooms or other sub courtyards. Openings into verandahs or interior windows were not only well suited for the climatic demands, but were functional and safe. Interior windows were perhaps latticed and without shutters, though covered by cloth or woven mat. The interior and the exterior windows were distinctly marked, like the door, with a heavy surround. The articulated surrounds increased the apparent size of the opening. On the interior side the deep-set window offered a sill ledge to keep small things like combs, hair oil, adornments and oil lamp for night illumination. Similar sill ledges were also available over the niches in the walls, and were called Gavaksh or Gokh. The Gavaksh as a form was the forerunner of the Indian window. Gavaksh was used for installing minor deities on internal and external walls of the temple. A Gavaksh was treated like an aedicule (a minor shrine) of Greek or Roman architecture, a microcosm, an abode for the minor god.

Ground floor windows had a taller sill compared to upper floor windows. Low sill upper floor windows had protection bars up to safe or half height. The protection bars were mounted on the outer face or even beyond so that one can lean out and see sideways. The window also had a chhajja as a weather shed. The overhanging chhajja was supported by brackets projecting out from the window surrounds.

ISLAMIC INFLUENCES: During 8th and 11th C AD the Hindu architecture reached its classical peak. Architectonic elements were well articulated. The Indian Gokh or Gavaksh form of articulated niche or wall storage space, was now more of a window form. The concept of balcony or gallery was exploited as a Zarokha in palatial residences and public buildings across Northern parts of India, perhaps even before the Ghori invasion.

The Zarokha in many ways compensated the need for a verandah. Zarokha provided a private domain, accessible to the particular room, compared with a verandah which provided little in terms of privacy. Public street facing windows were now appended with Zarokhas. The Zarokhas were also covered with a lattice to reduce glare and heat gain. Latticed balconies were readily adopted by the conservative Mughals and Rajputs to provide the privacy for their women folk. Zarokhas had no window like shutters, but rather a door like solid leaves on the inner-face mainly for security. The sill ledge and the parapet of the Zarokha both were of low height, scaling it to a low-level seat-out facility.

MUGHAL ARCHITECTURE: The Zarokha, Gavaksh and such window forms were further refined in not only Mughal-sponsored architecture, but across India in buildings by other faiths and for other purposes. Chhatri, barasati, other roof level facilities, though not window systems, their half or truncated forms were used in the Zarokha. Large openings were appended with half Chhatri form, made up of two delicate columns and a partly pyramidal roof of straight, concave or convex surfaces. Another important element to mature was the Jali or Lattice as a screen filler element between columns. The jalis were made of sand stones, marbles or wood, carved with geometric or floral patterns. Jalis were strongly divided by mullions and transoms. Jalis were punctured with small clear openings such as in Hawa Mahal, Jaipur. Jalis were primarily used to curtail the glare but were also used to cascade the flowing water from fountain channels to moisturize the air. Jalis were used to separate out women’s area in residences, mosques and other places of public gathering.


BRITISH RAJ PERIOD: During the British (and Dutch, French. Portugese) colonizations in India building designs were refashioned to suit their perception, attitudes, functional and climatic needs. The Kothi or Bunglow though built through local materials and techniques and conceived for the tropical climate, had elements that satisfied such needs. The designs provided few new solutions for the local conditions so found immediate and wide acceptance among the local gentry. The double window was one such element replacing the Zarokha openings. The double casement window had top and bottom sections each with double leaf shutters. It was similar to a Dutch door. It became a standard feature of many Indian residences and public buildings. The upper section was sufficiently protected by the awning or chhajja, and so could be kept open in all seasons. The lower section was opened in the evenings for the breeze over the floor level activities. It also allowed one to look out while seating on the floor or resting on the bed. The shutters were shelf-pivot hung or sides hinged, mostly opening to outside. Another set of folding type fly mesh shutters, opening on the inside, but within the wall thickness was also provided. This was a period when across the Europe and USA double-hung sash windows were a rage. Yet nowhere in India sash windows have been exploited.

The verandah door was a major and very effective opening for a room like a French door or window. In addition to the solid wood plank door, it had auxiliary shutters with either fixed Venetian slats or a fly mesh.

Store and other minor rooms were provided with higher sill level openings but with a tapered ledge on the outside or inside. The outside tapered ledge allowed clear view of the street below, whereas the inside sloped sill allowed more light. Across Northern India, rooms had ceiling level ventilating apertures, with awning casement shutter or a shutter less latticed opening. Doors and windows also had transom lites, with a top hung awning casement shutter in square headed openings and arched heads fixed panes of coloured pieces of figured glass with radial muntins were used.

Tall windows reaching from floor to ceiling level had to be avoided for reasons of rain and solar gain. However, windows were masked with Venetian shutters -with fixed but open louvers on exterior face such as in Chettiar houses of Tamil Nadu and Government offices of Calcutta, West Bengal, to curtail the glare while allowing the breeze. The intricate wood joinery did not work well with the long and heavy monsoon. Similar Venetians shuttered windows were used in Eastern India, Neighbouring Burma and other countries of SE Asia.


BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE: Byzantines’ architecture followed the Roman tradition, and continued to construct ‘puncture like windows’ without breaking up the clear surface of the massive walls. Windows though well coordinated in placement were independent of each other. The self sufficiency was provided by the large plain mass between them and also by the strong divisions through heavy mullions and lattice like frame work. Externally the windows were devoid of any decorative attachments. From inside these were harmoniously placed with reference to archways, domes, etc. Internally the windows and other architectural features were all linked by continuous bands of marble and glass mosaic (which was rendered opaque by oxide of tin). The bands made help merge the inter-window surface planes, reducing the compartmental effect of lighting due to sparsely spaced windows. Later, on the exterior-face several architectural features such as the chamferred corners were added to increase the interior illumination, and also to give an illusion of larger size for the window than there actually was. On interior walls, other decorative elements like, the wall paintings, statuettes, carved niche, alcoves, colonnades, etc. replaced the marble and glass mosaic bands. Upper level openings such as the clerestory in the drum of the dome provided high level of reflected lighting to the interior space compared to lesser number of openings in the lower section.

’The problem in the East was to exclude rather than to admit light, and windows were therefore small, so as to make the interior restful and cool. Contrasting with the external glare of the Eastern sun large unbroken wall spaces were available for brilliant mosaic pictures. Windows were also occasionally formed of a thin frame, three ins. thick, of translucent marble, filled in with glass and creamy, golden-hued alabaster, which the brilliant sunshine wrought into colour like stained glass. The Gothic architects of Northern Europe, where large windows were necessary due to dullness of the climate, adopted a translucent scheme of decoration by means of painted glass pictures in the large traceried windows instead of sheathing their walls with mosaics.’ History of Architecture, Fletcher.

ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE: Romanesque architecture openings like windows were overshadowed by the colonnades and piers, but the areas adjacent to the openings became very articulated. Jambs or sides were formed of a series of receding moulded planes. The rounded arch above was also constructed with receding concentric rings following the lines of the recesses of jambs below. The Romanesque fluted pier first replaced the Greek-Roman column and later the capitals and entablature. Two or three floor high -triforium clerestories were created to lit up the interiors and manage the semicircular openings. Several windows with semicircular heads were sometimes grouped together and enclosed in a larger arch. Windows often head a central support element in the form of a column or a pier. A wheel shaped window placed over the main West door later became the Rose window, as at S. Zeno Maggiore, Verona and in South Italian churches, as at Palermo.

Up to 800 AD., i.e. Early Medieval period, windows were small in proportion to the entire area of the facade. Many different forms of windows began to emerge with local influences and materials enforcing the changes. The window openings were at first filled with mainly wooden boards, and also with thin sheets of marble, alabaster, gypsum, wooden boards with pierced holes filled with coloured glass. Opaque glass, almost like a glass-ceramic mosaic was used. Thin strips of alabaster set in a bronze frame were also used. The size of the window was functionally bare minimum, and the glass surface small, so it provided adequate light but not the heat gain that was required in North European climates. Windows gradually began to fill the Romanesque semicircular arched opening. Internally the structure was framed, and external walls began to carry loads at the base points of arches. Semi circular arches began to be replaced by pointed arches, which though reduced the span of opening, also reduced the thrust on the pier. Closely spaced light piers and pointed arches created an interior space that was tall and vertical.

Up to the 12th C the windows of the Romanesque churches had small openings, but for additional gain sloping intrados, and inclined sill were used in thick walls. Originally the openings were without decoration but later received a framework that is they were surrounded by a border of slender shafts. The round shafts had small bases and capitals. The intrados were divided at rectangular intervals by setting up of small columns. Windows were clustered under a circular arch. The surface over the windows but within the arch which had remained flat and without ornamentation now was pierced with small circular openings.

GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE: The pointed arch and buttress system made the external wall virtually non-load bearing. Between the piers and buttresses, windows occupied all the space of the wall face, so were broader and longer. Large windows had sub frames of transoms and mullions, to make them stable against wind pressure, and also to support the leaded glass panes. The mullions almost rose to the base point of the pointed arch, and often went up further up and turned into a pattern called tracery. Tracery is formed by merging separate parts of a circle called foils, at points of contact called cusps. Tracery was primarily used to change the linear character of the sub-frames into a floral form. The tracery filled the upper section of pointed arch opening with new patterns, simple in the early periods but very complex and often confused in later periods. During the late Gothic or Flamboyant style the tracery patterns surpassed circles and segments of circles and became wavy like the flames. However, towards the end of the Gothic period greater sobriety of form came into use and tracery began to decline.

The articulation of the tracery was running parallel to the changes in the column’s shafts, and flutes on the sides of the windows and intrados (an inner curved surface of the arch). On interior side, the surface of the openings and the shrunk wall were nearly in level, to keep the ‘story board’ continuity of the stained glass. Stained glass replaced the traditional wall treatments like mosaic or paintings in oil or stucco. In the evolution of Gothic architecture the progressive enlargement of the windows was not intended to infuse more light into the interiors, but rather to provide an ever-increasing area for the stained glass.

By varying the pitch of the pointed arch windows of different widths were fitted within same floor height. On the exterior face, the side walls were often thin, so flutes and shafts became very slender, but on the front or west side entrance face the small capitals over the shafts were discarded, the shafts and the intrados flutes became one, and formed a tapered opening gap.

Buildings in the early English Gothic period have simple lancet windows arranged either singly or in groups. In the next phase, the Decorated period, the windows are much larger and in the tracery of the windows the circles were omitted. Use of patterns with double curvatures developed into flamboyant tracery. In the later period (1350 C), with Perpendicular style, the stonework of the windows forms a kind of latticework grid, such as the cage of stone and glass interior of Gloucester Cathedral. In this period the elaborate tracery is no longer seen, and the lines on both walls and windows are sharper and less flamboyant.

Gothic architecture saw very rational use of building materials. Materials were imported from far off lands at great cost, so were used judiciously. Stone mullions and column shafts were very thin. Marbles were exposed for their grain.

Gothic ‘Lantern church’ was formed with perpendicular windows rising from floor to vault, but this was not a suitable style for other buildings like palaces, colleges, etc. In Northern parts of Europe larger openings were useful in depicting the stories of The Bible in church, but in other non religious buildings this was not the requirement. Large windows were also not required in sunny parts of Europe like Spain and Italy. This led to revival of Roman style walls with punctured windows. Windows were once again square headed, comparatively small, multi-functional, eye levelled and easy to merge into variety of interior treatments. These windows were abutted with pilasters, half columns and also by offset arcade of full columns. In Spanish architecture of late Gothic era and early Renaissance, the window and its appended decorative elements created a composite facade style.

TUDOR STYLE: The Tudor style (1485- 1603), a local style of architecture developed in England, Wales and Ireland, during a period of peace and prosperity starting from 1485. It was more distinct in domestic buildings then in ecclesiastical buildings. It followed the Perpendicular style and superseded by Elizabethan architecture. Though at the same time elsewhere in Europe classical revival was thriving. Tudor style in later stages overlapped with the first stirring of the Gothic Revival.

Tudor style buildings have the following distinctive features: decorative half-timbering, steeply pitched roof, prominent cross gables, tall and narrow doors and windows, richly patterned brickwork, beginning of small window panes, large chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots, projected upper floors and use of oriel windows. On the interior side walls were richly panelled in wood and ceilings had moulded plaster work. Despite the risk of fire the buildings were timber-framed structures.

Tudor houses of the merchants and artisans had shops or workplaces on the ground and living quarters on the upper floors. With prosperity the houses were rebuilt at the same place but by projecting the upper floor over the street. The overhanging windows of the sides of the street almost met resulting in extremely dark streets.

Windows of Tudor houses of the poor were covered by horn or wooden shutters, but rich began to use the expensive glass, after realizing its effect of at Hardwick Hall. Hardwick hall was considered ‘more glass than wall'. Windows were stretched on elevation to illuminate two rooms on two different storeys. Large size glass windows made interiors lighter and airier. False windows -glass facades were used to conceal chimneys. Small pieces of glass were joined by lead cames in crisscross or lattice patterns to form a larger pane. Glass pane windows were casement windows, hung by hinges and opened outwards.

RENAISSANCE STYLE: During the period 15th C to early 17th C, in various regions of Europe a cultural and artistic movement occurred to revive the values of Greek and Roman cultures, first in France and Italy by people like Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. In England the period was marked by Shakespeare and Elizabeth. The initial movement soon spread to art and architecture.

Renaissance architecture was symmetrical and proportioned compared to the asymmetrical and complex Gothic architecture. Irregular profiles of the medieval buildings began to be replaced with ‘order’ columns, pilasters, square lintels, triangular pediments, semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches with sculptures and aedicules (a small shrine), and symmetrically arranged windows and doors. Gothic and Renaissance coexisted for several decades, but in later periods the renaissance followers were staunch adherents and very hostile to other nonbelievers.

In early part of Renaissance some effects of Gothic elements continued to persist. In France, the picturesqueness and preference for Gothic verticality influenced the position of doors and windows, rather than the functional needs. Two windows were placed under a circular arch divided by a shaft. The openings began to have more surrounding ornamentation than within them like the earlier Gothic. The surrounding ornamentation showed the openings more prominently over the facade. Exteriors though truthfully reflected the interior space modules, but very rarely the function. The facade began to be a mask. The make-believe continued till it was despised as vulgar in the Post industrial revolution period.

The development of mathematical or linear perspective changed how paintings were composed. The painting was regarded as a window on the world. Rendering of landscape in paintings with natural and architectural elements became a new fad. Objects like trees, flowers, plants, distant mountains, and cloud-filled skies were carefully depicted in perspective scale, effect of light and eye perception.

Interest in Renaissance features was largely confined to the educated and wealthy elite, but it pervaded to the common man in the form of environmental improvement through chimneys and glazed windows. Houses became lighter and cleaner and had more private space. Elizabethans (early renaissance in England) delighted in glittering expanses of glazing. Within such day-lighted spaces there would be elaborate fireplace surrounds, square panelling, friezes and ceilings decorated in strap-work -patterns imitating interlaced leather straps.

In the second phase of the renaissance more documented evidence, as published works, on Greek and Roman antiquity was available. Many artists, architects and scholars had started visiting Italian towns. ‘Towards the middle of the 16th C such architects as Michelangelo, Baldassare Peruzzi, Giulio Romano, and Giacomo da Vignola began to use the classical Roman elements in ways that did not conform to the rules that governed designs in the early Renaissance. Arches, columns, and entablature came to be used as devices to create dramatic effects through the manipulation of depth and recession, asymmetry, and unexpected proportions and scales. This was the ‘Mannerist phase’ of Renaissance. Architect Andrea Palladio though not a Mannerist, explored many variations on classical norms. The Palladian arch became popular.

Renaissance affected every region of Europe differently. In Germany the Oriel windows were used projecting both from facades and angles of buildings. In German window composition was repeated to create a strong linear facade. Spanish renaissance arcades had extensive decoration. Windows were flanked by small columns on corbels and framed in richly carved stonework. Ground-floor windows had characteristic Spanish cast iron grilles. In Italy the facade was like a woven fabric, with eaves, sills, pediments, pilaster, columns, doorways, rusticated masonry or moulded bands, etc. Windows were adorned with galleries and balustrades. Buildings were topped with statues, lanterns, domes, drums, accentuating the vertical lines of the window opening. Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti, used pilasters instead of engaged columns to divide the facade, and set the windows within them.


BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE: Baroque style which emerged in the later part of Renaissance, many conventions were removed. Wall surfaces instead of being linear now began to be curved, undulating and highly ornamented. Window openings were often oval, circular but deeply recessed. Vertically sliding window or sash windows were favoured for the ease of opening and controlled ventilation. Sash windows had rectilinear subdivisions, and filled with better quality see through clear water-white glass. Sash windows’ frames were painted white, and placed in brick masonry work as in later English Renaissance. In Baroque buildings a return was often made to the astylar treatment (avoiding the side pillars, pilasters near the opening gap), from the exaggerated details marking the door and window frames. Door and window openings were surrounded by simple quarry-faced ashlar. Though in costly buildings the windows had an ornamental finish, either a breast-moulding resting on consoles or a panel surrounded by a frame or carried by supports. The attic was not common and ‘the top windows were often set in a deep frieze or between consoles supporting the main cornice’.

In early Renaissance and later in Mannerist phase, the architectonic elements were balanced as a static composition, from one perspective of observation but it soon gave way to more dynamism. The spaces were articulated to be a series of interconnected experiences. The architectonic elements lost their individual standing.

In Italy, Michelangelo and Palladio inspired a host of artists. In England Inigo Jones with Italian and Sir Christopher Wren under French influence dominated the scene. Windows and other openings became flat-headed instead of arched, to suit the level ceilings of dwelling-rooms. The sash windows in this flat headed openings, placed almost flush with the outer face of the walls, were painted white to form a contrasting colour scheme flanked by green shutters and the red brickwork.

ROCOCO : It developed as a reaction against the heavy Baroque style. It was known for its feminine curves, intricate designs, and flamboyance. It was emphasized by intricate details, very light pastel colours, and lighter style of architecture. Rococo architecture also brought many improvements to buildings: ‘sanitation was improved, chimneys were made more efficient and rooms were better organized to offer more privacy’. In the 1730's the movement became widespread in southern Germany and Austria in the churches and palaces. Though it did not do as well in other countries as it did in France, where it became known as the French style In the second half of the 18th C, Rococo style gave way to neoclassicism.


PALLADIAN ARCHITECTURE: Palladian architecture is a style of architecture popular across Europe in the 17th and 18th C, based on Andrea Palladio's interpretation of classical Roman temple style. The chief element of Palladian architecture has the window motif called Palladian or Serlian window, the later name was given for the designer who popularized it.

PALLADIAN WINDOW: A Palladian window is a large window that is divided into three parts. The mid unit is an arched opening and wider, whereas the side units are narrower and flat headed at the springing line of the arch. Named after the Renaissance period Italian architect Palladio, a Palladian window is a classical, well proportioned and symmetrical architectural entity that are used as a window as well as a motif. A Palladian motif is placed as an opening gap in an exterior passage or as part of a colonnade, such as in Basilica Vicenza, Italy. The gap has a central arched opening, supported by columns which are offset from the wall thus creating two smaller width gaps on sides. Palladian motifs were placed as entrance porticos but Palladian windows gradually began to be placed at second story, over the entrance doors as the focus element of the building’s facade. This is characteristic of the Federal style, but has also been used on other buildings from Victorian to modern times.

Palladio worked in the Venice region, so the Palladian window is also called a Venetian window. It is also called a Serlian window, because it was mentioned in the writings of architect Sebastiano Serlio. Palladian windows made a comeback during the Post-Modern era. Architect Philip Johnson used it as a doorway (for University of Houston College of Architecture building -1985 and at the Museum of Television and Radio building -1991, New York City; saying said ‘I think Palladian windows have a prettier shape. I wasn't trying to make any more important point than that’.

Andrea Palladio: Andrea Palladio, an Italian is regarded as the greatest Renaissance architect of 16th C (1508-1580). As a youngster he was apprenticed to be a sculptor, and then worked as a bricklayer and stonemason. He later worked in workshops specializing in monuments and decorative sculpture. He was inspired by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (46–30 BC). By 1541 he had assimilated the Roman Renaissance style and began to design villas across Italy. During his stay in Rome (1554-1556) Palladio in published Le antichità di Roma The Antiquities of Rome, which for 200 years remained the standard guide book to Rome.

From the 17th C Palladio's interpretation of this classical architecture was adapted as the style known as Palladianism. Palladio's work is strongly based on the perspective and his elevations reflect the axial emphasis and symmetry. It represents the formal classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. At the end of 20 years of intensive building, Palladio in 1570 published I Quattro libri dell'architettura (The four books of architecture), a treatise on architecture. This work was a summary of his studies of classical architecture. He used a number of his own designs to exemplify the principles of Roman design. It popularized the classical decorative details including studies of materials, the classical orders, and decorative ornaments. It became the most influential architectural pattern book ever printed. Inigo Jones translated Palladio's books into English, Christopher Wren and later in USA Thomas Jefferson were inspired by Palladio's writings. The influence of Palladio's buildings and publications continued in 18th C across Europe, USA and many other parts of the world. Palladio is one of the most influential figures in the whole development of Western architecture.

Palladio’s architecture: Palladio designed his buildings in terms of not only facade proportions but the plan proportioned as a shape. He believed that parts of a house must correspond to the whole and to each other. Palladio built his projects from bricks plastered with stucco rather then stones clad with marbles like his contemporaries. The ornate capitals were made of terra cottas. The pediments and architraves were made if wood covered with straw lathing and then stucco. He avoided using, the then popular tapestries, to cover the interior walls and instead applied frescos.

GEORGIAN STYLE: In England, Georgian style refers to the architecture and extending from 1714 to 1820. In America, Georgian refers to the architectural style of the English colonies from about 1700 to the American Revolution in the 1770. Baroque style was exclusively used in palaces and churches but Georgian style was used for the upper and middle classes residences.

In England, early Georgian architecture was strongly affected by the well proportioned and designed work of Palladio. This was against the Baroque style which was excessively decorative. In this phase large houses and public buildings were fronted with massive pediments and colonnades inspired by ancient Greek and Roman temples. Simple mathematical ratios were used to determine the height of a window in relation to its width or the shape of a room as a double cube. A regular style implied symmetry and adherence to classical rules. House fronts along a street were identical, designed with Georgian proportions and employing a decorative vocabulary derived from ancient Rome or Greece.

Later phase of Georgian style was more varied. Within a symmetrical exterior, the interiors were styled to Rococo Gothic revival, Chinese, Indian and other exotic effects. Robert Adam to develop the concept of an integrated interior with walls, ceiling, carpet and furniture all designed as a single scheme, borrowed Byzantine, Italian Baroque, Etruscan motifs and from ancient Greece and Rome.

Georgian Architecture also spread to English colonies of the time. In the American colonies, it became known as Federal style architecture. American Georgian houses typically have well-organised facade with 5 multi paned windows on the first floor and a central colonnaded entrance door on the ground floor. Main windows of the house were larger with 9 or 12 panes, and for dormers small 6 paned sash windows were used.

After, about 1840 Georgian conventions were abandoned in favour of various revival styles including Gothic. Multi-pane windows were not placed closely, so never paired. In the United States this style declined in favour after the revolution, due to its association with the colonial regime. However, it once again was back as the Colonial Revival during the first half of the 19th C. In Britain the revived Georgian style is referred to as Neo-Georgian.

VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE: The term Victorian architecture can refer to several architectural styles that were predominantly employed during the Victorian era (1837-1901). This type of window was also used in Victorian Architecture skylights and became even more popular in metal construction with the advent of sheet-metal shops during the Victorian era.

REVIVAL OF TUDOR STYLE: Tudor revival occurred in 1800's, and persisted through the mid 20th C. Tudor and Elizabethan styles enjoyed a revival in the Victorian period. Tudor revival style used timbers and exposed purely in a decorative manner. The homes of Tudor revival style were supposed to evoke medieval cottages, with features such as overhanging upper floors, mullioned and narrow windows and solid wood doors.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : WINDOWS : RECENT

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)


Keywords: INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AGE / INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AGE / revival styles / cast iron, wrought iron and mild steel / Portland cement / new structural configurations / building facades of steel and glass / deeper / larger footprint / mullions and transoms thinner / columns and beams / standardization of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware / steel rolled sections / new windows’ configurations / casement windows / sash windows / old opening styles / planning attitudes / main facade / climatic orientation / functions inside / localization and customization / internal treatments to openings / mass produced / personalization or exclusivity / ready to use components / ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT / Industrial revolution / England / Aesthetic Style / British movement / Grammar of Ornament / Art Nouveau / American Arts & Crafts movement / Mission style / ART NOUVEAU / clutter and eclecticism / natural forms / sinuous curved lines / windows were shaped with curvilinear shapes / masking grill / free flowing asymmetrical forms / glass decoration / Jugendstil / Sezessionstil / Modernista / Stile Liberty / Stile Floreale / FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT / Queen Anne style / Victorian inspiration / Prairie house rectilinear window design / darkened space below the elongated eaves / negotiate corners / box like Victorian architecture / double hand sash window / long casement shutter / medium for stained glass patterns / modernist movements William Morris / Louis H. Sullivan / opalescent picturesque effect / Tiffany / John La Farge / Japanese Shoji screens / wood muntins / colourless frosting / LE CORBUSIER / struggle for illumination / opaque surface / shimmering plane / dull surface of the structure / separate ventilation system / glazing plane directly into the masonry / Ronchamp and Shodhan Villa / ribbon windows / Villa Savoy / brise-soleil / mechanical baffles / masonry and cement concrete brise soleil / daylight was a living light / artificial light / distribution of daylight / interior plane adjacent to the window / right angle wall or ceiling / slit windows / parabolic reflectors / picture windows / apertures or cut-outs in ceilings / MIES VAN DER ROHE / FLW -walls to define the opening / LC -walls adjacent to the opening as a reflective plane / give shape to space / vertical cutouts or vertical connections crime of ornamentation.


INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AGE: The period of late 18th C marked the last phase of Revival styles. The Industrial scene was fast changing, offering new materials and technologies. Cast iron, wrought iron and mild steel were being produced economically and qualitatively. Portland Cement was developed in 1824. First applications of steels and as a composite with cement were using the old techniques of construction. But soon enough new structural configurations were devised to construct new entities like railroads, depots, shopping centres, bridges, warehouses, factories and commercial complexes. During 1850 to 1870 building facades of steel and glass virtually eliminating the walls began to be constructed. The daylight illuminated interiors of glass fronted buildings along with changes in of fuels for home warming, cooking and lighting created new architecture. Buildings could now be deeper and have a larger footprint.

The glazing for Windows was now larger, and thinner mullions and transoms. The conspicuous columns and beams began to recede from the face of the building. The shop fronts began to have full size glass. Windows units for domestic as well as commercial spaces now began to be produced in factories, with standardization of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware setting in. The demand for public housing was for cheap and quick supplies of building elements. Steel rolled sections for doors and windows began to be available. Many new windows’ configurations such as the North light or saw tooth truss lighting, domed and sky lights, port holes were devised. Casement windows with friction hinges and sash windows with spring balances replacing the counter weight system, sliding-folding dual mechanisms, began to offer better control over the opening. Many old opening styles were refurnished with better technologies, typically conservatories, jalousie, bay and bow windows were redefined. Window planning attitudes also changed, till now domestic buildings had a main facade receiving a style treatment for openings and all other sides were treated with non-style, less expensive and simpler window solutions. However, in high density urban areas high rise buildings were seen from all sides and required equal treatment. The equal treatment on all sides did not respect the climatic orientation or follow the functions inside. The window was thus required to do many different things depending on its location. Such localization and customization were done by installing new internal treatments to openings.

The transition to new age was not very smooth, there was resistence to do away the time tested styling and skepticism to accept new things. Both the factors were arising due to the fact that craftsmanship was not as refined, quality assurances were not available and at elemental level the entities being mass produced were too common. The personalization or exclusivity was not available. At another level the resistence was coming from builders’ and designer’s, who found their roles changing with ready to use components.

ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT: The Industrial revolution caused two distinct responses across the Atlantic. At one end in England opponents of industrial revolution felt that such development is separating human beings from their creativity and individualism. In this period, manufactured goods were often poor in design and quality. So craftsmanship was stressed with disregard to its cost or afford-ability. The result was exquisitely made and decorated pieces that could only be acquired only by the very wealthy. English Arts and Crafts style came to be known as Aesthetic Style. It was criticized as the ‘work of a few for the few’.

Arts & Crafts movement was supported by William Morris, Charles Voysey and others, who sponsored production of handcrafted metalwork, jewellery, wallpaper, textiles, furniture, books and hand printing. The British movement focussed on the richly detailed gothic style. Their interior walls were either whitewashed or covered in wallpaper depicting medieval themes. Aesthetic ideas were also borrowed from Medieval European, Islamic and Japanese sources. Owen Jones, published a book entitled The Grammar of Ornament, which was to become a source book of historic decorative design elements, largely taken from medieval and Islamic sources. This work in turn inspired the use of such historic sources by other designers.

The movement was able to forcefully reinstate the ideal of design, and succeeded in impressing the industry to hire artists as designers. By 1910 the 20th C design became essential component of all products. Its ideas spread to other countries and became identified with the growing international interest in design, specifically with Art Nouveau.

Whereas on the other side of Atlantic, the American Arts & Crafts movement was based on the clarity of form and materials’ expression through grain pattern, colour and texture. The machines were used for lowering the cost and greater productivity.

The term Mission style was also used to describe Arts and Crafts Furniture and design in the United States. The use of this term reflects the influence of traditional furnishings and interiors from the American Southwest, which had many features in common with the earlier British Arts and Crafts forms. The result was a ‘blending of the arts and crafts rectilinear forms with traditional Spanish colonial architecture and furnishings’. Mission Style interiors were often embellished with Native American patterns, or actual Southwestern Native American artifacts such as rugs, pottery, and baskets.


ART NOUVEAU: This style was concurrent with the Arts & Crafts style but was not concerned with the social reform. Instead, it addressed the clutter and eclecticism of mid 19th C European buildings. Originating in Belgium and France, Art Nouveau designers used natural forms such as the peacock feathers, butterflies, and insects. The sinuous curved lines of grasses, lilies, vines, all arranged in asymmetrical forms were their inspirations. Forms and patterns from the past styles or from other cultures were resisted in design. Though Japanese approach to nature as depicted in their paintings was admired. Windows were shaped with curvilinear shapes and masking grill to de-form their rectangularity. Art Nouveau free flowing asymmetrical forms were used for glass decoration such as frosting, etching, grinding and stained colouring.

Although known as Jugendstil in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, Modernista in Spain, and Stile Liberty or Stile Floreale in Italy, Art Nouveau has become the general term applied to a highly varied movement that was European-centred but internationally current at the end of the century. Gaudi’s work like that of most Art Nouveau architecture, was gained through bizarre form and ornamentation.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: FLW by 1893 was an independent architect and began window designing in Queen Anne style, but soon enough began to break away from the Victorian inspiration. It was a move to the Prairie house rectilinear window design that set a direction for the next 25 years. Wright had once said "beautiful buildings I could build if only it were unnecessary to cut holes in them." This was exemplified in Prairie house windows. Windows were no longer punctures in the wall or an element of the wall, but rather began to be elements on their own. They created a visual stand, an ornamental factor, a visual interest under the darkened space below the elongated eaves. He began to open up the interior spaces with clear glass doors and windows as in Prairie houses. Wright began to negotiate corners with windows to break the box like Victorian architecture of the age. The interior spaces became one end less flow. He never accepted the then current ("poetry-crushing guillotine") double hand sash window, but used the long casement shutter stretching as a single panel, uninterrupted by any mid bars, from lintel to sill level. According to Wright the long casement shutter ‘brought outside in more effectively than the double-hung sash’. The open expanse of the casement shutters, its glass and the light behind became the medium for stained glass patterns. After a European tour that exposed him to the modernist movements of the time, Wright depended on straight parallel lines and repeated use of small squares as pattern.

Wright's glass designs in an earlier phase were influenced by William Morris and Louis H. Sullivan. He, instead of the opalescent picturesque effect offered by commercial glass designers like Tiffany and John La Farge, relied more on clear glass, abstract geometric patterns and discreet colouring to create what he called ‘light screens’, evoking the Japanese Shoji screens. In the later part of 1920's, Wright also began to use wood muntins along with colourless frosting as tools for patterning. With the Usonian house in the 1940's, window patterns were created by perforating plywood panels and sandwiching plate glass between them. In Johnson wax building, Wright wanted to create an internal building, without any worthwhile exterior view. The glass tubes in Johnson building negotiated curves, which would not have been possible through flat glass panes. It was a highly unique glazing approach, though not efficient in actual working.


LE CORBUSIER: For Corbusier history of a window was a struggle for illumination. He typically wanted, at least in the initial years, openings to bring outside in. This was due to childhood memories of Northern Europe day lighting, inferior quality of glazing and interior spaces that had small windows and required artificial illumination often during the day time. He, as a cubist saw the glazing plane as an opaque surface slightly receding due to its placement and surface quality. Glass was a shimmering plane against the dull surface of the structure. He liked the configuration for illumination to be unbroken, and so preferred a separate ventilation system. For the same reason he did not like framing for the window. He would rather place the glazing plane directly into the masonry. This was continued in many of the later buildings like Ronchamp and Shodhan Villa Ahmedabad.

Corbusier started placing more then adequate openings, like the ribbon windows of Villa Savoy, and invited complaints from the client. The extent openings became more rational in later projects. To cut the excessive glare he began to use an architectural baffle, a brise-soleil, for the first time, in the Algerian offices blocks (1933). Later he experimented with mechanical baffles for an office building in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but mainly used masonry and cement concrete brise soleil for buildings at Chandigarh and Ahmedabad.

For him daylight was a living light was continuously variable, whereas the artificial light was static and local. Corbusier experimented with the distribution of daylight by positioning an interior plane adjacent to the window. The planes were first in the form of a right angle wall or ceiling, but later became inclined as well as doubly curved. Slit windows close to flat ceilings were used in many buildings. He began to use the same technique for distributing illumination of electric lights by large parabolic reflectors.

Corbusier placed openings to frame specific land views as picture windows or often just apertures. Ends of the ramps, stairs, passages, were marked by such openings. Such linking of openings was also used with apertures or cutout in ceilings. These occurred with another smaller or larger cut out below or with a water body to reflect it.


MIES VAN DER ROHE: Mies, like his contemporaries FLW and LC also realized the need to open up the interior spaces. Removal of all partitioning elements, walls, was one common strategy adopted by architects of the period. However, FLW used the walls to define the opening, but LC used the walls adjacent to the opening as a reflective plane to modulate the spaces. Mies used the walls as a simple rectilinear and planar form to give shape to space, open it, and link it to the landscape’. ‘Without plate glass the ability of steel and concrete ‘to transform space would be limited, even lost altogether; it would remain only a vague promise’.

The free-flowing interconnection between rooms and the outdoor surroundings occurred only in horizontal plane. Curiously vertical cutouts or vertical connections remained unexplored in Mies architecture. Mies found appeal in the use of, clean lines, pure use of colour, and the extension of space around and beyond interiors as expounded by the Dutch De Stijl group. In particular, the layering of functions in space and the clear articulation of parts as expressed by Gerrit Rietveld appealed to Mies. Mies' design for wall opening included a bronze curtain wall with external H-shaped mullions that were exaggerated in depth beyond what is structurally necessary, touching off criticism by his detractors that Mies had committed Adolf Loos's crime of ornamentation.      HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : WINDOWS : TYPES

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

Keywords: classified in terms locations / roof level / within the wall / project out of the wall / close to the floor / low sill and head level / shaped peculiarly.

Historical examples of windows can be broadly classified in terms of their locations. There can be five such categories: 1. Windows that are placed at roof level or in someway connected to the roof structure, 2. Windows that are vertically placed but are within the wall, 3. Windows that project out of the wall, 4. Windows that part of the floor, placed close to the floor, or have a very low sill and head level, and 5. Windows that shaped peculiarly.

Sub Index for chapter Historical perspective : Windows : Types Roof level windows Wall windows Windows projecting out Floor level windows Other shaped windows HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : ROOF LEVEL WINDOWS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

(Click here to go to Sub Index)


Keywords: LANTERN WINDOW / clerestory opening / Ely cathedral / Renaissance and Baroque architecture / cupola / Bell tower / Georgian era / roof lanterns / Victorian era / orangeries / conservatories / crystal palace / Industrial revolution / early lantern structures / modern lanterns / CIMBORIO / CUPOLA / belfry, lantern, belvedere / Chhatri / CONSERVATORY / green house / sun room / ORANGERY / conservatory / greenhouse / France Germany and the Netherlands / SUN ROOM / patio room, solarium, conservatory, patio enclosure or Florida Room / CLERESTORY / stained glass windows / shadow-less and nearly consistent level of illumination / roof hole / transparent roofs or clear domes / CLERESTORY WINDOWS / DORMER WINDOWS / attic window / sloping gable roof / roof over a dormer / eaves / parapet / embattlements, crenels, embrasures / wall dormers / true or dummy window / window surrounds / false or blind dormers / chimneys, lanterns / doghouse / barn windows / hay-windows / types of dormer windows / gable dormer / hipped dormer / insert dormer / turret dormer / French segmental dormer / fanlight dormer / eyebrow dormer / shed or lean-to extended shed dormer / all glass contemporary dormer

Different types of windows have been grouped here in terms of their location and listed in time sequence rather then in alphabetical order.


LANTERN WINDOW: A lantern is a timber-framed structure, usually octagonal, polygonal or circular in shape, placed as a crown over a turret or dome of a building to admit light and allow smoke to escape. The lantern’s structure was initially filled with wood slats (louvres) but later was covered with glass. It is a form of clerestory opening at roof level. The glass-covered form, due to the internal illumination, was visible at night from a great distance, like a lantern. Later specific beacons and lights were placed here for the same purpose. Although the primary function of a lantern was to admit light to the interior, it became an architectural capping element, with rib and vault form. The central octagon of Ely Cathedral (14th C) is a lantern. In Renaissance and Baroque architecture, lanterns came to mean a small cupola-like structure, usually with a decorative arcade, mounted on top of a dome. In some Armenian churches it is also used as a bell-tower.

Typical lanterns capped domes are at: Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence (1436–71), St. Peter’s in Rome (1506), St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (1689), and the Capitol in Washington, DC.

During the Georgian era (1714-1830), interiors could be dim and dark even on sunny days, and in absence of electric or gaslight candle power was the only source of illumination. Roof lanterns were used to illuminate the stairwell landings and other areas of home. The key element of a lantern, the glass was hand made and very expensive, limiting the use of roof lanterns in the homes of elite. However, in the later part of Victorian Era (1837-1901), glass was made by machines, became more affordable and orangeries and conservatories also became part of buildings. Virtually every urban row house of the late 19th and early 20th C used a metal-framed skylight to illuminate the deep-set stairwell.

The Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 inspired people for greater use of glass in roof structures of buildings, and the Industrial revolution provided the necessary affluence and technology. Roof lanterns were used for illuminating domestic billiard rooms, reception rooms and kitchens, and in public buildings such as hotels, in places of education, town halls and public libraries.

Early lantern structures were delicate and prone to leakage as good quality sealants were not available. The glass was poor insulator and allowed heat to escape or enter. Many lanterns lit interiors were unconformably cold in winter and warm in summer. The ventilation in lantern opening was possible through inconvenient and inefficient opening mechanisms of cranks and levers. Today, however, modern lanterns have double layered glazing, high quality sealants and remote controlled automated opening mechanisms.

CIMBORIO: Spanish term for a lantern or raised structure above a roof to admit light in the interior.

CUPOLA: A cupola is a small dome-like structure, on top of a building. It is used to provide a lookout and also to admit light and air. The word derives from Latin Cupa =cup suggesting a vault like an inverted cup. A cupola is more bodied and is an architectural element crowning a larger roof, tower, spire, turret or dome. Cupolas also feature as a belfry, lantern, or belvedere above a main roof. The Chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, is a cupola but not used for lighting interior spaces.

CONSERVATORY: A conservatory is a glass and metal structure, a greenhouse, for growing tender and exotic plants, for rearing birds and animals, and occasionally as a sun room in a yard, garden, verandah or on top floor as a terrace facility. Conservatories became popular in 19th C, after the success of glass buildings such as the crystal palace in London. Conservatories were popular for breakfasts and evening tea parties.

ORANGERY: An orangery is similar to a conservatory or greenhouse. It is generally located in the free ground of an estate or building. The name reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees like orange were often wintered in tubs under cover, for surviving through harsh frosts though not expected to flower and fruit.

Orangeries originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy. An orangery was built in Padua Italy, as early as 1545, and at the Palace of the Louvre Paris in 1617. The orangeries became fashionable once the long war was over in 1648, in France Germany and the Netherlands. Orangeries became part of ordinary residences during 17th to 19th C. Developments in glass making have enabled the form of orangeries. Early orangeries had large windows but opaque roofs, glazed roofs was developed in the early 19th C. Early orangeries, as existed in Great Britain and France in 16th C, were buildings that could be completely covered by planks and sacking and heated in the cold season by stoves. In Europe, orangeries facing South were constructed with brick or stone columns, with tall windows to receive optimum sunlight in the afternoon, whereas the ones facing the North had solid walls with smaller windows to be able to keep the space warm. Insulation was a major problem that was tackled with straw packing or covering with wooden planks and woven sacks. Additional wooden planks were mounted over the glass to keep the cold out.

SUNROOM: A Sunroom is an attached structure on the side of a house for to enjoy the outdoor while being sheltered from adverse weather conditions such as rain and wind. The structure is often referred to as a patio room, solarium, conservatory, patio enclosure or Florida Room. In the past such a room was a separate entity from the main house, but now it is integral part of the house.

CLERESTORY: An upper level opening in a building formed either by split-level roof slabs or by a series of windows. A clerestory opening rises above adjacent roofs so provides illumination to the core section of the building. Egyptian temples used clerestory opening between two slabs to illuminate and ventilate deep interiors. Roman, Byzantine and Early Christian buildings have clerestory windows at the base of a dome or vault. Clerestory openings well articulated in Romanesque and Gothic periods, but interiors with large stained glass windows did not require clerestory illumination as it disturbed the picturesque effect. Side windows however, reached close to the gothic vault. Clerestory openings made the upper section of the structure physically light weight, and visually ‘celestial’. Industrial plants and sports facilities use clerestory openings for shadow less and nearly consistent level of illumination in interior spaces. Clerestory openings were a necessity as roof hole like openings were technologically not feasible and materials for constructing transparent roofs or clear domes were available.

CLERESTORY WINDOW: A vertical window set in a roof structure or high in a wall, used for day lighting.

DORMER WINDOW: A dormer is an attic window located in the sloping gable roof, on the main face of the building. A dormer is an extension of the attic and provides accessible or functional height right to the front edge of the room, which is used for placing a bed or study unit. The roof over a dormer is slopped cross way from the slope of the main roof. The dormer windows are design-matched with the window of a lower floor, creating an impression of a taller window, both from outside as well as inside. Dormers add a visual interest to the nominally plain gable roof surface. In England when fire laws did not permit architectural projections such as eaves, etc., the front wall was extended as a parapet to cover up the roof end. The parapet was articulated with embattlements, crenels, embrasures and dormers. Wall dormers are lower floor windows extended up to roof, parapet top, or even higher, as a true or dummy window, with all features of an highly ornamental window surrounds. False or blind dormers were added to visually balance roof-levelled other appendages, like chimneys, lanterns etc. Dormer openings are also called a doghouse, because the form of the dormer resembles the pet-house. Attic level barn windows shaped like a dormer used for taking in or out hay are called hay-windows.

Types of Dormer windows: A gable dormer has sloped roof on both sides. A hipped dormer has roof sloping on three sides including front. An insert dormer is set back from the sloping edge of the roof so has some sloping roof on its front bottom side. A turret dormer has multi angled hipped roof. A French segmental dormer has lower floor window continuing above by breaking the line of roof eaves. A fanlight dormer and Eyebrow dormer has rounded top window. A shed or lean-to dormer has single slope roof. An extended shed dormer has roof line extending beyond the main roof line. An all glass contemporary dormer has all sides formed of fixed glass or jalousie. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE : WALL WINDOWS

(Click here to go to Chapter 4.2 Index)

(Click here to go to Sub Index)


Keywords: LANCET WINDOWS / acute pointed arch / Lancet period / LUNETTE / OCULUS / oeil-de-boeuf / bull's-eye / oxeye / wheel / roundel windows / Roman Pantheon / cupolas / volutes on ionic column / Baroque period / ornate carving / Gothic windows / modern circular windows / L Khan’s Indian Management Institute / OEIL-DE-BOEUF WINDOW / JALOUSIE WINDOWS / adjustable louvers window / awning windows / slating material / ROSE WINDOWS / WHEEL WINDOWS / circular window / Gothic architecture / ocular window or oculus / Roman circular gaps or oculus / richly decorated element /nave West end of the nave and the ends of the transepts / pierced openings / tracery / Romanesque and Gothic / round arch / pointed arch / inscribed in square / STAINED GLASS WINDOWS / long perpendicular Lancet / circular Rose or Wheel / medallion pattern / story board / darker interior space / modern version a back lit lantern / lead cams / surrounding metal frame / mullions, transoms and muntins / painted black / lumps of cast glass / insert in roof slabs and domes / polished glass discs / glow effect / lines and areas / thin-sliced alabaster / translucent white or coloured glass / patterns, persons or scenes / transparency, clarity, shine and patterns / ground, polished or engraved / early Christian / early Romanesque / Romanesque rounded arch / Gothic buttressing system / cloisonne enamels and miniature paintings / stained glass area / story board / single monumental figure / multiple narrative windows / series of medallions / allover decorative patterns, or diapers, on the groundwork adjacent to the figures /scenes ignoring the mullions imitation of frescoes and oil paintings / Cartoons and sample books / yellow stain Cousin's rose / heraldic designs and details / assembly of coloured pieces of glass / interiors of buildings with large stained glass windows / Cristallo / art of applying metal powders / tonal staining / Catholic church / Protestants / extravagant decorative arts / Renaissance period / pictures on glass rather than with glass / stained glass lost its glory / religious, political and aesthetic / Reformation / stained glass windows with religious content / replaced with clear glass / non-religious subject matter / heraldic panels / simpler religious buildings / revived in the 19th C / Victorian era stained glass windows / front doors / leaded patterns, bevelled edges and multiple layering / John La Farge / Opalescent glass / Louis Comfort Tiffany / Gemmail glass / Jean Crotti.


Different types of windows have been grouped here in terms of their location and listed in time sequence rather then in alphabetical order.


LANCET WINDOW: It is a tall narrow window with acute pointed arch at its top. It appeared first in French early-Gothic period (1140-1200) and later in the English period of Gothic architecture (1200-1275). The feature was so common, that the Gothic and other ecclesiastical architecture of this era are sometimes called ‘Lancet Period’. Lancet windows are placed singly or in pairs. Strictly speaking a lancet window should be austere and without tracery, but the form is often subdivided and filled with stained glass in the Gothic-revival period of the 19th C. The panels of the lancet windows always tell a biblical story and are read from left to right and from bottom to top. Lancet type openings were grouped in twos or threes under an enclosing arch. The remaining space was pierced with small circular openings.

LUNETTE: A Lunette is an arched crescent-shaped or semicircular aperture or decorative element.

OCULUS: Oculus (pl.=oculi) are a small windows that are circular or oval in shape, and is also called: Oeil-de-boeuf, Bull's-eye, Oxeye, Wheel, Roundel windows. Oculus are a Latin term meaning eye. Oculi was completely open, pierced panels or glazed with crude glass -as was available at the time. Oculi is placed on the top of a dome as in Roman Pantheon or on cupolas, on the drums that support the dome, high in the end of a gable roof or within a pediment over an opening system. In architecture, a shape that resembles an eye is called oculus, such as the pair of volutes on Ionic column. In Baroque period many shapes of ocular windows were used. These were oval or of a more complex shape. They were of very simple form, neither traceried nor crossed by mullions, but were often surrounded by ornate carving. The purpose of such windows was not to see the exterior but rather allow subtle light to illuminate the interior spaces. The Baroque oculus were rarely a dominant visual element, either over the facade or on the interior face. Compared to this the great Gothic windows, were very important elements of the facade scheme. Modern circular openings include L Khan’s Indian Management Institute, Ahmedabad and Assembly buildings at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Other examples include modernistic circular openings, marine and space ships’ hatch windows.

OEIL-DE-BOEUF WINDOW: It is a small circular window resembling a wheel, often with radiating glazing bars similar to spokes of a wheel. In French, oeil-de-boeuf means ‘eye of the steer’.

JALOUSIE WINDOWS: A jalousie window is an adjustable louvers window. The earliest reference to Jalousie dates back to around the 16th C. It is a window composed of overlapping narrow glass, metal, or wooden slats or louvers, operated with a crank handle for adjusting the louver angles. Jalousie louvres are usually narrow, approximately 75 to 150 in width, individually pivoted at the edge. The louvers are operated simultaneously by lever or crank handle that is connected to all by means of a hinge. Jalousie windows with extremely wide louvered panes, e.g. more than 150, which may not be operated simultaneously, are called awning windows. Modern day jalousie has glass, acrylic, other plastic sheets and metal composites sheet as slating material. Jalousie is not security tight opening. Jalousie Windows are impossible to seal, so is not very energy efficient. However, for the same reason these are well suited for verandah areas of tropical buildings.

ROSE WINDOWS: WHEEL WINDOW: The term wheel window is often applied to a circular window divided by simple spokes radiating from a central boss or opening, while the term rose window is reserved for circular windows of more complex design which can be seen to bear similarity to a multi-petalled rose. The term Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to any circular window, but is especially used for those found in churches of the Gothic architecture and is divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery. The name rose window was not used before the 17th C. A simple circular window without tracery is called an ocular window or oculus.

German art historian Otto von Simson considers the origin of the rose window to the six lobed rosettes and octagon windows which adorned the external wall of the Umayyad palace Khirbat al-Mafjar built in Jordan around 740. The theory suggests that crusad