THESIS – Window as a place
Milan, IT

"Once beginning the journey of studying architecture, the enjoyable passion for windows and how they are experienced has transformed into a more conscious exploration, closely linked to the space derived from them. In particular, conceiving the window as a multifaceted element, so fascinating, it was spontaneous to wonder (and investigate) how it could assert its presence even more strongly within the house."

Valentina Blancardi, author of the thesis


Reading the window as a place of dwelling constitutes the principle of investigation for this research, which aims to emphasize the fundamental role of this element within the domestic walls. This study seeks to clarify that it is not merely a purely technological device, where design is reduced to a simple study of the window's value solely as a technical device that meets regulatory standards. Instead, through a careful study within the history of architecture, it can be seen as a true place, a space to be lived in. This idea is a variation on the theme of the thickness of the building envelope in architecture. The inhabited window thus acquires its spatial and social qualities through "Thickness." To confirm this hypothesis, the characteristics opposed to those that constitute the window as a place of dwelling are negated. The idea is to reject the image of the window as a simple "opening" that fits into a thin facade, solely intended to bring light to the other spaces of the house, and lacking all the elements that could provide the most important function: the contemplation of the outside world. Thickness therefore characterizes the key to understanding the inhabited window, which can acquire a multifaceted nature depending on the spatial characteristics derived from it. One of the main goals is to analyze the elements that make a window habitable and, as such, how it becomes a place, a place of dwelling that ensures a continuous and constant relationship between the public sphere of the city and the more intimate reality of the home, allowing the inhabitant to live in the ultimate "limit" space of the house.


1.1 The importance of the boundary
1.2 Thickness as a mediator
1.3 The window becomes a place

Torre Nazari, Luis Castillo + Mercedes Miras, Almeria, 2010

Villa le Lac, Le Corbusier, Corseaux, 1924

"When the thickness of the wall increases, the void beneath it (the window) assumes habitable and socially valuable characteristics. There has always been an implicit potential within wall thicknesses, capable of releasing great expressiveness and significant architectural value when the thickness is excavated. The window associated with the thickness of the wall naturally acquires the characteristics of a new space designed within the residential walls."

Window as a place, p. 24


2.1 The words of Louis I. Kahn
2.2 The suburban villa
2.3 The urban residence

Homes for Senior Citizens, Peter Zumthor, Chur, 1993

Fisher House, Louis I. Kahn, Hatboro, 1967

"Light, defined by Kahn as the life of the material, is filtered, enters a room, and attracts man and his activities. If light becomes an attracting pole, the window, which serves as the filter element allowing light to enter the house, in turn assumes an attractive property. The man, drawn by the light, is brought near the window and it is here that he begins to inhabit it. Moreover, it is Kahn himself who defines the window as one of the most wonderful elements of a room."

Window as a place, p. 30


3.1 Light and space: learning from Louis I. Kahn
3.2 Window: extension of the house into nature
3.3 Between public and private: living around the window
3.4 The extraordinary sociability of the edge

"Light is the principle of everything, delineating the boundary between the visible and the invisible, asserting itself as the fundamental element with which humans are able to perceive reality."

Window as a place, p. 42

"Light is the principle of everything, delineating the boundary between the visible and the invisible, asserting itself as the fundamental element with which humans are able to perceive reality."

Window as a place, p. 42

Drawing by Valentina Blancardi

Verbouwing Woning, NU architectuuratelier, Kessel-Lo, 2009

"It is natural to think of a direct connection between light and space, as it is space that defines the value of architecture through light. The spaces defined by light and consequently by the window can only be the most livable for humans and more interesting for an architect to design."

Window as a place, p. 43

Drawing by Valentina Blancardi

Lù Chatarme transformation, Deschenaux Follonier, Arolla, 2019

"The inhabited window serves as the most natural bridge between the inside and the outside, enabling one to experience both realms privately while enjoying the poetic evocation of natural light within one's own home. As Master Kahn eloquently stated, the true marvel of an interior space is the unique atmosphere that light bestows upon it."

Window as a place, p. 43

Drawing by Valentina Blancardi

Student Housing Somerville College, Niall McLaughlin Architects, Oxford, 2011

"The thickness of the bow window accommodates the interior furnishings, providing continuity between the inside and the outside. Inside, each student has the opportunity to make the space absolutely unique and personal, depending on the objects used and the qualities attributed."

Window as a place, p. 93

Drawing by Valentina Blancardi

Mädcheninternat Kloster Disentis, Gion A. Caminada, Disentis, 2004

"In this case, the habitability of the window can also be perceived from outside the building: given the specific recess of each opening which in turn determines a protrusion of the adjacent window, thus implying the formation of a niche to inhabit inside."

Window as a place, p. 101

Drawing by Valentina Blancardi

Hotel Palace, Onsitestudio + Piovenefabi, Bruxelles, 2018

"This is an example of an inhabited window that is extremely tied to its social characteristic: the user is in close contact with the surrounding city and the sociality that permeates it. As it is a building used as a hotel, the rooms are inhabited by the same person for only a few days, hence the communal meaning is derived, understood as the continuous turnover of individuals who have the opportunity to inhabit these windows."

Window as a place, p. 105


"It becomes implicit to ask, given the innumerable qualities that the window possesses (its strategic placement, its continuous relationship with the context, the constant source of natural light that pervades it, its social value, its contemplative properties), why these characteristics cannot be embraced to create a new living space around the window. A space conceived as a resting place where one can engage in any static, meditative, intimate, or communal activity, in constant connection with the outside, thus experiencing the "threshold" as one of the most valuable places within the home, experiencing the window as a true place in itself."

Window as a place, p. 107


Bruno Melotto, Orsina Simona Pierini, Housing Primer (Maggioli Editore, 2012)
Christian Norberg-Schulz, Jan George Digerud, and Louis I. Kahn, Louis I. Kahn: Idea e immagine (Officina Edizioni, 1980)
Eleonora Salsa, La dimensione del comfort urbano (Maggioli Editore, 2015)
Francesco Cacciatore, The wall as living place (Lettera ventidue, 2016)
Giannino Cusano, La finestra e la comunicazione architettonica (Dedalo, 1979)
Louis I. Kahn, Maria Bonaiti, Architettura è Louis I. Kahn, gli scritti (Electa, 2002)
Ludovico Maria Fusco, Viviana Saitto, Lo spazio della soglia (Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2016)
Matteo Pericoli, Finestre sull'altrove. 60 vedute per 60 rifugiati (Il Saggiatore, 2021)
Peter Zumthor, Atmosfere. Ambienti architettonici. Le cose che ci circondano (Mondadori Electa, 2008)
Rem Koolhaas, Elements of Architecture (Taschen, 2018)
Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Fuminori Nousaku, and Chie Konno, WindowScape (Film Art, 2019)

Thesis by Valentina Bancardi
Supervisor Prof. Umberto Maj
Co-supervisors Arch. Cesare Galligani and Arch. Ylenia Rose Testore
AY 2020/2021