While reading Iwona Blazwick’s essay “A Modern Story” in Hannah Starkey: Photographs 1997-2007 (1), I came across the following passage, quoted by Blazwick from Carolyn Christov Bakargiev:
‘Iron, electricity, the use of steel and reinforced concrete in construction…and air conditioning, have progressively modified the architecture of the window…the practical and physical functions of the window (light and ventilation) were relegated to a less important position in building design…Extremes became possible…you could build without windows; you could build wall that is structurally solid but that is completely transparent, almost all glass…’ (2)
I work in a modern tall building that was erected less than 10 years ago. In keeping with what seems to be a trend in new office spaces in London, the building features garden terraces every few floors, full of greenery, where tenants can walk and relax for a few minutes to escape the pressure of work. Like all other modern buildings, its external surface is all glass, providing spectacular panoramic views of the city from the higher floors, almost uninterrupted. Until now, I always assumed that these glass surfaces were windows, but the passage quoted above flipped a switch in my mind and I realised that my workspace was not surrounded by windows, as I always thought, but by solid walls. Walls that could not be opened or cracked, their safety glass designed to withstand heavy blows. Of course, the narrative that we work in a space which is a surrounded by windows is indeed more romantic, and less prone to cause anxiety than the reality, which is that we are trapped by solid, impregnable surfaces that do not let anything in or out. It somewhat brought me back to the work of Rafal Milach, which I commented earlier in this blog (link), particularly his installation “Both White” through which he tries to explore the issue of suggestibility and peer pressure, and our inability to see things for what they are because we are trying too hard to conform.
(1) Blazwick, I., 2007. Hannah Starkey: Photographs 1997-2007. 1st ed. Gottingen: Steidl. Pp i-v
(2) Idem, p ii