Sunday, October 23, 2011

Memory 3.0 Living on the Edge

Window seats and bay windows are, by definition, located in exterior walls and are therefore edge places. They permit us to occupy the bounding edge of a space, which is unusual. But in itself, the window seat is a space, centered on the individual, with its own warmth and daylight that give an edge the qualities of a center. They work best in the traditional architecture of thick, masonry walls, such as at Turku Castle (Turku, Finland, 13th through 16th centuries) where the heat that comes with sunlight can be stored in thick walls to make a warm place, often at a cold exterior edge. Sunlight on the surfaces of the space signals the likely presence of warmth. The combination of protection in a cozy, warm space, right next to the cold outside, is one of those memorable associations, heightened of course, by the unlikelihood of it all. We are lent the impression that we have some control over our environment. The intimacy of the window seat, in a place that is precarious (at a glazed portion of a wall), but with a commanding view of external challenges is reminiscent of other great views: from steep hillsides, the tops of towers, the railings of bridges, and the ends piers, all of which permit us to hover above the world, in mid-air, which is to say, in mid-daylight. When these places are also comfortable, it creates an almost unbeatable combination of familiar and soothing associations with surprising visual challenges.