Round windows

Circular Window by DelosJ.

Why are round windows so uncommon in North America? Not a rhetorical question. When you do see them here, either in house or garden, they seem magical and out of the ordinary. Round, eye-level windows are quite prevalent in many other places, including Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Europe. Here they mainly seem associated with East Asian design—the feature windows in Japan or China in ceremonial  rooms or in garden walls—or with futurism or science fiction, such as circular doorways on spaceships or 1970s utopian or alternative architecture. There are two exceptions: (1) the rose windows in North American churches, and (2) the small maritime-influenced decorative windows in Eastcoast colonial architecture. But these aren’t windows you look out from; they are windows to make you feel short. They are usually placed very high, they are either made from stained glass or are made too small for a view, and they’re usually mullioned rather than being open circles. I’m more interested here in the sort of round windows or passages that are placed at human height to frame a contemplative view and to provide some relief from the rectilinearity of rooms and architecture. Above, the round garden wall opening is in a Chinese garden in Sydney, Australia. Below, two round windows at Arcosanti, the eco-city built by Paolo Soleri in Arizona in the 1970s—the first is in the Crafts III building and the second is in a breakfast nook.

Round window in the Crafts III building at Arcosanti, the eco-city by Paolo Soleri, Arizona, 1970s.

Arcosanti breakfast nook with round window, Arizona

Berlin loft, round window with white rungs

Round windows are a striking, dynamic design feature and they’re underused, which is odd because they are not impossible to build. Even when they are slightly more expensive than regular windows, they give a lot of design value compared to what you spend. Is it thanks to the stigma that is still attached, annoyingly, to 60s and 70s decor that we don’t see them much? They really need to make a comeback. It doesn’t have to look like the below, even though this sunken 70s dining area in the US is fantastic. Photo from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press. The photo above is from the Terence Conran House Book, and is of a loft in Berlin.

Circular sunken dining room, 1970s

Annette's shack with round window in N.E. England

Above, Annette’s “shack” in N. E. England. Handmade hippie houses in England and N. America often featured round windows. Below, an open, circular window in an annex to Brazil’s Ministry of Exterior Relations is by internationally renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It looks out into a garden of little yellow flowers and a geometric tiled wall.

Diplomatic Opening by Mondmann.

Many more round windows below – click for more.

Round Window in Philip Johnson's Brick House

Round Window in Philip Johnson’s Brick House, which faces his Glass House.

Round window with birdcage, Cuba, by |\ |) |=

This amazing round window with birdcage, Cuba, is from |\ |) |= on Flickr.

looking through the round window by qofd.

Circular opening in one of the themed gardens at Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton NZ. Below, round balcony openings in Miami by jenzlenz.

Circular Window 1 by jenzlenz.

Round window in Altea, Spain, by

circular window, Altea- Spain 10-2008 by

Below, window in wall of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England, opening onto view of Barbara Hepworth sculptures.

A 70s kitchen with double round windows from desire to inspire.

70s kitchen from Desire to Inspire

Lastly, Apartment Therapy loves this one.

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5 Responses to “Round windows”

  1. Building mimics DNA, petri dishes | Ouno Design Says:

    […] most ridiculously unattractive streets. The building’s most obvious feature is its round windows, which are meant to reference the glass petri dishes used in cancer research. And they’re […]

  2. roonerjeff Says:

    Thank you. I am planning mods to my own hand-modified old house and the greater round window concept had not occurred to me.

  3. Brian Freeman Says:

    Very pleasing and inspiring!!!!

  4. Rod Gibbons Says:

    I’m inspired by these round windows. I build a line of mini-floating homes, Eco-Sea Cottages, and I’m “underwhelmed” by the square and rectangular windows offered to me by most window manufacturers. As noted above, the round windows that ARE offered are typically too small to suit the grand vistas outside of a floating home….and the small, New England type round windows are…too small.
    I’m thinking I’d like to offer one 5′ circular window — maybe even 2, with 1 along either side of the living room — and then add a matching, circular window seat, perhaps about 24″ wide, that would follow, say, about 35-to-45-degrees of the lower perimeter of the window. This curved, padded chaise, it’s fixed shape approximately matching the curve of a hammock, would offer seating/lounging along the lower rim of the window. How comfy to read, or simply daydream, in such a seat, with a watery world only inches beyond the circular glass pane.
    But then, sometimes I’m taken by too whimsical of ideas. Is there anyone else reading this who would be similarly intrigued by this type of big, circular window with adjoining curved lounge seat/chaise, following a portion of the window’s lower circumference? Thanks for your reply. Rodrick Gibbons

  5. LB Says:

    Sorry for the belated reply, Rod. Yes, I would totally be interested in that!

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