The view out from the window is our contact with the world outside; it provides the information, which for reasons already mentioned, allows us to experience the time of day, changes in the weather, sunlight and the seasons. At one level, a view satisfies the physiological need for the adaptation and readaptation of the eye to distance, providing a visual rest centre. For this reason any view is better than no view, whilst clearly some views will be better than others.

The view out from the window, patient in hospital

At a different level the importance of a view has been recognized in research to show that a patient in hospital will recover more quickly where a window with a view is available. The content of a view is clearly of importance, and it is the information it provides which will determine its success. A view out to a blank wall may be better than nothing but a view out to open countryside, or a garden will be a different order of experience.

Various views have been analysed in terms of the information obtained, depending upon the height of the window. In tall buildings the view may consist entirely of the sky when seen from the interior of the space, whilst at lower levels the experience of the ground scene becomes of more importance. The quality of the exterior view will depend upon the surroundings of the building, and the height at which it is experienced, but it is of importance that where a view is available it should be exploited.

There will be instances in large building complexes where internal views from one part of the interior to another may be had; these will provide the visual rest centres to satisfy the physiological requirement, but unless there are views to daylit areas they will lack the amenities of change, variety and modelling which inform the natural scene outdoors.

The architect should take the question of view into consideration when planning his building, and when planning the location and detail of the windows. Some of the finest windows were those of the eighteenth century in Britain where the refinement of detail of the glazing bar ensured that the daylight was captured by the bar, led round it, not impeding the view. This is less necessary today since the size of glass available is such as to allow large areas of see-through glazing, with no need for horizontal obstruction.

There are some architectural programmes where it is thought that a view out may lead to a lack of concentration, as in a school classroom. It was the author’s experience that classrooms in his school in the 1930s had windows at high level, precluding a view out; a view which prevailed until the new school building programmes of the 1960s.

Other building programmes, such as churches or factories, also tend to ignore the need for a view, and it is perhaps understandable in a building used only for a short space of time, that the question of view doesn’t figure large in the architect’s priorities, and in the case of the daylit factory it would be reasonable to suppose that there might be dangers associated with lack of concentration when working with potentially dangerous machinery if a view out were provided.

The question of ‘view-out’ is necessarily associated with ‘view-in’ raising the question of privacy, which in certain circumstances may be deemed to be of importance. During the day this will generally not be a problem, as the level of daylight outside will be greater than that within inhibiting the view-in but at night the situation will be reversed, and it may be necessary to resort to some form of blind or curtain, which can have the desirable effect of ensuring that the window is not seen as a black hole from the interior at night