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00 Introduction

As architecture faces a state of growing instability, either challenged by the ability of Artificial Intelligence to produce real-time imagery at an unprecedented pace or questioned by the multiple concerns raised by urgent environmental, social, and productive issues, our present condition inevitably triggers a reflection on the definition of architecture’s own field. The truth is that the question of what architecture is at any specific period has kept architects, historians and theorists occupied. Throughout time, the definitions ranged according to different perspectives and agendas.

While some have focused on construction and the arrangement of material elements – seeing architecture as “the art of building” (Vitruvius) or “the art of organising space” (Perret) – others assumed its role as part of a social and political project – “an elementary activity of man intimately linked with evolution and the development of human life” (CIAM). Whilst some interpreted architecture as a sensitive approach to the world – “the scientific art of making structure express ideas” (Wright) or “the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light” (Le Corbusier) – others understood it as an expanded field – “a chaotic adventure” resulting of “an interrelation of many activities that are merged in a way in which it can’t be determined” (Koolhaas) or the radical notion that “everything is architecture” (Hollein).

Yet, even today, assessing the intrinsic qualities of a given building or of specific building elements, like a door or a window, might find helpful a return to the past. Roman architect Vitruvius, the author of the first known treatise, De architectura (c. 30-15 BCE), defined architecture as a building or object responding to three essential conditions: being structurally sound (firmitas), functional (utilitas), and beautiful (venustas). Firmitas, strength and necessity, advocates for using “materials wisely and liberally selected”, regardless of the expense. Thereby supposing durability, the term later used by Andrea Palladio, as they must hold for a longtime; they have to be built to last. Utilitas, utility or convenience, prescribes the building or its part is arranged faultlessly so that it “presents no hindrance to use”. Finally, Venustas, beauty – or delight (voluptas), the term adopted by Leon Battista Alberti – will be such that the “appearance of the work is pleasing” and elegant, by the just proportion of all parts. By such means establishing a relation between the human body and design, as epitomized in the several interpretations of the famous Vitruvian man, including its more recent iteration, Le Corbusier’s Modulor.

The Vitruvian trilogy is a construction with three supports that cannot do without any. Building finds its sense if resolved on the level of necessity, utility if providing comfort and beauty if giving pleasure. A useful and beautiful building that would not stand does not hold; beautiful, solid, and useless won’t fit either; what then of a practical, sound, but unpleasant element? While it might hold up from a static point of view, it architecturally doesn’t. Only the active combination of the three becomes relevant: they are independent notions without hierarchy, any construction or building component having to combine all three without neglecting any of them.

Two millennia after Vitruvius, panoramah!® minimalist windows still respond directly to these three timeless categories. Utility and comfort, or the question of what a window should do, is answered through the accomplishment of very large sizes while maintaining smooth operability and a flexible array of opening typologies. Strength and necessity, or the concern of how a window should perform, are matched by the highest results, not only in terms of robustness, but also of thermal, acoustic and air- and watertightness. A series of add-ons complement the solutions, providing additional efficiency. Finally, beauty and delight, or the wonder of what a window should look like, finds in its uncompromised minimalist design an accurate correspondence to all aesthetic concerns and beyond. panoramah!® windows achieves the trilogy through the celebration of minimalism, not as a design trend but rather an ethos that values simplicity and the elimination of redundancy through technical refinement, reducing each element to its minimum, purest expression.

Click to read the chapter:
01 Utility: Size & operability
02 Strength: Performance
03 Delight: Aesthetics & beyond

vitruvio window