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Modern Movement architects, who took these experiences to the limit, always took advantage of the materials, assembly techniques and new possibilities that the industry offered to architecture. Little wonder, therefore, at the comparison between the metallic profile of an industrialised window and a Bugatti engine on the pages of Vers une Architecture¹⁷. They accepted and incorporated innovative products as new components of their architecture and, in cases where there was a lack of response from the industrial market, studied and developed new systems with relevant architectural features. This is precisely what happened to the horizontal window, for which Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret engineered and promoted châssis coulissants, sliding frames. In July 1926, they patented a sliding window with an unlimited number of free moving sashes¹⁸, which was applied at Villa Cook in Boulogne-sur-Seine (France, 1926-27). And they also developed a set of more than twenty technical solutions for sliding windows, among which a frame in anticorodal, an aluminium alloy, manufactured by Ernst Koller with two parallel Saint-Gobain glasses (1928-29). In 1927, the Parisian architects even signed a commercial contract with Saint-Gobain relating their patent. And they were not the only ones developing sliding metal windows, as in the same period, companies like Artaria & Schmidt in Basel, and Wanner in Geneva were also pursuing that path.¹⁹ Years later, many were the architects and companies doing the same.

This fact testifies the close proximity between the architect’s design work and the development of industrial products in the beginning of the century, a time when science was beginning to allow for properties of the frames to be engineered. Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz is perhaps the most vivid example of this close collaboration, having spent his life sharing his work with the development and manufacture of metal window frames. The slender steel profiles and ingenious fittings produced by Idesta, the company he founded in 1929,²⁰ display a rigour and desire for innovation evident in the number of registered patents, and which paradoxically culminated in the use of frameless glass on mural supports in his latest works.

However, horizontal windows also reflect modern architecture’s preference for sliding sashes. Indeed, modern windows’ horizontal shape and lengthwise dimensions matched the reduced thickness of the new walls, imposing a solution in which the opening of the door or window did not subtract useful space in the interior. In addition, because they do not extend beyond the plane of action, sliding solutions are “designed to fill a long-felt want, eliminating the projecting frames of pivoted ventilators, which interfere with shades, screens, etc.” as reported in a 1912 catalogue.²¹ An affordable and relatively little used 17th century variant of a type of sash window used in the Netherland and in Yorkshire was therefore recovered and perfected.²² Sliding doors were an old invention – with examples in ancient Greece and Rome²³ – and quite popular in Great Britain by the end of the 19th century and the beginning of 190024 – especially in salons of Victorian houses –, but its performance in terms of watertightness, acoustics and air permeability were always inferior to those of casement doors and windows (side-hung and top-hung).

This fact limited its application towards the exterior, except in industrial buildings and vehicles. The inevitably reduced opening area compared to the traditional fenêtre en hauteur also seems to justify this fact.

Curiously, decades before Le Corbusier, Dr. Karl Turban and the architect Jacques Gros had already felt the need to adopt a new type of window in their Sanatoriums for the cure of tuberculosis from 1902.²⁵

Folding and sliding doors and windows thus appeared (Fensterkonstruktionsvorschlag), with the particularity of allowing the complete opening of window frames composed of several sashes.²⁶

In any case, the longitudinal shape and large dimensions of the Modern Movement lights, supported by the availability of new materials and their progressive improvement – such as bearings, seals and, especially, larger sheets of glass – legitimised the use of the horizontal sliding window as an invariant throughout Europe in the ensuing decades, particularly in the post-war period.²⁷

The window frames developed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret consisted of systems with an unlimited number of sashes and could also include a mechanism for operating the window by a crank, as used in the large steel-framed glass slider of Villa Savoye (Poissy, France, 1928-31) to move a huge 4.65 x 3.5m sash, composed of two panes of 2.3 x 3.5m glass.²⁸ In fact, and additionally, the automation of sliding windows was a fundamental aspect of the Corbusian fenêtre mechanique. This function was already offered for the windows of automobiles, of which Le Corbusier was a great enthusiast.²⁹ It is not surprising, therefore, his call for a car industry’s contribution to the modernisation of building technology, underlining the possibility of mechanical window opening:

“Que Renault, Peugeot, Citroën, que le Creusot ou l’un des grands métallurgistes organisent l’industrie dans le bâtiment! La fenêtre considérée comme une mécanique. Glissement automatique, herméticité. Nous doter d’une fenêtre mécanique! […] Attention! les fenêtres ne doivent plus ouvrir à battants à l’intérieur des chambres qu’elles encombrent, ou à l’extérieur des façades. Elles doivent glisser latéralement (la première seule peut pivoter). […] La fenêtre est l’élément mécanique-type de la maison. On presse un bouton, ou plus simplement, on tourne une manivelle, et les fenêtres glissent doucement, s’ouvrant ou se refermant…” ³⁰

Curiously, in his residence at Herqueville in Normandy (France, 1906-39) – where Jofebar intervened in 2014³¹– Louis Renault himself installed a steel window with two sliding sashes operated mechanically by rack, chain and crank, just like Le Corbusier’s call for action.

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret’s double-glazed sliding window in anticorodal, manufactured by Sutter & Koller in Basel, 1928-29. FLC29855. © FLC.

Years later, many architects and companies developed metal horizontal sliding windows. Details for a house at Chipperfield, Hertfordshire, by Maxwell Fry, 1935. Published
in Mildred W. White, Working Details I – Domestic, London, The Architectural Press, 1939.

17. Le Corbusier, “Architecture ou Révolution”, in Vers une Architecture, Paris, G. Crés et, 1923, p. 238.
18. Patent FR619254 (A) – 1927-03-30, “Châssis de fenêtre à coulissement horizontal”.
19. Artaria & Schmidt’s were top-hung to avoid visible wearing off of the inferior
tracks, while the windows patented by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret were bottom rollers. Wanner’s windows were also bottom rollers and used ball-bearings designed by the Parisian architects. Arthur Ruëgg, “Châssis Coulissants, 1931”, in Le Corbusier Plans, Paris, CodexImages International, Fondation Le Corbusier, 2005.
20. In 1929, Lewerentz registered Idesta, a trade name for the development of construction details. In 1930, he founded the construction company BLOKK and, in 1933,
IDESTA Inc., which he kept until 1956, when he passed it on to his son Carl. In 1940, he bought a factory, to have complete control over the various stages of production.
His research into innovations for doors, windows and glass partitions led to the registration of numerous patents. See: Janne Ahlin, Sigurd Lewerentz architect 1885-1975,
Massachussets, MIT Press, 1987.
21. This reference is made in an American catalogue as early as 1912, which also mentioned that“Horizontal Sliding Sash are particularly adapted for use in sidewalls and monitors of rolling mills”. United Steel Sash, Trussed Concrete Steel Co., Detroit, 1912, p. 41.
22. Sliding windows in wood have mainly been used in rural constructions (cottages). Maurice Wilmore Barney identified the first example at Moss Farm, near Doncaster
(UK), circa 1705. M. W. Barney, The English Farm House and Cottage, London, 1961, pp. 263-64, quoted in M. Tutton, E. Hirst (eds.), Windows: History, Repair and Conservation, London and New York, Routledge, 2007, p. 56. However, it is debatable whether its origin would have been in the Netherlands or the UK, not least because this type of frame is also known as the Yorkshire sash or Yorkshire slider, presumably due to its widespread use in that county’s vernacular architecture during the 18th and 19th centuries. See in this regard: Lisa Jardine, Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory, Harper Press, 2008.
23. Roman sliding door tracks can be seen at Pompeii, testifying the presence of sliding systems in the 1st century AD.
24. It is interesting to note that, in the last decades of the 19th century, there were innumerable patents related to fittings and systems for sliding windows, which points to a growing interest in this type of window. See, for example: GB189401724A – “Improvements in or relating to Sliding Windows, Skylights, Doors, and the like”, by Peter
Shippobottam in 1894.
25. Several authors point out that the ideas developed for the architecture of the Sanatoriums – focusing on generous glazing for natural lighting and large balconies for outdoor living – were incorporated by the architects of the Modern Movement, namely Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret at the end of the 1920s. See: Quintus Miller,
“Das Sanatorium Schatzalp. Ein Beispiel zwischen Klassizismus und englischer Wohnlichkeit”, Archithese, no. 2, 1988, pp. 50-56 and Margaret Campbell, “Strange Bedfellows: Modernism and Tuberculosis”, in Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini (eds.), Imperfect Health – The Medicalization of Architecture, CCA/Lars Müller
Publishers, 2012, pp. 133-151.
26. Authorship of this type of window is credited to Turban and Gros in: A. Corboz and G. Mörsch, Espoir: Sanatorien, PhD thesis, ETH Zürich, 1984, p. 421, quoted in Margaret Campbell, “Strange Bedfellows: Modernism and Tuberculosis”, in Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini (eds.), Imperfect Health – The Medicalization of Architecture, CCA/Lars Müller Publishers, 2012, p. 144. A more developed version was patented in 1923 (US1559544 A) by Charles Bock for the Andrew Hoffman Mfg. Co.
27. An interesting compilation of technical details of sliding doors and windows for buildings, industrial warehouses and vehicles can be found in: Adolf Schneck, Fenster aus Holz und Metall, Stuttgart, J. Hoffmann, 1932; Adolf Schneck, Türen aus Holz und Metall, Stuttgart, J. Hoffmann, 1933.
28. Glass was by then typically limited to US Standard of 100 in x 144 in, 2540 mm x 3658 mm.
29. Le Corbusier directly honoured the factory of André Citröen – for the mass production of vehicles (1919) – by attributing the name “Maison Citrohan” (1920) to his prototype for standardised houses. He also collaborated with brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin, producers of automobiles and airplanes, for whom he designed the door
handles of the first vehicles. In addition, Le Corbusier’s friend, Gabriel Voisin, also financed his “Voisin Plan” (1922-25), an urbanoriented study for Paris based on the automobile. Le Corbusier later designed the project for a Voiture Minimum (1936), a small, economical car, precursor of the Volkswagen Beetle and the Citröen 2CV. See in this regard: Antonio Amado, Voiture Minimum: Le Corbusier and the Automobile, MIT Press, 2011.
30. Le Corbusier: “Appel aux Industriels,” in Almanach d’Architecture Moderne, “Collection de l’Esprit Nouveau”, Paris, Éditions Crès et, 1925, pp. 102-3 (the italics are L-C’s).
31. Jofebar installed a PanoramAH! 38 frame with three sliding sashes in the service zone of Chateau d’Herqueville. The sliding window with the crank, located in the main house, was recovered and kept in place since it is protected as an element of heritage.