Ribbon Windows: Openness, Privacy and Cool, Modern Design

In the 1920s architect Le Corbusier developed what would become known as The Five Points of Modern Architecture: 1) Supports, or pilotis; 2) Roof gardens; 3) Free design of floor plan; 4) Horizontal, or ribbon , and 5) Free design of this facade.

These interrelated design concerns were responses to industrialization, using reinforced concrete and making a break with traditional buildings and are most evident in the architect’s famous Villa Savoye outside Paris.

Of interest here is point number 4, the ribbon windows which are a reflection of this facade being suspended in the structural frame. This is a split from load-bearing exterior walls which were jointly structure and facade.

Due to these long horizontal windows were hopeless with traditional heavy enclosures, they became symbolic of a new direction in architecture. Then it was up to Le Corbusier and his followers to explore the way that ribbon windows operate, besides as a polemical statement for contemporary structure.

Decades after, ribbon windows are a fairly common element in modern and contemporary homes. To be considered as extensions of Le Corbusier’s treatise, the windows ought to be a part of a horizontal facade, an opening within a bigger wall (not over it, as in a clerestory).

The examples that follow can be regarded as neo-Corbusian, but a few have divergent designs that nevertheless incorporate ribbon windows in certain fashion.

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

This home was designed by Steven Ehrlich, among the most competent architects practicing in a neo-Corbusian manner. It includes several corner windows, but also ribbon windows. 1 visible on the left side of this photo doubles as a corner window. Note the way the long window works in concert with the awning beneath it.

Specht Architects

The first floor of this house in Westlake, Texas features full-height glass partitions, whilst upstairs the outside walls are white with ribbon windows snaking round the perimeter. This strategy gives more openness to the living spaces downstairs and privacy to the bedrooms upstairs, but it also reverses traditional notions of weight, by putting the seemingly heavier walls over the lighter ones. Le Corbusier will be pleased with this design.

Amitzi Architects

Here is another ribbon window which extends into the corner. A look inside provides us a bit more information…

Amitzi Architects

The horizontal window is really composed with a vertical ribbon window. Together they create an L-shape since they turn the corner. Be aware that the eye-level horizontal window employs translucent glazing for privacy.

Amitzi Architects

From precisely the exact same architect is another whitewash house with a ribbon window. The window of note is in the center of this photograph, extending into the left towards the pool. Next, see another perspective.

Amitzi Architects

This angle isn’t excellent for looking at the ribbon window upstairs, but we can observe the way that it extends across the majority of the facade, based on a trellis awning that provides shade for the entrance walkway and pool . The integration of louvers together with the sliding glass windows in the horizontal opening is a wonderful touch.

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

The ribbon window in this home by Kanner Architects is on the first floor, next to a door into the yard. Unlike the Corbusian examples earlier that used whitewash walls, this one is made out of stone. Next, see what is on the opposite side.

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

It’s the kitchen. This horizontal opening opens up the kitchen into the outside and supplies — among my favourite things, partially because I really don’t have one — something to look at while doing dishes.


This last example indicates that a ribbon window shouldn’t follow another Five Points, resulting in a Corbusian-influenced house. This house, called Texas Hill House but really in upstate New York, features a stunning shed roof . The low end is clad in wood, and the tall end is spacious, with a great deal of glass. Note the ribbon windows onto the side wall. The next photograph takes us inside.


The louvered wall in the former photograph slides off to give access to one of the bedrooms. (The plan is roughly symmetrical, so a separate bedroom with ribbon window is located at the opposite end of the home, with living spaces in between.) Here we see the beginning of the ribbon window, something which creates a strong datum for putting objects along and around the wall. Another view of the bedroom …


… reveals the degree of the ribbon windows. What looked small on the outside has a strong presence inside. The window seems appropriate for the bedroom, since the bed and other effects sit under it. It also brings in that much more light and serves to specify the length of the room much better than a blank wall or traditional punched windows would have completed.

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