DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: ROOMS WITH VIEWS27th July 2022
Rooms with Views: Why Enhancing the View is Critical in Architecture
We all innately understand the pleasure of a great view. Seeing beauty sparks a sense of joy in most of us. However, framing a good view from our homes can be much more subtle than simply focusing on the most obvious outdoor scene. Sometimes, it’s an angle on a small outdoor detail, or just an extra window that overlooks rooftops, or a new skylight from which to peruse the shifting clouds that makes all the difference in a home, turning it from an ordinary space into somewhere that feels really good to be in.
In our last blog, on Daylight in Buildings, we noted the horror fact that as a species we spend only 7.6% of our time outdoors. As architects our collective responsibility is to embed daylight into our homes to incorporate its wellbeing effects. This leads naturally into views – and why they’re also important for our all-round health. Thinking about how we position our designs so that they enhance the views we have of the outdoors, is a critical part of our architectural process.
As a practice we are asked to design houses all over Scotland, with many in spectacular locations with mountains, sea and lochs. Some are on wild west-coast islands, others in remote rural landscapes, and of course some are in tight suburbs. Wherever the site, we focus in on how to deliver the best plan flow, which maximises both daylight and the view.
Getting the view and the flow right in your home
What we love is homes with the ideal combination of garden or private elevation facing south with the best view also to the south. Of course, what we most often get is a garden or private elevation facing north and the public elevations facing south. The latter combination gives us challenges regarding how to design the plan. But the solution is never as simple as capturing the big dramatic view. If the flow through your building is going to be successful, paying attention to the subtler views are important, too. A little window framing a special tree or a water feature, or the rays from the morning sun on your desk or at the end of a long corridor, are just as important as the big panoramic view. These subtle views add to the richness and enjoyment you will have in your house.
What do people love about views?
A recent good read, Lisa Heschong’s Visual Delight in Architecture, is informative about many aspects of why views are essential to our wellbeing.
Views of the sky
‘I want to know what the weather’s doing,’ is a simple and valid response to the question of why people like a view of the sky. You can subconsciously check the time of day by the colour of the sky, or simply daydream and wonder at the fascination of everchanging cloud formations. All these responses are equally beneficial, and it doesn’t take much to see that they’re better for our wellbeing than staring at a wall in a room with only artificial light.
So, we try and include skylights in designs where we can, particularly when we’re altering an existing building where perhaps the quality of views and daylight has not been fully explored by the original designer.
Views of trees and birds
Nature is well documented as being beneficial to our wellbeing. Even a glimpse of garden trees in an otherwise urban environment makes a difference. Environmental novelist TC Boyle explains that his view of the woods means both distraction and lack of distraction to him. He can look up and watch the squirrels gather acorns for a minute and then get back to his work without the bigger distractions of traffic and noise.
In many places, the view offers more comfort than actually being outside in the cold and rain. The glass separates and protects you, but still leaves the illusion of being at one with nature.
Views of people
In more urban or suburban settings, people-watching becomes a pastime in itself, providing a similar degree of fascination as observing birds and wildlife.
In her book, Lisa Heschong notes the importance of visual connection. During the pandemic when the streets were deserted and there was no one to watch out of the window, people sought the visual connection that they were missing by sitting on their balconies to watch their neighbours on their balconies. We saw videos of people in Italy and Spain singing on balconies and waving out of windows, gaining solace from even the briefest of visual connection with other humans.
Views of paths
Views of pathways and decks with table and chairs act as visual props for your imagination. They invite you to imagine where the end of the path may lead or what sort of gathering might be held on the deck.
Views of water
Views of water are particularly sought after, but why?
Perhaps it’s because the surface reflects the sky and the fluctuating formation of the clouds. We see wind and birds in the sky and other wildlife on the water’s surface, and maybe even beneath it. The movement of the water provides us with plenty to fantasize about, such as sun bathing at the water’s edge or sailing with the wind behind us. These water views provide us with very full mental connections and stimuli.
So, there are plenty of valid and deep reasons to think hard about the views you want to capture in your new house or introduce to your existing house. Where are the primary views, and the secondary views? What do they mean to you? How big or small do they need to be and how will you position your house or extension to make the most of them? Could you create a new view with clever landscaping and the introduction of water in an outside space?
Of course, as experienced architects with a huge interest in creating homes that promote wellbeing, we can help formulate our clients’ thoughts on where the best places are to frame a view. I love going to sites, or existing homes, and gaining an understanding of what could work or what could be improved. Sometimes it takes a fresh (and professional) eye to really see what’s needed.
What is certain is that the wellbeing benefits of daylight and views in houses are immeasurable. If you would like to speak to us about the design of your house do contact us.
Read about the importance of daylight in architecture here: