Transparency in Architecture

Thinking about windows as more than just windows

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Transparency in architecture is more than just planning for windows in a wall. Glass is a very dynamic material—not just transparent, but something we can use to frame a view, reflect a landscape, refract the warm light of the setting sun. It is an element of architecture that needs to be thought of as a material, a wall, a system; as something that can give form to an entire house. 

Transparency requires thinking that merges the poetic aspect of why we have glass walls in the first place with a belief in and acceptance of the technology that is now available. Integrating transparency in a more profound way into a building’s architecture requires committing to the current technology early on in a project in order to achieve great spaces.

Customizing space

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Integrating transparency by using a modern window wall product frees up the architecture from the size limitations of conventional windows. It allows you to create a custom configuration of bigger units made from higher quality glass, which allows you to open up the space.

In this way, glass can be so much more than a window. It can be a wall, it can move, it can span 14 feet high, it can contain enormous doorways such as the one shown above. 

Integrating materials from outside to inside 

Thinking about glass as a material that integrates with other materials in a space is not a new idea, but it’s something that much more easily accomplished with modern products. 

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This entryway illustrates transparency as a wall, literally spanning surface to surface, breaking down the sense of what is outdoor space and what is indoor space. The gorgeous exterior stone, slate flooring and the hand-hewn beams on the ceiling all stretch from outside to inside for a cohesive feel.

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Anticipating the material transitions that go with a design is what makes the architecture interesting. This glass breezeway follows an inviting stone pathway that intersects with the natural cedar siding flowing from the interior to the exterior of this mountain cabin.

Creating multi-dimensional architecture

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For this project, a window wall system was integrated in a very modern way, creating an entire corner of the building out of glass. This transformed a third of the bedroom into a transparent panoramic view of the stunning landscape outside. When planning, you don’t have to just put a window here and a window here, you can combine transparent elements in a spectacular singular move. That’s what architecture is really all about.

Framing the landscape

Windows are an element of the home that provides a view. But the quality of transparency is what provides the romance, the emotion which leads to a rich experience in the home every day.


A massive window wall system is integrated into the great room of this home, providing a breathtaking vista of the Madison range, just outside of Big Sky, Montana.

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An expansive meadow dotted with quivering aspens provide a cozy backdrop to this comfy living space.

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A surprising peekaboo view of the Grand Tetons is framed through the kitchen window near the entryway of this home. 

Simplifying design

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Choosing one stunning design element can pack a powerful punch. This charming lake house features an expansive glass wall framing the lake vista and that’s it, that’s the architecture. On one hand, it’s super simple, but that’s the whole point. Committing to one grand element allows the other materials and design choices to fall into line without distracting from the main event. 

Capturing the light

At different times of the day, whether you’re inside or outside, glass can be a material that provides interest in a dynamic space as well as views. There are magical mini-moments throughout the day when glass is reflective to stunning effect. 

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 Golden sunlight bounces off the interior surfaces of this mountainside retreat.

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The evening sky reflects against a warm backdrop of glowing lights inside this rustic modern home.

Justin Tollefson, AIA is a principal architect at Pearson Design Group, a Bozeman, Montana-based integrated architecture and interior design firm that offers a broad range of design aesthetics. View their profile or contact them at 406.587.1997.

Content for this article provided by Pearson Design Group.

Categories: Contemporary Homes, Native Content