Framing the Landscape

 In Culture, Design, Lifestyle / Light, Sustainable Design
When you come upon a vast mountain range, it is impossible to capture the scale of what your eyes are experiencing with a photo. In order to convey these majestic mountains with a camera, I take a few things into consideration. I look at the clarity of the composition, the proportion of the foreground in relation to the middle and back ground, the emphasis of the verticality versus horizontality, the depth of field, the sense of contrast and more. We as the photographer, in a sense, convey a narrative of how one feels to be in the landscape. With architecture, when working on the design of a building, we go through the equivalent scrutiny when framing the view through a window or opening. The architecture of a building reveals the essence of the landscape in a succinct way without revealing the whole picture.
With architecture though, there are other components that tend to complicate things.
  1. The experience of the framed view is three-dimensional and dynamic. The observer will move toward the window at a certain angle, from a certain height and the view will get modified.
  2. The size and orientation of the window will bring natural light into the space, direct and indirect. This light needs to be balanced by other sources of natural light, and will be changing constantly throughout the year.
  3.  The framed view allows for more than just a visual sensation. The opening will have a thermal impact on the interior space. Direct sunlight coming into the space will produce a heating or cooling sensation based on the conditions of the season.
  4. Sometimes the view is so grand that a single pane of glass cannot handle the desired view. The framed opening needs to be broken up into smaller window frames. The way that opening is divided becomes part of the composition and needs to resonate with the vista at hand.
Like photography, architecture tells a story through carefully crafted moments. Unlike photography, these moments have a three-dimensional aspect to them that must also take into account all of our senses.
Architecture has the ability to elevate and bring to our attention the minute details of a site that may otherwise become lost in the open landscape. It is the Architect’s job to utilize the design of a building to tell the story of the landscape in which it is situated.


Gettliffe Architecture is a Boulder, Colorado architecture firm with a sister studio in Managua, Nicaragua offering green design services from straw-bale homes to eco lodges around the globe. We believe that beautiful modern architectural design begins with careful consideration of earth, culture and community. Working with your ideas and vision, our team of green architects brings inspiring spaces to life that are kind to the planet and a pleasure to be in.

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