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Thursday, March 30, 2017


The history of doors--one door leads to another.
One of the greatest inventions of mankind, right up there with the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, electricity, the Internet, and toilet paper, was that of the wall. Where would we be without them? They keep the heat in, the cold out, shelter the weak, frustrate the strong, support the roof, and provide artists with a place to hang their paintings. However, as so often happens, this "invention" would be totally useless without the presence of another invention--doors. I'm not talking here about mere openings in a wall, as important as they might be in making the wall somewhat practical. Still more important, along the same line, is the invention of the "temporary" wall better known today as the door. Without the swinging, sliding, folding, or overhead versions of this device, few of the wall's practical applications would be of much value. Without doors, in many cases the wall would actually be a damned nuisance.
The doors of Rome, perhaps some of
the world's oldest still in use.
Without doors we'd have little in the way of the security a wall provides. Likewise, walls would provide little privacy. Interior environmental comforts would be compromised, and their absence would permit the intrusion into our living spaces of unwanted insects, hungry beasts, mice, lice, and nosy neighbors. Without doors, lethal armaments aimed at the entry portals of our homes would be as common in our living rooms as La-z-boys. Worse than that, we'd have nothing to slam when we get angry.
A five-thousand-year-old door, probably the world's oldest . Archeologists have discovered a Neolithic wooden door as old as Stonehenge at the site of s planned parking lot in Zurich, Switzerland.
Of course no one kept track of such things during the stone age, but the door may well be the second oldest invention of all time (fire probably came first). The first "door" was probably a big rock rolled into place in front of a cave entrance to ward off the aforementioned hungry beasts looking for a warm meal. That may not sound like anyone's definition of an "invention" but the moment the property owner began hacking on that rock with another rock in order to allow it to roll more easily, he (or she) became a door designer. Since that day, the designer door has often become quite the work of art.
Doors of the Florence Baptistery called the Gates of Paradise.
It's not Ghiberti, nor is it bronze,
but he would probably approve.
Doors have, in fact, a long association with art. Egyptian wall paintings depict them as a gateway to the afterlife. Perhaps their closest association with art were the highly esteemed doors of the San Giovanni Baptistery in Florence, which are all in bronze. The borders may well be the most remarkable. The modeling of the figures, birds and foliage of the south doorway is by Andrea Pisano dating from around 1330, while the east doorway is by Ghiberti. In designing the north doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti adopted the same scheme of design for the paneling and figure subjects in them Pisano. However, in the east door the panels are rectangular illustrated with innumer-able bas-relief figures, and are prob-ably the doors which Michelangelo called the Gates of Paradise (above).
NASA's Vehicle Assembly building, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
National Archive doors,
Washington, D.C.
As massive as Ghiberti's seventeen-foot-tall baptistery doors may be, they are dwarfed by those at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. (right), which are thirty-eight feet in height. They, in turn, are dwarfed by those of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (above) at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Seen in the open position, they currently hold the title of the largest doors in the world at 456 feet in height.
(Almost) all you need to
know about doors.
A little too distinctive.
Today, when we think about doors, we usually think first about those in our own home which we encounter every day. Doors employed by NASA, the National Archives, and Renaissance were designed by engine-ers with little thought as to making them in any way beautiful. Ghiberti was a designer, perhaps the first in a long line of door designers since the Ren-aissance. The doors in our home are the work of designers, with perhaps an engineer (or architect) looking over his or her shoulder to make sure the damned thing doesn't fall off its hinges the first time someone tries to open it. Ghiberti had to follow scripture. Designers today have almost total free rein. If homeowners like their door designs, they have steady employment. If not, they go to work for Lowe's trying to sell doors.

Today, homeowners look for distinctive door designs which will make their home stand apart from that of
their neighbors...but not too far apart.
Inside the home, door designers today seem to be embracing several different approaches, that of making their creations as bland and unobtrusive as possible, highlighting them, hiding them, or trying to make them virtually invisible. The door has, to a large extent, come unhinged, with builders and homeowners preferring sliding or folding doors which have the advantage of needing less space (since they don't "swing"). The bright yellow "barn" door (below) represents a trend in highlighting doors as a conversational element or focal point for the interior design.

Practical and (sort of) attractive, although some kind of housing for the sliding rail might be nice.
On the flip side, through the use of mirrors or decorative panels in place of wood with sliding doors, doors can be made to look like a simple wall design element as seen in the bedrooms below. In the case of triple-hung sliders, the opening space can also be much larger while also being more attractive the a large expanse of glorified plywood veneer.

Invisible doors?
And then there's the fine art of hiding doors...

The tooth fairy door.
Hey, fairies are people too.



  1. Wonderful. You're so eclectic and endlessly inventive in your posts. Always worth the time.

  2. Thanks Max. This one was a hoot to write. It's only when I get desperate for a topic that I'm at my most creative. People can take only so much art history before they become art histrionic.