Zen View *
. . . how should we make the most of a view? It turns out that the pattern
which answers this question helps to govern not the rooms and windows in a building,
but the places of transition. It helps to place and detail ENTRANCE TRANSITION (112),
ENTRANCE ROOM (130), SHORT PASSAGES (132), THE STAIRCASE AS STAGE (133) -- and outside,
PATHS AND GOALS (120)
The archetypal zen view occurs in a famous Japanese house, which gives
this pattern its name
A Buddhist monk lived high in the mountains, in a small stone house. Far, far
in the distance was the ocean, visible and beautiful from the mountains. But it was
not visible from the monk's house itself, nor from the approach road to the house.
However, in front of the house there stood a courtyard surrounded by a think stone wall.
As one came to the house, one passed through a gate into this court, and then diagonally
across the court to the front of the door of the house. On the far side of the courtyard
there was a slit in the wall, narrow and diagonal, cur through the thickness of the wall.
As a person walked across the court, at one spot, where his position lines up with slit
in the wall, for an instant, he could see the ocean. And then he was past it once again,
and went into the house.
What is it that happens in this courtyard? The view of the distant sea is so restrained
that it stays alive forever. Who, that has ever seen that view, can every forget it?
Its power will never fade. Ever for the man who lives there, coming past that view day after
day for fifty years, it will still be alive.
This is the essense of the problem with any view. It is a beautiful thing. One wants to enjoy
it and drink it in every day. But the more open it is, the more obvious, the more it shouts,
the sooner it will fade. Gradually it will become part of the building, like the wallpaper;
and the intensity of its beauty will no longer be accessible to the people who live there.
If there is a beautiful view, don't spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it.
Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition--along paths, in hallways,
in entry ways, on stairs, between rooms.
If the view window is correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as they come
up to the window or pass it: but the view is never visible from the places where people stay.
Put in the windows to complete the indirectness of the view--NATURAL DOORS AND WINDOWS (221);
place them to help the TAPESTRY OF LIGHT AND DARK (135); and build a seat from which a person
can enjoy the view -- WINDOW PLACE (180). If the view must be visible from inside a room,
make a special corner of the room which looks onto the view, so that the enjoyment of the
view becomes a definite act in its own right. . . .
-- from "A Pattern Language", Christopher Alexander et. al.