The British don’t really do balconies. Not proper balconies where you can sit out most days and peer down at passers-by in the sunny streets below. You see them in apartment buildings where, in the absence of gardens, balconies are more of an opportunity to step outside and get some fresh air, well, air anyway, then scurry back inside out of the wind/rain/cold. They are more likely to be filled with plant pots, folded garden chairs and a washing line than cushions and geraniums.
Head south towards the Mediterranean and balconies come to life. They start to become architectural features, adding style and elegance to buildings, their balustrading casting interesting shadows in the heat of the day. Here they are used: windows and doors are flung open, curtains move gently in the breeze, and a cat lazes in the morning sunshine. As the temperature rises, the shutters are closed to keep the interior cool, then later they are flung open again, the smell of cooking emerges and the clink of glasses can be heard. Of course some southern balconies are loaded with washing but even here there is at least the knowledge that it will dry and soon be taken in.
These considerations were brought to mind on my recent trip to Venice where balconies are a prominent feature of many buildings, gardens of course being a rarity there. Constructed in metal, stone and wood, some light and delicate, others more solid and sturdy, the range of designs was striking. So too were the shadows reflected against the stucco forming beautiful patterns. In some cases the balcony was a continuation of the window design with ornate surroundings and decoration.
Balconies give character to a building and provide a visual delight to anyone who takes the time to notice and admire them.Posted in Architecture, Blog Tagged architectural historian, building history, documentary records, house detective, house history, old documents, vernacular architecture