Six Types of Walls that Both Bridge and Divide a Space


Sir Isaac Newton believed that "We build too many walls and not enough bridges." He wasn't speaking about interior design here, but he wasn't too far off. Walls are bridges in many ways, as they connect two spaces while simultaneously dividing them.

Thus, walls both separate and unite. They help distinguish one space from another, creating two spaces from one (if building a wall up to the ceiling) or, in their absence, one from two, They unite spaces in bridging one to the other, creating an important relationship between adjoining and contiguous areas. Walls can be straight or curved, tall or short, thin or thick. In addition, while we traditionally think of walls made of sheetrock, they can be fabricated out of glass, wood, fabric, metal, stone or even light, in the case of holographic walls. There is no limit to the imaginative potential of a wall’s fabrication. The brilliant thing about walls is that they can be functional as well as beautiful. They can evoke mood and feeling, surprise and delight, create an attractive backdrop or simply be an aesthetic objet d'art unto themself.

The following are 6 types of walls that fit both form and function:

1) Glass Block: The beauty of the glass block wall is its ability to transmit light. In this way, it acts as a bridge, a transmitter between wall and light source. The architect Pierre Chareau, whose 1932 Paris landmark Maison de Verre is a masterpiece of wall light, knew the advantages of using the material. Even in a New York City apartment, these walls are extremely effective in creating a bright, airy feeling to two adjoining spaces. Cleverly used by the professional, glass block allows the light to permeate, while precluding a less attractive view, say an alley, beyond. In place of glass block, sandblasted glass can serve a similar purpose.

2) Half Walls: A most effective wall is the half-wall; that is, one that rises up towards the ceiling, but not all the way. Usually stopping at the chair rail height (30 to 36” high), this typical partition, though firmly rooted in the floor, may be curved, straight or zig-zag in any number of configurations and any number of materials. Oftentimes, this type of bridge consists of a piece of sheet rock or cabinetry built up half way to the ceiling to visually separate two areas. Not a full wall, the space above the wall allows for an open feel to the room. It is an extraordinarily successful treatment for making a space feel bigger and more expansive. This can be attributed to the way in which the eye perceives space and places visual emphasis on what exists at eye level. Depending upon the height of a partial wall and how it relates to the overall space, it can naturally blend in with a person’s peripheral vision rather than reading as an enclosure.

3) Wall Punctures: These are walls or planes that have an opening large enough to create a pass through or window. It oftentimes extends to having recessed lighting above its opening for dramatic emphasis. This type of wall puncture allows the viewer to peek through one room into the next, for a bit of surprise. With openings that may be round, rectangular or other shapes, form and aesthetics can be highly inventive.

4) Sliced Walls: These walls feature vertical slices in them, creating a partial and seductive view to the room beyond. The slices/wall planes may even have glass in them, giving them a warm glow. Similar to a vertical blind, the view is best grasped when walking past, pulling the viewer closer to see what lies beyond.

5) Metal Walls: Crafted from nickel or bronze, silver or brass, these walls may be translucent or opaque, fluid or solid. They may both transmit and reflect light. Like a wall of mirror, images cast upon a metal wall are directed back at the observer. As such, they are effective in opening up a space, creating the illusion of expansiveness

6) Fabric Walls: Serving as a screen, the fabric wall moves easily and fluidly. Most commonly used in bedrooms, it easily separates one area from another through the use of a track system, usually placed at the ceiling. Easy to close or open by sliding, it ensures a sense, though not necessarily complete, of privacy. Constructed of fabrics, metal mesh, or leathers, fabric walls are easier to fabricate and use.

So, Mr. Newton, there really aren't too many walls, but as you would profess in your treatise, all matter is truly connected - with plenty of bridges between.

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