Ribbon Windows, Curtain Walls

Violin & Erhu
Duration: 8 minutes

Commissioned by the Master Players Concert Series of the University of Delaware for the 6ixWire Project: Xiang Gao, violin & Cathy Yang, erhu

Premiere: March 2013, Newark, DE

About Ribbon Windows, Curtain Walls:
My mom’s parents built a home on the south shore of Lake Michigan, and during our summer visits of my childhood I felt it was the most magical place on earth. Nestled into a hill steps from the beach in Dune Acres, Indiana, the house had architectural elements of Bauhaus and the International Style.

The architectural use of windows in buildings combines the function of light-gathering and natural ventilation. Ribbon windows are a series of windows set side by side in a continuous horizontal band across a façade. A curtain wall system of windows is an outer covering of a building, typically made of glass. These walls are non-structural, they keep the weather out and the occupants in, and they provide more natural light and views of surrounding landscapes.

Our Dune Acres house had a ribbon window band on the north façade, and curtain walls around a breakfast nook which jetted out to the northeast. While these windows’ functions were architectural–keeping out the elements and framing exquisite views of the sparkling lake–they also created relationships. These windows were elements of a rhythm and counterpoint composed between the house and its inhabitants, our family.

My memories of the Dune Acres house are full of these windows, which have now been transformed into a symbolic architectural function: windows dancing in a continuous band and on fluid walls, framing beautiful blurry views of my youth.