The Styles of the City: C-Shaped

One of the great problems with a big building, before the advent of gaslamps and air conditioning, was getting light and air into the center of the structure. The Neolithic cliff dwellings in France tended to be strung along the face of the cliff. The Romans built their villas in hollow squares, with an open space in the middle, so that every room would get natural daylight.

But once we began to build them tall, the C shaped building is a sensible option. For some reason there are a lot of them around here. This first one is very typical, a swanky apartment block. This is the main entryway of the building, adorned with pillars supporting lions.

Sometimes the front of the building is flat and the C opening is to one side, as we can see here. If you assume that each apartment has more than a couple windows, then the odds are that they have windows on different walls, giving the tenants cross-ventilation. Open all the windows and the wind can sweep right through your apartment. This is essential in very hot weather because these places didn’t  have air conditioning. Do you see the super-modern glass skyscraper behind this older apartment building? It doesn’t need to be C shaped because it’s got modern HVAC. It’s a solid spear of glass and steel, a more efficient use of the land.

But even if you are not Brutalist, that C opening can be utilized. Have a look at these last two buildings. Both had a central front opening. In the first, somebody filled in the space with balcony, which the residents are happily using. But in a sweeping renovation, the second one has a filled-in central core. It is now an elevator shaft, and surely includes the ductwork for HVAC as well. This is not a very pretty look, but it’s intensely practical.




About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


The Styles of the City: C-Shaped — 1 Comment

  1. I love your detailed focus on buildings! I’d never considered a C-shaped building before, and really like that concept, especially if windows can be opened.