Doors have a rich history and vary widely in aesthetics across the globe. It is theorized that the first door was invented somewhere in Egypt over 4000 years ago. Since then it has evolved into a critical architectural element constructed in a wide range of materials, from olive wood to iron to stone. Each culture has infused their own style and heritage into the design of the humble door with quite beautiful results. From the decorative and ornate doors lining temples and cathedrals, to the sleek and streamlined doors dotting modern buildings, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the vast history and potential of this underappreciated building element. Keep reading this global survey of doors.
What drove the global evolution of doors?
It’s strange to think back to a time where doors may have not existed. What was there before the door? Did we just leave gaping holes in our cave walls? Perhaps the first door was an improvised piece of leather or fur, draped over the opening of our primitive lodgings, in order to keep out a chilly night breeze.
Regardless of what we imagine the origin of the first door to be- historical evidence can safely say that its material evolution was driven by the availability of nearby materials. Biblical texts describe the doors of King Soloman’s temple as being made out of olive wood- a tree that thrived in the local mediterranean climate. The middle ages brought with it the invention of wrought iron doors- an innovation that became a critical safety mechanism among the warring and pillaging going on between lands.
Now that we live in a more peaceful, globalized world, doors offer us a simple but invaluable barrier of safety and privacy. Door production is no longer as energy or time intensive as it was in the stone carving or iron working days- and can now be produced with great speed, ease, for very niche functions and markets. This has led us to a place where we- as society- rarely even stop to consider how- or why- they came to be- until we stumble upon one that strikes us with its exceptional beauty.
The Door As Status Indicator
When we think of status symbols, we think of cars, clothing, and pretty much anything besides doors. Yet once upon a time, doors were treated as one of the highest indicators of status. If you were wealthy, the door to your home may have been ornately carved or densely decorated with valuable materials such as gold, bronze, or copper.
In the middle ages, seals on doors could communicate status, wealth, prestige, and reputation in the community. In a way- they still do this. Having a Ring video doorbell might indicate you are middle class, while a door with vertical bars on it may indicate you are living in a neighborhood with an unsafe reputation. Walking up to a slick and modern office building, with smooth and seamless doors, gives a vastly different impression to a potential employee, than a company based in someone’s garage, and accessed through a garage door. Whether or not you’ve considered it before- there’s no denying that doors convey subliminal messages about status, and have since the time they were invented.
Future Potential of the Humble Door
With its rich history, it may seem like there’s absolutely no innovation possibilities left in the realm of doors. But that assumption is wrong. While doors were once treated as the crowning ornament of the transition between spaces, modern design aesthetics seem set on making doors as hidden as possible. This evolution most likely comes from the modern designer’s goal to make spaces work in the most utilitarian and seamless way possible. Ornate details are distilled to streamlined profiles. The necessity of material frugality, to reduce production costs and resource use, lends the way to efficient and affordable door mechanisms. With modern problems come modern solutions- and people’s desire for open, connected spaces is translating to the design and application of door systems.
The growing need for more sustainable and nature-oriented places also brings another innovation to the table- doors produced in sustainable materials, using sustainable production methods. Take for example KLEIN’s new sliding door system, NATURE. This system is made entirely out of certified renewable wood. It helps designers achieve LEED building accreditation by giving them a design element to keep spaces open, naturally lit, and well insulated vial glass panels. This not only saves on energy and heating costs, but also fosters an environment that promotes connectivity and well-being for the people utilizing the space. As the demand for sustainable products continues to grow, so will the potential for innovation for all design elements, including doors and their respective environments.
As we can see, historically doors and the way they have been constructed, decorated, and applied have been re-invented many times over history. And as an industry leader in innovative sliding door systems, we at KLEIN see the vast potential to continuously rethink our relationship and utilization of this understated design element.
Next time you need a bit of design inspiration, we challenge you to take a look at the rich and varied history of doors and the aesthetics that drove their utilization. It may inspire you to think of a new and different approach to designing the transition between spaces.
At KLEIN, we love to embrace the complexity and character that doors bring in order to redefine and innovative new sliding door systems for modern space. Do you have a project you’d like to reimagine with KLEIN? Reach out today for a free consultation.
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