What Are Clerestory Windows and Their Spatial Advantages in 24 Projects


© Eric Staudenmaier

© Eric Staudenmaier

Not nearly as complex an architectural typology as the word suggests, a ‘clerestory’ is a simple – if lexically loose – a portmanteau of ‘clear’ and ‘story’. Denoting a section of the wall that contains windows or cavities above eye level. The word is often assumed to have a religious context. Clerestories historically appeared at the upper levels of Roman churches, Hebrew temples, and early Christian architecture after all. And the earliest references we have to the feature come from religious texts.

Today, religious structures are often typified by the light their high windows allow to stream in, both figuratively and literally, from a higher source. At the CES Chapel in Taiwan, for example, ‘light diffuses through the glass clerestory and brightens the apse throughout the day,’ explains JJP Architects & Planners, about an interior design concept driven by natural lighting, ‘the chapel is filled with a spiritual aura, with a bright cross projected deep into the space.’

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