A door is any hurdle of wood, stone, glass, metal, hides, or consolidation of materials installed to swing, fold, or slide to block an opening to a room or building. To the nomadic man, the necessity for doors added a sense of security from animals, harsh climatic conditions, and the then believed spirits. The first-ever known door that was illusioned as a wall decoration defined the port to the afterlife. This door sketched in Egyptian paintings was conceptualized about 4000 years ago. During biblical times, olive wood constituted the chief material for King Solomon’s doors. In India, ingeniously crafted stone pivotal doors had marked their presence.

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The false doors depicted the gate to the afterlife in ancient Egyptian paintings. ©thecollector.com

As days aged, the Roman civilization popularized single and double shutter doors, sliding and folding doors, all carved in bronze. Janus, the Roman lord of doors and archways, led to the design of the famous gate, the Janus Geminus, in Rome that closes during peace and opens at war. The first-ever automated door, drafted in the 1st Century A.D, used fire to build steam and atmospheric pressure that pumped water into adjacent weights enabling ropes to open the temple doors. This door, popularized as the Heron of Alexandria, paid tribute to the Greek mathematician.

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The working principle of the Heron of Alexandria. ©cdn.historycollection.com   

In India, the dawn of the 4th century saw the advent of the Gupta rule who transitioned philosophically crafted elements on T-shaped doors. Symbolism was at its peak at door architecture as trimmings on door jambs, established as Sakha’s that symbolized branches and a fully bloomed lotus on the door threshold that depicted the universe and impassivity of the devotee to the material world had themselves marked. With the actual door passage measuring only a quarter of the main door, rosette and foliage patterned designs with the image of the river goddesses had the visitors hooked. Later, in the 5th century, lintel design, further ornamentation, and the addition of temple guardians have added features to the intricate door architecture. The dawn of the 6th century, the Bronze Age, witnessed tremendous technical advances owing to the construction of the first foot sensor-activated door, dating back to approximately 604 to 618 A.D during the reign of the Chinese emperor Yang Of Sui. This period witnessed the extensive use of Bronze cut-outs in panel patterns and pure copper for trim and hardware. Many of the doors hung by hard stone pivots of granite at both the edges of the stile had bronze bands and strips encased. The 8th century marked the aurora of the Gandharan style in Kashmir, India. This style spawned over well-ornamented doorways surmounted by a trefoil arch.

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Bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the Florence Baptistery. ©AncientEurope

The 11th century endorsed the development of solid bronze double doors in Rome with bronze castings imported from Constantinople. This style marked the evolution of a series of panels in relief to establish a sculptural tradition of the historical narrative.

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The 24-foot double door at the Pantheon ©pinimg.com
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The first bronze door in Europe at the Cathedral of Hildesheim. ©upload.wikimedia.org

The 12th and the 13th centuries flipped the pages of symbolism in the book of door architecture to portray seals, reputation, prestige, status, and wealth, making it a capital power. The door, formulated by merging copper and bronze, plywood, and steel buds, was reinforced with steel iron bands to secure against small strengths.

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The French-Gothic-style door at the Chartres Cathedral, France. ©staticflickr.com

The winds of the 16th and the 17th century opened up a new chapter in the history of door architecture, owing to the renaissance that fused classical Greek designs with realism. With the best craftsmanship in hand, the period gave birth to various styles, some of which are in practice even today. The Spanish renaissance doors with hand-forged nails, the Tuscany doors with bird and foliage borders boasted the traditional Gothic details and period motifs in fine cedarwood. These doors were first designed for cathedrals, emphasizing religion, and were enriched later with bas-reliefs and borders.

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The Tuscan style doors featured in Italy. ©istockphoto.com

The renaissance had toughened the livelihood of the community, and hence the styles had to be stripped of aesthetics. The sole objective to block an opening resulted in an arrangement of hinges and battens collectively supporting vertical boards. With the feature of cross boarding for bulky and more secure doors, these arrangements evolved further into Tenon and mortise joinery, intersecting the stile and the rail by half lapping

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The renaissance doors in Europe – 16th century. ©pinimg.com

The 17th century splashed architecture with the Georgian style doors, the first dominant door style, that encouraged the usage of stiles, rails, and exceptional dimensional stability. These doors, the focus of the symmetrical facade, were externally aesthetic but visioned planking internally by floating panels minimizing the expansion and contraction. These doors later matured to the use of beveled panels.

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A typical Georgian style door. ©cotswood-doors.co.uk

In India, this period had bloomed to an aesthetically pleasing flower styled Mughal architecture door, complete in its expression, with floral motifs placed asymmetrically. These brightly colored doors, fashioned in wood and wrought iron, crowned an exclusive throne for art and intricacy.

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The door at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India. ©123rf.com
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The door at Bibi ka Maqbara, Maharashtra. ©wikimediacommons.org

The middle of the 17th century saw the advent of the Peshwai leverage on door architecture with the inclusion of spiritual yet stylistic elements like the Ganesh Patti at the lintel levels on iron fixtured, wooden doors.

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The Peshwa style door at Shaniwarwada, Pune. ©bp.blogspot.com

In the 17th century, numerous advances were prevalent in the door architecture process of forts, the military footholds to the kingdom, majorly of which remained named after the mountain gods. These doors were constructed in the Gomukh style, resembling a cow form of architecture that attempted to reduce the velocities of enemy attacks. These shutters, built with teak with 100mm stiles and strong wrought iron bolts, had crevices for lighting and defense facilities.

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The teak wood shutter at Lohagad, Maharashtra. ©pinimg.com

The sunsets of the 17th century brought the federal style with its classical motifs and symmetry fused with elaborate details at its high. These doors offered similar paneling both ways.

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The Federal-style door. ©BrownStoner

The 18th century endowed the Greek-Revival style with the layering of panels with moldings at each margin of its 3-4 inch shutters.

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The Greek – Revival Style Door. ©BrownStoner

The 19th century and later saw a mechanized revolution with the sale of doors through catalogs. Various experiments carried out resulted in the innovation of the noiseless revolving door to overcome the stack effects and the fiberglass shutter. The refined metal trade made its mark on aluminium stiles, rails, and tube framings. The ever revolutionizing story of door architecture yet awaits the innovations of the future.

Author

An architecture student by profession, a curious empath by choice, Ruchika’s perceptive hearing has always unfolded the esoteric and stupendous tales of folklore and tradition in architecture. With a piercing interest in art, history and architecture, she holds strong to her poetic conclusions whilst analyzing human perception of the same.

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