Have you ever seen a door or doorway that has taken your breath away? Or even doors that make you feel a certain way, like curious or maybe even excited or scared? If so you’re not alone…. Doors are more than simple entrances into our homes and businesses; they are commonly a statement of what will be found beyond the door and are often designed in a way that will elicit and entice emotion. But as we all know, there are many more doors that are just functional in nature and to the everyday eye are not attractive at all. At JAC we love both form and function, but if the form is not pretty, the function can be just as interesting and revealing. Over the years I have found such joy in looking at doors of all types, and am always curious as to who lives there, and what happens just beyond the door.
Doors and doorways have been symbolic across cultures for as long as history has been recorded. A door is both an entrance and an exit, so it has been associated with portals and passageways on many levels throughout history. Doors are closely related to gates and thresholds because the three share some very similar symbolic features and sometimes work together to create passage. The doors both above and below are Byzantine.
A multitude of grain chambers from 15th century Tunisia below.
Doors were first seen in recorded history on paintings inside Egyptian tombs. The ancient Romans had advanced architectural elements and were known to have used single, double, sliding, and folding doors. After a bit of research, I’ve come to know the Roman god Janus who was the god of doors and doorways, and also the god of beginnings, endings, transitions, gates, gateways, and time. Doors still continue to symbolize all of these elements today and many are works of art.
An open door has been a long-time symbol of a new beginning. An open door shows that there’s a way out and can also provide a view of what lies ahead. A closed or locked door, on the other hand, can represent a dead end or create the feeling that there’s no way out. A door can be a symbol of opportunity or one of imprisonment. See what I mean…doors are vital and alive, not just what you see on the outside, but they can symbolize transitions and passageways from one place to another, be it literally or figuratively. The intricate door below is a door on the campus of Barcelona University, so it definitely represents a pathway to knowledge and new beginnings for me.
A door is often used to symbolize the passage from one world to another in religion, mythology, and literature. A doorway may be used in lore and literature to symbolize a short transition, while a hallway might be used as a contrasting longer transition. Even when people literally use the door of a building to enter or exit the outside world, they are going through a type of transition each time and to me that’s a very exciting way of thinking about doors.
This medieval door below is in Rye, England and and I love the keyhole shape and brick pattern even though its also kind of scary!
Modern keyhole door in the Denver Museum of art:
Doorways and gateways are very similar at a glance but show a few subtle differences upon further examination. A gate is an open type of entrance; even when closed, a person can see what lies beyond a gate. A doorway, on the other hand, provides little view to the other side when closed. Doors are associated with privacy, control, and protection much more than a welcoming, open-view gate. Maybe the next time you glide through a gateway or door you might give it a second thought versus just passing through. Happy door hunting!