No matter who we are or where we live, doors around the world have consistently protected us from the elements and defined our comings and goings. These iconic structures are symbols of life passages; transitions, endings, new beginnings. As we move through them—literally and figuratively—every day, we are part of a shared human behavior that began as an instinct for warmth and privacy and evolved into an essential element of interior and exterior design.
From ancient doors that were merely hides or textiles, to ornate, carved and bronzed behemoths, to the wide variety of modern doors that are available today, door usage has remained the same: The first step toward or away from any experience.
Egyptian Doors to the Afterlife
The recorded history of doors has its origin in Egyptian art. Images of doors in Egyptian tomb paintings were believed to represent the door to the afterlife. Actual doors leading to important places often featured designs of the afterlife. These ancient doors were crafted of wood. In the case of King Solomon’s Temple, that wood was carved and overlaid with gold.
Space Age Doors
The history of doors is replete with landmark designs that have withstood the test of centuries. Below a few standouts:
10 Downing Street
Located in the City of Westminster, the Number 10 is the entrance to the headquarters of the executive branch of the British government as well as the home of the Prime Minister of England. The building features an all-black door with an arched glass transom and white pillars on each side. There is a vibrant 10 in the upper center of the door. The original wood door was built in 1772 but was replaced with blast proof steel after an IRA attack in 1991.
The Columbus Doors
Made in Germany in 1855, and transported to America after the Civil War, the bronze Columbus doors feature nine panels depicting Christopher Columbus’ life between 1487 and 1506. The top panel shows Columbus landing in the new world. The final panel show him on his deathbed. The doors are now the entrance to the Rotunda in the heart of the US Capitol Building.
Florence Baptistery Doors
The Florence Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Saint John are the oldest buildings in Florence, constructed between 1059 and 1128. Their large bronze doors, were dubbed The Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo. The south doors have 28 panels depicting the life of John the Baptist and the 8 virtues. It took Filippo Brunelleschi 21 years to complete the life of Christ on the North doors and 27 years to complete the east doors which show images from the Old Testament.
A Few Famous Doors
Not to be outdone by the grand scale of Old World door construction, today’s door designers are also thinking big. Currently the world’s largest doors belong to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building-139 meters high.