A Walk Through the History of Skylights

Architecture with skylight in rome

The concept of opening up the roof to let in more light is nothing new. If you look back to Ancient Rome, the Pantheon shows that architects were interested in using natural top lighting to let in more light. Today on the blog, take a walk through the history of skylights.

Ancient Rome

While the Pantheon may be the most famous example of top lighting from ancient Roman times, there were several other instances of top lighting within buildings. Glass was not widely used at the time, so these were open portals. The Venetian glassblowers do deserve credit for fashioning clear glass that could be used in windows.

17th-18th Century France

The French took the innovations of the Ancient Romans and applied them to architecture, most notably in a Parisian building called Halle aux Bl├ęs. Using glass skylights on the ceiling allowed for greater amounts of light to penetrate into the interior of the building. It was in 1830 that the first modern-looking skylights were put in at Versailles. Skylights run down the entire length of the gallery, opening up the building to the elements.

Industrial Revolution

It was not until the Industry Revolution that skylights were made in giant sheets of glass, due to the technological improvements of the era. For the first time, large glass sheets could be made, then polished to a clear finish. Skylights first began to be used in residential homes in this era, though a majority were installed in factory buildings to offer supplementary light in working environments.

World War II

It may surprise you to learn that World War II era rationing led to improvements in skylights. During that era, Villum Kann-Rasmussen of the VELUX company wanted to solve an engineering challenge related to leaking skylights. He felt that fresh air and sunlight were beneficial for human health. Due to materials challenges related to rationing, he was unable to get the supplies he needed. He combined wooden framing, zinc cladding, and other materials to design a leak-proof skylight. From those initial experiments, he continued to design skylights under the VELUX bread, which we are proud to carry today.

Brandstetter’s KangaRoof installs and services the high-quality VELUX skylights throughout the Cincinnati area. Now that you have a better appreciation for the history of skylights, would you like to get an estimate for adding a skylight to your home?