Balcony, as defined in Collins English Dictionary, is “a platform projecting from the wall of a building with a balustrade or railing along its outer edge, often with access from a door or window”.1 The word originated in the 1610s from the Italian term balcone, meaning, a floor-length window.2 The origins of balcone traced back to the term balco, meaning “scaffold”. Balco, in turn, was derived from the word balko, meaning “beam”, a term coined by the Langobardic people – a group of Germanic people who settled in North Italy after 568 AD.3, 4 The –one in balcone, was in fact an Italian augmentative suffix, and the term was pronounced with an accent on the second syllable, bal-cone, until around 1825.3 Balcony can be manipulated with the addition of the suffix –et, which means small or lesser, and become balconet – a set of railings around a floor-length window which gives the impression of having a balcony, but does not in reality offer a platform on which one may step out.5
Balconies are present in residential houses, condominiums, as well as commercial skyscrapers. A balcony is a step out from a large window; whereas a window will only permit limited panoramic views of the surroundings, balconies offer a much broader view of the scenery above, around, as well as below, which is otherwise rarely achieved. Balconies imply a much greater range of interaction between the occupants and their surroundings, as well as the occupants from other structures in a nearby distance. They allow the occupants to better appreciate their immediate environment, as they can smell the scents, hear the sounds, and feel the wind around them.
A home experience can be largely enhanced by the construction of a balcony. In warmer climates, or during the summer season, a balcony can provide space for numerous individual and group activities for relaxing such as sightseeing, reading, napping, lounging, or eating. It can also function as “an extended work space or an easily supervised open-air play area for children”.6
The term balcony often has a romantic atmosphere attached to it due to the reference to the famous balcony scene in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. This scene occurs after Juliet and Romeo’s encounter, when Juliet vows her love to him in the form of a soliloquy on her balcony, which is overheard by Romeo, who has snugged into the Capulet’s garden. Romeo serenades to Juliet and the lovers decide to get married. The balcony is thus accompanied by the romantic and dreamy imagery of a male serenading a female below her balcony on a mid-summer night.
As a space extended from a wall, a balcony makes efficient use of space higher up in the air that is not enclosed by a building. It offers a space of a different atmosphere for the occupants, an open-air space that is semi-public and considerably sheltered. A balcony implies an easy access to the exterior as well as the extension into the unknown world.
1. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, s.v. “balcony”, accessed November 07, 2012, http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/balcony?showCookiePolicy=true
2. Dictionary.com, s.v. “balcony”, accessed November 07, 2012, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/balcony
3. Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. “balcony”, accessed November 07, 2012, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=balcony&allowed_in_frame=0
4. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, s.v. “Lombard”, accessed November 07, 2012, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lombard?s=t
5. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, s.v. “Lombard”, accessed November 07, 2012, http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/-et?showCookiePolicy=true
6. Ernst and Peter Neufert, Architects’ Data, trans. David Sturge (New Jersey: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2012), 155.