Brise soleil has its roots as an architectural element from the very ancient times when people started using them as sun-shading devices. These are screens that reduce solar heat gain and are generally used in hot climatic regions. The contemporary use of the element was popularized by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Soon after its appearance in some of his projects, Brise soleil got widespread acknowledgement.
However, technological advancement has brought about much experimentation in the design of Brise soleil. Architects have started using them as building envelopes as well as an interior partition screen. Besides conventional vertical and horizontal fins, Brise soleil can now be found in varied forms, patterns and materials. Material like concrete, wood and metal is extensively used in modern days. While allowing the natural light to enter the structure, they mitigate overheating. Movable louvres further facilitate adjustment according to the changing weather and sunlight patterns throughout the year. Here are some examples of how the use of Brise soleil has diversified over the years.
- Le Corbusier used brise soleil in one of his projects in 1936. He was commissioned to design a new home for the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. The façade has walls of glass all through which are protected by horizontal louvres which are gear operated and adjustable.
- The Public Safety Building on 151 Princess Street was built by Libling Michener and Associates in 1965. The brutalist style of the building is well accentuated by the use of brise soleil as mullions. The angled Tyndall stone mullions were extruded out to form vertical louvres. They also contribute to form an architectural language of dominance, solidity and fortification of this police station building.
- The centennial concert hall, constructed in 1968, broke the stereotypical use of horizontal and vertical louvres. The building bears a façade with eyelid-like concrete window covers. The architects took advantage of the plastic character of concrete to develop a form inspired by origami art. Their attempt was to modernise the use of sun-shading devices by experimenting with its form.
- City view garage is a building which incorporates parking space and with some retail shops and offices. According to the client brief, mechanical ventilation has to be avoided for the parking structure. Therefore, the architects developed a digitally-fabricated metal screen façade which allowed natural light and air to flow through the structure. The aluminium modules had varying apertures which gave dynamism to the building façade. The metal screen is held in place by a series of fins cantilevered from the concrete slab. The metal sun-shading device solely forms the identity of the building.
- Termitary House, situated in the coastal city of Vietnam, uses baked brick as the primary building material. Due to the extreme climatic condition of the region, architects used brick Jalis to allow wind and natural light to enter the house at all times. It also facilitates the residents to enjoy the moonlight at night. Throughout the day, the light of different intensity is invited to enhance the interior spaces.
6. Thai Red Cross Foundation Children Home is a child foster care centre located in Thailand. With a sustainable architecture approach, the architects use passive cooling systems. The sun-shading fins made of bricks are installed at the west and south facades. The vertical louvers also work as a shading device to the windows placed between them. The cut the glaze caused due to direct sunlight while allowing the flow of wind through the spaces.
7. Mt Sinai is a residential project in Singapore that explores the extent to which bamboo can be used as a building material. To achieve modern aesthetics, the architects developed a fluid screen enveloping the house. Keeping sustainability in mind, the screen was developed by using timber. The screen serves as an environmental filter that controls the amount of light. The buffer spaces between the screen and the built structure act as a semi-sheltered area from rain, wind and sun. the buffer space and screen maintains a comfortable indoor temperature, thus reducing the dependence on artificial cooling systems.
- Al-Bahar tower is one of the famous buildings in Abu Dhabi which has won the 2012 Tall building innovation award due to its brilliant climate-responsive façade. Owing to the extreme climatic conditions of Abu Dhabi, the architects developed a façade which was inspired by “Mashrabiya” which is a traditional Islamic lattice shading device. The screen is made up of several triangular units which form a lattice. Each unit is coated with fibreglass which opens and closes as per the changing direction of sun rays throughout the day to minimize solar gain and glare. The screen has the potential to reduce the solar gain by 50% and thus reduce the building’s energy consumption. It also allows for the optimal use of natural daylight.
- Located in the residential street of Singapore, Camo house follows green design strategies to provide comfort to its residents. The façade is made up of a perforated aluminium screen by carefully studying the weather conditions throughout the day. The screen also camouflages with its surroundings while maintaining privacy for its occupants. The perforation regulates the temperature of interiors, allows cross-ventilation, and minimizes heat gain from east and west directions. The screen shields against the early morning and late noon sun and hence minimizes the load on the artificial cooling system
- Marsa Plaza is an urban space located in Muscat. The language is well-defined by numerous steps and shaded canopies. The canopies are made up of lightweight aluminium and are inspired by the traditional geometries of Islamic culture. They blur the boundaries between the interior and exteriors, thus unifying the whole complex as one. Canopies serve as shaded pathways and comfortable interactive spaces, inviting people of all ages even at the hottest times of the day. The geometric canopies form interesting patterns at different times of the day. The glazed façade is also protected by the canopies and a microclimate is maintained within the built structure.
Brise soleil has been used as a prevention against overheating for ages now. Over time, these permanent sun-shading structures have seen various shapes and patterns in their form. Technology reinforced design has equipped architects to develop automated screens that adjust according to the solar angles. Brise soleil is one of the best passive cooling techniques which find its use in extreme climatic conditions all over the world. The advancing technology has a promising future for such architectural elements in expanding their use over time.