From Segregated to Integrated: The Evolution of Shading Designs in Marcel Breuer’s Works

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Yao, Yuan
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External sunshades, or brise-soleil in French, have played a significant role in the development of 20th century modern architecture history. An early promoter was Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer, who believed sun shading was a crucial architectural design motif. The sunshades in Breuer’s early works were elaborately designed and attached to the glass wall façades. After 1960, they were no longer separated devices, but integrated to the new molded concrete façade system. Existing scholarship on Breuer is mainly focused on his furniture and housing designs produced during his early period and his aesthetic interest in the symbolic expression of prefabricated concrete structure. However, the evolution of Breuer’s shading designs demonstrates a shift in his attitude from a segregated mode to an integrated one. The interest of this paper is to review his development of sun shading designs, in order to argue how the concept of integration organizes Breuer’s later façades. First, a study of the UNESCO headquarters secretary building demonstrates how a sun-shading design based on performance analysis fails to properly control the overall thermal environment of building. Then, a number of case studies attempt to unfold Breuer’s integrated design process and various interrelationships between shading design and other architecture elements like structure, texture, mechanical systems, and architectural programs. The integrity in Breuer’s design frees the façade from the modern concept of segregation, which is technically contradicted in nature, and leads to a more effective design process and a more meaningful architectural representation.
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