Here in Southern California, we get a lot of sun. There’s nothing surprising or new about that statement but what’s interesting is how architecture often accounts for this. The technique is called brise soleil and it’s a French term that translates as “sun breaker.” So quite literally, it’s an architectural feature that breaks up the sun, directs it or provides shade without completely obscuring the building. The sun isn’t just in California, of course, so you’ll see this technique everywhere but we do see it a lot here, especially in Modern or Mid-century Modern homes and apartments.
With Mid-century buildings, cement blocks are a common brise soleil but we’ve seen them made out of all kinds of materials. They can be louvers, fins, folding shutters. A brise soleil feature can be small and cover just a window or the entire side of a building. Their versatility is extraordinary. Think of them as built-in Venetian blinds for buildings.
With some houses and buildings, we’ve noticed that the brise soleil features have been removed. And what a shame! They’re there for a great (and functional) reason and usually add to the distinctive architectural look of a building!