In the Shade

P1000913The vast majority of certified green office buildings today seem to be all-glass. That’s counterintuitive, since glass lets in the sun’s heat. Surely it’s time to revisit one of Le Corbusier’s modernist trademarks, the brise-soleil, or sunshade. Corb’s sunshades tended to be made out of concrete, which is actually the wrong material, since it absorbs the sun’s heat, stores it, then dissipates it long after the sun goes down. But the basic idea is sound: prevent the rays of the sun from entering and heating up the interior of the building. I was reminded of Corb during a recent visit to Houston. There are several downtown office buildings of the sixties and seventies here whose design actually acknowledges the god-awful summers. Pictured here is 1001 Preston Street, designed in 1978 by Kenneth Bentsen, a local practitioner. The ten-story precast concrete frame has a deep facade, à la SOM, and is fitted with metal louvers that act as sun shades. Of course, the newest crop of towers is all-glass. No doubt they have a LEED rating.

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