Tag Archives: brise soleil

Shadow Boxing

Updating and “contemporary-izing” a 19th-century vernacular rowhouse in a late 1960s style, this home has had its facade transformed by the addition of a modern light brick reface, new windows, wood slats and some paint. An application to the city was made in 1966 to remove the front wall and reconstruct it with cinder block and stucco, then add new window frames and doors. 

The result gives a plain and flat facade some interest using larger, more vertical windows, and, with the attachment of full-width dual brises-soleil acting as spandrels, a dimensionality is created along with some interesting shade patterns on the facade. The slatted wooden structures have the resonance of a picket fence raised off ground level encircling the house. Both vertical and horizontal elements are strong and graphic and are even carried through to the furrowed lines on the front door. So, too, the extra-wide window box at street level increases horizontality, gives the building added dimension and makes it more homey with its narrow container “yard.” All of these elements together cleverly reinvent a deconstructed house reassembled for the latter half of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, sometime toward the end of the first decade in the 21st century the elements that made this house a stand-out disappeared. Its three-dimensional facade with picket fence awnings was denuded and flattened, leaving just a bare-bones version of its neighbors. The shame of it is that it has had a character-ectomy; once hip and hidden, but now just plain. No artful shadows now, merely a shadow of its former self.

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