In Brazil, it’s known as Cobogó. In India, they call it Jaalis. The French term is Brise-soleil. Here we know it as Breeze Block. Call them what you will, these little units of awesome are making a massive comeback.
Back in the 50s and 60s, breeze blocks were hot to trot. They were used extensively by architects in both residential and commercial projects, and their intricate patterns became ubiquitous in Australia, and also anywhere else you might experience a hot climate – Palm Springs, Brazil, Spain, etc.
But like any material that gets overused, they soon became uncool. Shame, really, because lil’ ol’ breeze block is downright legit – it gives so much, and ask very little in return. Well, actually – it does ask for a bit of a clue from architects around its usage. Scale being the key point here, as little dicky screens, fences, and dare I say, feature walls we’ve all seen in our suburbia are precisely what’s killed our love of the breezeblock.
But luckily for us all, this underrated building material is making a huge come back. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the resurgence of our collective interest for all things mid-century modern. But I would hope our love of breeze block is based on its merit, rather than an architectural trend. As I said, this is one building material that has the potential to excite the most hard-core of minimalist architects as well as the lovers of intricate ornaments, and anyone in between – breeze block can effectively please us all. I don’t think too many other materials out there can make the same claim.
Breeze block allows us to construct screens that are at once durable, functional and beautiful. They offer sun shading, weather protection, security and ventilation. All this comes with an added bonus of ornament and geometric patterns that can melt the most minimalist of hearts. By day, breezeblocks create romantic dappled light and cast extraordinary overlapping shadows, adding a poetic element to the architecture. By night, the light passes through its small openings, creating an urban lantern of sorts, which gives joy back to our streetscapes.