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Timber Design Awards

Depth of Shadow Sunscreens

The VUW School of Architecture Depth of Shadow Project created light filtering screens and documented an iterative design-led research methodology.

The VUW School of Architecture Depth of Shadow Project created light filtering screens and documented an iterative design-led research methodology. It was motivated by observations regarding the relative lack of variation and depth of shade and shadow quality from typical architectural pergolas compared with the richness of shade through a tree canopy. This prompted the research question ‘how might a thin architectural element be designed to provide a variation and depth of shade and shadow that approximated the variation of shade below a tree canopy?’

A secondary aim of the project was to explore the potentials of digital file translation between the first generation three-dimensional visual files, and realisation through a CNC router complete with specialist interface software. Scale models and a full size built prototype were constructed to calibrate the design performance. Results were published as an academic conference paper, and exhibited in the Kiwi Prefab national exhibition at Puke Ariki in 2013. The screens then became the basis for a simple prefabricated sunscreen system that was retrofitted to a west facing apartment block in Wellington. The screens were constructed from sustainably sourced Nicholls and Maher 24mm Marine plywood, galvanised steel beams and sustainably sourced Purple Heart hardwood frames and battens. The built results confirm that through design a subtlety of shadow can occur through a thin sheet through attention to

sun-screen aperture diameter, patterning and design. A range of sun-screen sheet products is under development with a young manufacturing company for mass customised purchase.