Brise Soleil House
Project NameBrise Soleil House, PNG, by Studio Workshop
Photographer DetailsPeter Bennetts
The namesake and defining feature of the Brise Soleil house is the undulating sun screen that wraps around the upper level of the dwelling. Set amongst the cliffs around Port Moresby, the property is subject to harsh heat during the day. The ‘Brise Soleil’, or sun shade, provides both a sculptural facade and welcome relief from the tropical sun.
The main structure of the Brise Soleil house, including the staircase, has been cast from in-situ concrete. The form allows for large openings, particularly to the upstairs floor, which features large, operable bi-fold screens to allow ventilation and full exposure to the surrounding view. When closed, the screen doors provide privacy and shading.
The steep, west facing block dictated the form of the building, which terraces down the cliff face into multiple levels. The Brise Soleil House, also called Small House, is to be one of three buildings on the large property. A larger house is to be constructed, followed by a guard house, which will be located at street level.
Gold Coast Studio, Studio Workshop, were the Architects and fabricators of the project, Stocks and Partners provided engineering support, while Cyril Duffy Construction were the builders.
The grand gesture of the tropically set dwelling is the sculptural sun shade which wraps the upper level. Taking an undulating form on the front facade, the skin then flattens out to create an operable shade on the west facade. Intense direct sunlight is common in Papua New Guinea, so the shade provides both form and functional purpose. The full height shade can be manipulated to allow maximum exposure to views of the Coral Sea beyond.
The screen is made from over 2000 individual acetylated Accoya Pine timbers. The form was designed digitally, which allowed the Gold Coast based studio to rigorously test the variables, shape and effectiveness of the screen in a digitally replicated environment. The design was partly an exploration into the ability of modern software to provide a platform for complex geometry, and mass customisation.
The digital information was then fed into a CNC machine, and accurately routed into the correct form. The pieces were then assembled into panels, and flat packed ready for shipping to PNG. Each piece has a uniquely configured notch which means they can only be fitted together as intended, with an organisational system allowing the workers to connect them simply and quickly. Scarce availability of skilled labour in PNG required the precise and complex design to have a simple installation system. The timber screen took 3 labourers approximately 2 days to install.
Local timber crafting has been an important industry in PNG, particularly with canoe crafting. The design pays homage to the craft of intricate timber processes, as well as the longstanding equatorial expression of timber screens.
The acetylated timber is a process that changes the chemical makeup of the wood, increasing it’s durability in external environments.