December 3 2007

Sun Tracking Umbrella

Fabric Ceiling_Architen Landrell_Image 16

Architen Landrell Associates Ltd. was presented with a unique design challenge when asked to "combat the glare from sunshine and heat which built up within the..." glass dome atrium in the Jardine Insurance building in Oval, London. The designers immediately recognized the benefit of solar shading for the space, but also realized the difficulty inherent in installation into a domed structure. Research and modeling of the conditions led the Architen Landrell team to conclude a parasol (umbrella for us Americans) scheme would be most effective. The problem was how to maintain shade coverage while the sun moved during the day.

The solution... A fabric skinned umbrella sunshade, controlled by an intelligent computer system, that tracks the sun's movement through the sky. The installation also creates a "kinetic sculpture in an otherwise bare looking building atrium, adding a touch of artistic license to an otherwise functional piece.

It is fascinating to see a project such as this, especially since it was completed in 1990... Years before the current high performance building movement took off. This is a perfect example of how good design work and clever solutions should and are by their very nature "sustainable." New materials and novel applications will continue to challenge the prevailing wisdom about energy efficiency, visual comfort and indoor climate, but with each new problem there is a myriad of potential solutions. Let's hope designers step up to the challenge and begin using their skills to bring the built environment back into harmony with their environment. 

A note about the designers...

Architen Landrell is a leading manufacturer of bespoke fabric architecture with more than 25 years experience in the design, manufacture and installation of tensile structures. The company has completed 5000-plus projects worldwide for temporary and permanent use and for a huge variety of purposes.

For more information please visit the Architen Landrell website or view the PDF datasheet for the project.

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