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Shade sails tackle solstice extremes

Features | June 1, 2019 | By:

By Bruce N. Wright, AIA

Arizona is known for stunning landscapes and a warm climate. Most homes in this area have some form of shaded outdoor living space, where Arizonians can enjoy the temperate weather.

Working closely with a client with a request for her residence, Shade Industries® of Phoenix designed a custom, elegant structure that provides reliable shade while limiting direct sunlight on her south-facing living room windows. Key to any acceptable outcome, according to the client brief, was unobstructed views of the distant desert mountains.

A round-robin of conceptual designs was put forth by Shade Industries, but each was rejected until the fifth version—a set of shade sails—was met with approval. The two identical, mirror-imaged overlapping sails create shadows that block direct sunlight throughout the solar-year cycles. Calculations required that the sails be pulled a short distance away from the house to track properly at the low winter and high summer solstice extremes while retaining clear mountain views. Early designs included cantilevered arms on vertical posts to achieve the correct position, but these resembled hockey sticks, so a gently bowed curve in the posts accomplished the desired effect and gave an elegant dynamic appearance that pleased the client. 

The finished shade assembly includes eight curving posts of painted steel and two paired stacking sails over two flanking patios to the living room. The mesh fabric suggests the desert geological strata of terra-cotta red and golden sandy yellow.

This project was an Outstanding Achievement winner in IFAI’s 2018 International Achievement Awards competition. 

Bruce N. Wright, AIA, is an architect, teacher, consultant to architects and designers and a frequent contributor to Specialty Fabrics Review, Fabric Architectureand Advanced Textiles Source.

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