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Demo + Fixscreen cloth screen

Sunlight breaks open dark architecture

Few greater advocates for solar shading can be found than Dirk Moerman and Levi Deryckere of Demo+ Architects. They swear by optimal comfort for the occupants and users of their projects, and so they put full bets on Renson screens. Similarly at Dwelling C in Zedelgem, a classic Flemish long-gabled farmhouse that underwent a major renovation. We spoke with architect Levi Deryckere about their pursuit of optimal daylighting with attention to shading.

Deryckere, Moerman & Partners – or Demo+ Architects – is a driven architectural firm that distributes its experience and knowledge about various architectural applications among its 6 employees.

Architect and co-director Levi Deryckere tells how it all started: “I started as an intern with my co-director Dirk (Moerman) who was already in the business for about 15 years. Meanwhile, I myself have been working as an architect for about 20 years. Since about two years we have continued under Demo+ Architects. We are a fairly modest office, with 4 employees in addition to the 2 managers. We have grown from private projects to the more professional market: commercial buildings, public buildings and project development. From the office in Izegem, we mainly work regionally, within a radius of 30 km, in the wide surroundings of Southwest Flanders. For example, we are currently working in Roeselare on VDL’s commercial building and in Waregem for TVH.”

Full service
“The strength of our firm lies in our high level of commitment. We swear by a very close follow-up from execution, detailing … to completion. We provide a full service and put a lot of energy into it. We always try to deliver a building with which the client is very satisfied. In the end, that satisfaction is the best advertisement.”

Blurring boundary between inside and outside
“Obviously, daylight is very important in contemporary architecture. We try to make the boundary between inside and outside disappear through large windows to draw light in. But in doing so, you always have to factor in that the risk of overheating has to be neutralized. We have also always been in favor of “active facades,” using screens to control the risk of heat. Even 20 years ago, shading was already the office’s flagship product. You can see that in our current office building that we designed and built ourselves: plenty of daylight, but cloth shading on the outside for when it’s needed.”

Strict on heat measures
“Overheating is an underestimated problem. Co-director Dirk often insists that one must pay adequate attention to it … and rightly so. Ultimately, the customer has to live in the aesthetic design and that’s not possible when indoor temperatures are too high. Screens are the best solution then. We try to incorporate that principle into all our designs. Other offices might shun fabric shades because of aesthetics or complexity, but we incorporate them right into our design.”

Dark architecture opened up
“Dwelling C is a very good example of how in a rather classic building screens can also be integrated aesthetically and successfully. This building before consisted of a cacophony of small spaces. We opened that up; volume was created under the roof. We also made the originally small windows larger and vertical, with a classical touch. We were able to convince the builder to make use of the blinds. The combination does not detract from the charm and style of this typical Flemish farmstead. Dwelling C nicely demonstrates how a originally ‘dark’ and closed architecture was broken open with respect for the historical appearance while remaining comfortably livable thanks to the screens. We have reconciled all these things in this project.”

Erker box with screens
“The ‘window in a box’ accent in Dwelling C adds an extra dimension to the façade, on top of a beautiful view of the adjacent historic orchard. That glass bay window box – south-facing – was also fitted with fabric awnings. Especially in a situation like the past hot summer, these were more than welcome. Expectations are that such heat waves will also become more frequent in the future, so the story of cloth awnings is far from over.”

Light inside, heat outside
“We favor the consistent use of screens in – almost – all projects. This is an integral part of our architecture. If you want a healthy building, first of all you have to keep the heat outside as well. Only then can further techniques be added inside to increase living comfort. That is also the right choice within an ecological context.”

Sleeping on both ears
“By default, we prescribe Renson. Simply because Renson ticks all the boxes on the checklist. For starters, they are pioneers; their R&D department is always the first to develop new things while the competition is left to chase. In terms of design, the screens are also groundbreaking, with a minimalist design with no visible screws. We are also satisfied with the quality of the products. This is important so that there are no complaints afterwards. And if that should happen, there is also the manufacturer’s warranty. It is a blessing that both the architect and the customer can rest easy. In terms of ease of installation, everything is also very well thought out, with accessibility from outside. Renson is also not averse to a challenge in terms of dimensions and looking up the product limits. This is where we find each other.”

“In terms of cloth awnings, the details are not unimportant. The more the blinds can be integrated directly into the whole, the better. Nicely concealed is the message so that – with the cloths rolled up – it is virtually invisible from the inside. That is why we give this to the client from the beginning. That way there is no artificial work involved afterwards to install screens.”

Credits: Art of Living

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