5 Striking Designs That Use Perforated Cement Breeze-Blocks in Interesting Ways

Breeze-blocks, perforated concrete blocks, cinder blocks, cobogó, or even decorative terra-cotta bricks: call them what you will, but these patterned hollow blocks have an unforgettable visual impact and a far-reaching ability to provide shade, sunlight, structural support, and privacy.
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Patterned concrete block may have originally been introduced in the late-1920s in Brazil, but today, it can be found in warm-weather areas across the world. Indeed, when it was first invented by a team of Brazilian engineers (who called it cobogó: a combination of their own initials), it was seen as an appropriate local building material that allowed light and air to pass through while still providing some shade and privacy. 

By the 1950s and 1960s, the use of patterned, hollow concrete block had spread to other warm-weather areas around the globe that could benefit from its dappled light and wide variety of patterns, sizes, colors, and eventually materials. Today, breeze blocks are being reintroduced in a variety of projects not only for their aesthetic properties, but also for their contributions to sustainable architecture and their ability to permit cross-ventilation and the possibility of using recycled materials. Here, we take a look at some intriguing examples of architectural screen blocks around the world. 

A Midcentury-Modern Revamp in Phoenix by The Ranch Mine

A 585-square-foot addition to a midcentury-modern home in Arizona designed by The Ranch Mine included the reuse of perforated cement blocks, also known as breeze-blocks, on the front facade.

From the interior, the reclaimed breeze blocks filter the morning light and provide privacy.

At a renovated hotel in Honolulu's Waikiki in Hawaii, a design team that included Portland-based OMFGCO and Randolph Designs revived the communal areas of the 250-room hotel, including the bar, restaurant, lobby, and concierge spaces.

Crafted from terra-cotta, a 100-foot-long wall of breeze-blocks designed by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina—called Tierras 3D—surrounds the reception window.

Poolside Perforated Brick in Brazil by Figueroa Arq

Located in São Paulo, Brazil, this outdoor space designed by Figueroa Arq employs both poured-in-place concrete and perforated concrete blocks to produce a strong contrast between the white-and-orange lattice of the blocks and the solid walls of the gray concrete.  Photo by Leonardo Finotti

The use of the two types of concrete continues throughout the project, both in the interior and exterior spaces. 

At what was formerly a run-down motel from the 1970s in Mexico City's central Cuauhtémoc neighborhood, JSa Arquitectura gave the 36-room hotel a fresh face. The interior courtyard, with a revamped, glass-edged pool, is framed by rectangular, hollow concrete bricks.

Today, as in the 1970s, the central courtyard is an oasis within the city. The hollow concrete blocks provide an industrial edge and add an element of texture to the poured-in-place concrete and red brick of the other facades of the courtyard.

Seeking an inexpensive way to create a screen effect between the bathroom and bedroom, designers Aleksander Novak-Zemplinski and Becky Nix utilized perforated concrete blocks that are more typically found in parking areas in Poland. 

The hollow concrete blocks screen a storage area in the kitchen, but permit the passage of light. The unusual pattern was found at a town near Kraków at a cost of just two dollars each. The blocks add a strong visual and textural component to the space, as well as the functional element of privacy. 


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