Living Outside with the Sun

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Christina Mckay


This paper reflects upon the history of design of outdoor living spaces, a typology that blends interior directly with landscape. In Australasia, outdoor living is a symbol of contemporary life style but it must adapt to the danger of over-exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Tempering openness to the summer sky is not just a choice but rather a survival strategy.

The relationship of European descendents to the Antipodean sun has fluctuated over time. In Victorian times, hats, copious clothing and villa verandahs protected prized pale complexions. Tanned skin branded the labouring classes and the native population. In the 1920s, the ancient Greek practice of heliotherapy was hailed as beneficial for the treatment of tuberculosis. Concurrently architecture clipped verandahs and proposed open sun terraces, sometimes scantily clad by a pergola. The negative consequences of this sun-worship were not known until the 1980s when the relation between ultraviolet rays and skin cancer was made and the recognition that one in three Australasians will be affected. Living outside with the sun therefore requires modification. Sunscreen is prescribed for application every two hours; hats, clothing and sun-glasses protect the body but hinder communication between people and their surroundings. Traditional solid shade shields direct rays, but deny the warmth of the sun, which is often so welcome in temperate New Zealand. Open shade sails fail to acknowledge the fact that ultraviolet rays scatter. Living well outside is not simple.

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How to Cite
Mckay, Christina. 2005. “Living Outside With the Sun”. idea journal 6 (1):117-26.
text-based research essay