palm springs mid century modern home with breeze blocks
This Palm Springs home uses breeze blocks to provide privacy and shade. Courtesy of Modernist Architecture Tour.

Breeze blocks are the patterned concrete blocks you may have seen covering the sides of a building or stacked upon each other to form a wall. But these fascinating blocks are more than just decorative- they’re an important component of Mid Century Modern design. Breeze blocks provide shade, circulation, protection and privacy to buildings all over the world, and they’ve got the rich history and style to prove it.

Breeze Blocks’ History

mid century modern home in palm springs with breeze blocks and classic car in front
This breeze block home in Palm Springs gets privacy and shade thanks to the beautiful blocks. Courtesy of Curbed.

Breeze blocks–sometimes called screen blocks– were inspired by sun-reducing screens in Asia and first used in America in the 1930s. They continued to grow in popularity in the following decades, especially when used in houses and apartments. They were widely used in Mid Century Modern design up until the 1970s, when they began to fall out of style.

vintage grocery store covered in breeze blocks
Mid Century grocery stores used breeze blocks to make their exteriors look a bit more interesting. Courtesy of Curbed.

Breeze blocks provided a visually pleasing (and affordable!) way to filter out harsh sunlight while still providing ventilation. Breeze blocks also provided shade for the massive Mid Century floor-to-ceiling windows that were popular at the time.

breeze blocks on a texas mid century modern apartment building
This Texas apartment building uses breeze blocks to give its residents some privacy while making the building look great too. Courtesy of Modern Charlotte. 

They were especially popular in the warmer parts of the country, like California and Florida. California used breeze blocks to protect against the hot desert sun, while Florida architecture used breeze blocks to minimize the damage of dangerous storm winds.

collage of patterns of breeze blocks
Breeze blocks can have patterns that range from the simple to the ornate. Courtesy of Ty Pennington.

In fact, breeze blocks became so popular that most large cities and towns had their own breeze block factories. Because of their weight and the cost involved with shipping them long distances, it was often cheaper to manufacture them locally. Local breeze block factories produced standard patterns, like the common snowflake one, while making unique patterns that were specific to the factory too. It’s estimated that there are over 200 different breeze block patterns today.

Quintessential Breeze Block Buildings

parker palm springs hotel exterior with breeze blocks
The Parker Palm Springs uses breeze blocks to create a dramatic facade to the entrance of the hotel. Courtesy of Jonathan Adler.

In Palm Springs, CA, one luxurious hotel uses breeze blocks in a way that truly stands out. The exterior of the Parker Palm Springs is surrounded by white breeze blocks that shield the 5-star hotel from the blazing desert sun and provide a private oasis for vacationers and celebrities alike.

us embassy in new delhi covered in breeze blocks
The large fountain and low-profile of the embassy give it a local South Asian twist. Courtesy of WikiData.

Across the ocean, the American embassy in New Delhi also features a prominent use of breeze blocks. Built in 1959, the embassy was designed to be a fusion of American and South Asian architecture. The American influences can be seen in the block covered, streamlined Mid Century Modern look of the embassy, while the ‘temple’ look of the structure was inspired by similar South Asian holy places.

How Breeze Blocks Are Used Today

Today, breeze blocks are making a comeback. Thanks to the growing popularity of Mid Century Modern style, breeze blocks have crept back into today’s designs.

back of the breeze block house in australia
The Breeze Block House uses breeze blocks and an extension to the back of a bungalow to create a dynamic, open space. Courtesy of Architecture AU.

A great example of this is the Breeze Block house in Sydney. Designed by Architect Prineas in 2015, this award-winning house uses breeze blocks to create livable indoor-outdoor spaces. Another award-winning breeze block house is the Naranga Avenue house (also in Australia) which dramatically uses breeze blocks on the exterior facade to let the light in while providing relief from the sun.

church in australia with breeze blocks mid century modern style
The breeze blocks on this church in Australia give it a unique Mid Century flair. Courtesy of The Conversation.

But these blocks aren’t just used in homes- today, you can find them adorning the sides of hotels, covering parking decks, or running up and down church spires.

Breeze Block Interiors

modern kitchen with breeze blocks on bottom half on kitchen island
The blocks in this kitchen are a unique and fun accent to an otherwise traditional space! Courtesy of SW Architects.

In fact, breeze blocks have started to move from an exterior feature to an interior accent. Today, you can find them in kitchens or against walls as fun retro decor. They’re great for providing partitions where space can clearly be divided without the unnecessary structural presence of a wall.

mid century modern dining room with breeze blocks wall
Breeze blocks can be used to create show-stopping interior walls. Courtesy of Alan Chu.

Breeze blocks’ affordability, usefulness and beauty means that they’re Mid Century Modern design’s new favorite throwback. Stores that make breeze blocks like ORCO and Our Block Co are popping up all over the country with unique designs, and places like Home Depot have started selling them too!

Ready to put some breeze blocks in your home yet? And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!