The paper is a case study of two extensively-glazed steel- framed buildings, Jean Prouvé’s 1957 temporary school in Villejuif, France, and, Müller Verdan Architekten’s 2006 Sporthalle “Gotthelf” in Thun, Switzerland, that integrate natural ventilation within the building structure itself.

Practically, this unique approach enables the designers to provide usually mutually exclusive features, large glass formats and natural ventilation, without incurring the various penalties associated with operating such very heavy elements.

Conceptually, the idea of integrating the ventilation function within structural members goes against the standard orthodoxy consisting of the separation of enclosure systems from skeletal structural systems. This dichotomy has been one of the canonical rules of Modern Architecture ever since Le Corbusier enshrined it in his “Five Points”. It remains today the prevailing paradigm in curtain wall-type envelopes.

These two projects deserve to be better known because of their integrative design intelligence, and, because they challenge the dominant paradigm of separation of structure and enclosure, and in doing so, they open interesting design perspectives regarding the sustainable integration of natural ventilation in buildings.

The method for researching Prouvé’s building is archival research- and analysis-based. In the case of the Müller Verdan’s Sporthalle, the analysis of drawings is complemented with direct on-site observations and conversations with the architects. The paper also compares and contrasts the two projects with special focus on their structural and natural ventilation aspects.