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    A balcony’s journey through time

    November 2023


Balconies, those charming extensions of our living spaces, have graced buildings for centuries, offering a glimpse into the world beyond while providing a haven for relaxation and enjoyment. Their history is intertwined with architectural styles, societal shifts, and technological advancements, a testament to their enduring appeal and the ingenuity of architects and builders, writes Justin Pitman, sales director for Proteus Waterproofing.

The earliest balconies emerged in ancient civilizations, serving primarily as sheltered platforms for observation and defence. In Mesopotamia, around 3500 BCE, balconies were incorporated into the ziggurats, towering structures that served as religious and administrative centres. These balconies provided a vantage point for priests and rulers to oversee the city and communicate with their subjects.

The Greeks refined the balcony concept, integrating it seamlessly into their architectural style. Terraces and balconies became prominent features of Greek temples, theatres, and homes, providing spaces for social gatherings, public performances, and private contemplation. The Greeks also introduced balustrades, decorative railings that enhanced the safety and aesthetic appeal of balconies.

In ancient Rome, balconies evolved into more elaborate structures, often adorned with columns, statues, and intricate carvings. They became integral elements of Roman villas, providing a connection between the interior and exterior spaces and offering a sense of grandeur.

During the Middle Ages, balconies underwent a transformation. As castles replaced villas, balconies became defensive features, serving as vantage points for archers and sentinels. However, they also retained their decorative role, often adorned with heraldic symbols and banners.

The Renaissance period witnessed a revival of the balcony's grandeur. Balconies regained their prominence in palaces and noble residences, becoming symbols of status and wealth. The Italian Juliet balcony, with its delicate wrought-iron railings, became synonymous with romantic ideals and storytelling.

As urbanisation intensified and architectural styles evolved, balconies took on new forms and functions. In modern buildings, balconies became standardised features, providing a connection between the interior and exterior environments, offering spaces for fresh air and leisure.

It was not until the latter half of the 20th century, when architects and builders began to recognise the importance of waterproofing balconies. As they became more exposed to the elements, their susceptibility to water damage became a growing concern. Leaking balconies could lead to structural damage, mould growth, and safety hazards.

The need for effective waterproofing solutions became increasingly evident. New materials and techniques were developed, such as liquid applied membranes, to provide a seamless and protective barrier against water ingress. These advancements ensured that balconies could withstand the harsh elements while maintaining their aesthetic appeal and functionality.

Today, waterproofing is an integral aspect of balcony design and construction, where experts such as Proteus, emphasise the importance of selecting appropriate waterproofing systems based on the substrate, climate, and aesthetic requirements.

So, we can see from their early origins as sheltered platforms to their modern role as extensions of our living spaces, balconies have traversed a remarkable journey through time. They have evolved alongside architectural styles, societal shifts, and technological advancements, reflecting the changing needs and aspirations of humanity.

The integration of waterproofing into balcony design and construction is a testament to the ingenuity of architects, builders, and waterproofing experts. By addressing the challenges of water damage, they have ensured that balconies remain safe, aesthetically pleasing, and enduring features of our built environment.

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