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Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 11. 1961

Looking at Victoria's New Student Union Building — Venetian in Name, but Much Older than Venice

page 9

Looking at Victoria's New Student Union Building

Venetian in Name, but Much Older than Venice

The Ingenious slatted blind, Which holds back unwanted sunlight while permitting full vision, has a history much longer than that of the city whose name It Shears. Millennia before the Venetians adopted and developed the Idea, ancient Egyptians were using [unclear: eed] curtains made on a somewhat similar principle.

In Its early applications, the principle was given an extra twist which is lacking today, since slaves tire said to have been employed touring water on the reed curtains, so that evaporation by hot winds would help cool the rooms whose windows were so fitted.

The exact history of the spread of the Idea around the Mediterranean countries is shrouded inmystery, but there Is a story that a Persian slave trader In the time if Haroun Al-Raschid brought the entrain reeds back with him from raids across the Red Sea, and fitted his own quarters with curtains made from them.

The early Venetians were great travellers and traders, and It Is possible they saw such blinds in Persia and brought the idea back [to Venice with them.

In Europe, of course, the spread of such a useful Idea was inevitable. It Is said that a young Venetian slave, set at liberty went to France and there developed his former master's Idea, first for his own personal comfort, and then as a means of livelihood.

There was almost universal acceptance of Venetian blinds by the 1840s, and stuffy Victorian parlours, with their dust-gathering knick-knacks, invariably had Venetian blinds as a background. Dickens mentions them in the "Old Curiosity Shop." Any expert on sewing in the 1860s, knew the problems of Venetian making, and handbooks on sewing of that era were full of recommendations on the types of fabrics, tapes and cords to use, but without the benefits of nylon and modern plastics and metal, they were unable to make the most of the dfflightfully efficient but simple Venetian mechanism. The fabric covering the wooden slat used to rot in the sun, and so did the tapes and cords.

In addition, the fabric covering was dust attracting, and with rising consciousness of hygiene, Venetian blinds fell into disfavor on that account. They lingered on in hot climates like India, in bungalows without windows and consequent ready circulation of air, which kept them dust free and it was mainly returning Anglo-Indians who kept them installed in English houses, as many of them found that their attractiveness and grace compensated for the work put into them in cleaning and maintenance. Today, of course, with modern materials, none of the disadvantages apply, and Venetian blinds are gleamingly hygienic.

The Venetian blinds in the Student Union Building were manufactured and installed by Airflow Blinds Ltd., Petone. There are 52 blinds, ranging in size from 24in. wide by 30in. drop to 190in. wide and 63in. drop. This gives a total square footage of 2200 sq. ft. with approximately three miles of slat.