History of Awnings

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An awning is defined as “a sheet of canvas or other material stretched on a frame and used to keep the sun or rain off a storefront, window, doorway or deck.” Synonyms include: canopy, shade, marquee, sunshade, brise-soleil, cover and blind.

Awnings are depicted in literature and drawings dating back thousands of years, in cultures throughout the world. In ancient Egypt, Syria and China, woven mats were used to cover market stalls, home courtyards and entrance ways.

In India, awnings called shamiana, date back to when the Taj Mahal was built. They were typically used for official social or business functions, and were often of exquisite, multi-coloured design.


In ancient Rome, awnings were a common feature at outdoor venues such as amphitheaters. Audiences at public events expected to be able to sit in the comfort of shade. The grandest example of an awning from that time was the Velarium. This massive panelled awning protected spectators at The Colosseum from the intense heat of the sun. Made of canvas, linen or cotton, this adjustable and retractable awning covered a third of the Colosseum’s seating. As the awning was, essentially, a custom-made sail, sailors were employed to build, maintain and operate the Velarium.


Following the American Civil War, awnings became a prevalent part of Main Street USA. To this day, the awning over a shop window, is integral to the romanticized image of ‘the good ol’ days.’ With industrialization in the mid 20th century, materials improved and became more readily available, allowing the expanded use of operable awnings – awnings that could be opened, closed and repositioned.

Aside from the fashion statement made by awnings throughout history, the fundamental purpose was to control temperature. By keeping sun off windows, awnings effectively performed the function of modern day air-conditioning systems. As we become increasingly aware of the financial and ecological costs of air-conditioning, more and more people are rediscovering the function and form of modern awning systems.

Since 1981, Sunesta has been manufacturing awnings at their production facility in Florida. Sunesta was the first manufacturing company in North America to offer a national line of ready-to-install retractable awnings. Since then, the company has established itself as a pioneer in the American awning industry, inventing and developing new manufacturing processes, applications, and unique features.


Solaris Canada is the coming together of two companies in 2008: Phantom Screens of Northern Alberta (operating since 1992) and Solaris Products (operating since 2001). The combined expertise and experience pulls together a wide range of proven quality products to keep Albertans cool and comfortable – while adding to the aesthetic quality of the home or business.

From ancient times to modern days, awnings have been integral in the lives of people wanting to enjoy, while remaining protected from, the outdoors. Give Solaris Canada a call to learn how awnings can improve your lifestyle and your home!