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Veiled in Brilliance: How Reflective Facades Have Changed Modern Architecture

09:30 - 12 October, 2016
Veiled in Brilliance: How Reflective Facades Have Changed Modern Architecture, Reflections on glass façade. Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron. Image © Frank Thiel
Reflections on glass façade. Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron. Image © Frank Thiel

Even as modernism promoted the transparency of glass architecture, many within the movement were conscious of the monotony of large glass facades, with even Mies van der Rohe using elements such as his trademark mullions to break up his facades. But in the years since, countless uniform structural glazing skyscrapers have emerged and bored urban citizens. In response to this, unconventional reinterpretations of facades have gained interest.

Accompanied by the belief that light and brilliance could help in creating iconic architecture and a better human world, glass and metal have been innovatively transformed to create crystalline images. As a result, the locus of meaning in architecture has shifted from the internal space-form towards the external surface.

Los Angeles' Glass-Bottomed "Skyslide" Opens to the Public

16:00 - 28 June, 2016

Found in places as diverse as the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, Willis Tower, and Tokyo Skytree, glass bottom observation decks have become the favorite engineering marvel of thrill seekers looking for a new perspective on the world. Now, the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles has upped the ante for adrenaline-spiking structures – affixing a glass side to the building’s facade. Spanning from a window on the 70th story to a terrace on the 69th, the 45-foot-long chute opened to the public on Saturday, providing those brave enough to ride it with unprecedented views of the city.

Fritted Glass: Staple or Trend?

08:00 - 30 March, 2016
Fritted Glass: Staple or Trend?, © flickr user swisscan, Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
© flickr user swisscan, Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Discovered by archaeologists in civilizations as old as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, fritted glass is hardly a new technology. Yet thanks to its energy-saving abilities and the smooth, gradient aesthetic it produces, fritted glass has seen a rebirth in contemporary architecture.

Frit itself is a ceramic component that can be laid out into an assortment of patterns, most typically consisting of dots or lines. These patterns can then be silk-screened onto annealed glass using frit paint. Then, the glass is fired in a tempering furnace, which strengthens and improves the safety of the glass under thermal stress. The resulting product is glass of determined transparency that, when used in building facades, can reduce solar heat gain and even make buildings more visible and less deadly for birds.

AD Classics: Jyväskylä University Building / Alvar Aalto

09:00 - 28 March, 2016
AD Classics: Jyväskylä University Building / Alvar Aalto, © Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Jyväskylä, a city whose status as the center of Finnish culture and academia during the nineteenth century earned it the nickname “the Athens of Finland,” awarded Alvar Aalto the contract to design a university campus worthy of the city’s cultural heritage in 1951. Built around the pre-existing facilities of Finland’s Athenaeum, the new university would be designed with great care to respect both its natural and institutional surroundings.

The city of Jyväskylä was by no means unfamiliar to Aalto; he had moved there as a young boy with his family in 1903 and returned to form his practice in the city after qualifying as an architect in Helsinki in 1923. He was well acquainted with Jyväskylä’s Teacher Seminary, which had been a bastion of the study of the Finnish language since 1863. Such an institution was eminently important in a country that had spent most of its history as part of either Sweden or Russia. As such, the teaching of Finnish was considered an integral part of the awakening of the fledgling country’s national identity.[1]

© Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh + 24

Los Angeles' Tallest Tower to Get Terrifying "Skyslide"

13:40 - 3 March, 2016
Los Angeles' Tallest Tower to Get Terrifying "Skyslide", via LA Curbed
via LA Curbed

The West Coast's tallest building, Los Angeles' US Bank Tower is going to be outfitted with a terrifying glass slide designed by engineering firm M.Ludvik & Co. Set to hang 1000-feet above the street, the project will be part of the building's Gensler-designed OUE Skyspace LA attraction - soon to be California's tallest open-air observation deck. 

Watch SANAA's Grace Farms Come to Life in this Time Lapse

12:00 - 7 February, 2016

Grace Farms by SANAA perfectly illustrates the firm’s sinuous, elegant style, combining their understanding of glass and structure to create spaces so fluid that they’re hard to believe from just a photo. A new time lapse by Work Zone Cam shows the construction of this project in HD, capturing a period between September 2013 and October 2015. Work Zone Cam worked with Project Manager, Paratus Group, to document Grace Farms’ construction, including its central piece “The River”: a ribbon-like roof that blends seamlessly with the landscape. Watch the entire construction of the project in just 180 seconds after the break.

MIT Research Team Develops Affordable Smart Glass Alternative

17:00 - 27 January, 2016

When it comes to scrutinizing architectural materials for their energy efficiency, one offender stands out above the rest: glass. Windows and curtain walls act as one of a building’s main outlets for heating and cooling losses, and as society advances into its more environmentally-conscious future, new, passive solutions will need to be developed to mitigate buildings’ energy footprints. In recent years, various smart glass technologies have been designed to automatically regulate light and heat based on environmental conditions. Yet their high price tags have prevented them from achieving widespread application. Now, a team of MIT researchers may have discovered an alternative to smart glass that could come at an affordable price.

These Glass Walls Slide Around Corners to Disappear From View

16:30 - 2 December, 2015

One of the most popular tropes of Modernist architecture was the goal of dissolving the external boundaries of the home, connecting residents to nature through the use of large glass walls in order to "bring the outside in." Nowhere was this project more thoroughly realized than in Mies van der Rohe's 1930 Villa Tugendhat, where an entire side of the glass-walled living space could, if the user wished, be dropped through the floor and the house become open to the elements. Elegant though it was (especially in 1930), Mies' solution didn't catch on, limited by the fact that it required an electric motor and a basement below in which to store the disappeared facade.

These days, while countless houses incorporate glass walls that fold, slide, or swing open, few offer the bravura of Mies' design, choosing to move the glass off to the side rather than making it disappear entirely. This year though, window and door manufacturer Vitrocsa may have turned a corner in the provision of vanishing glass walls with its "Turnable" system.

Researchers Develop Smart Window Coating That Controls Light and Heat Transmission Independently

14:00 - 21 October, 2015
Researchers Develop Smart Window Coating That Controls Light and Heat Transmission Independently, © ACS Publications via Interesting Engineering
© ACS Publications via Interesting Engineering

In an era when both environmental comfort and sustainability are key concerns in architecture, the tendency to cover buildings entirely in glass is among the most criticized and controversial traits of contemporary architecture, as all-glass buildings often guzzle energy thanks to their demanding cooling and heating requirements. Over the years, a number of fixes for this problem have been attempted, including smart glass solutions that allow users to modify the transparency of the window. The problem with this solution, however, is that smart glass is unable to block infrared (heat) transmission without ruining the very thing that makes glass attractive in the first place: its transparency to visible light. That conundrum may soon be a thing of the past, though. As reported by, a team of researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new smart window technology that allows users to selectively control the transmission of light and heat to suit their requirements.

China's First All-Glass Suspension Bridge Opens in Hunan

12:38 - 28 September, 2015
China's First All-Glass Suspension Bridge Opens in Hunan, © Sina
© Sina

This (terrifying) 300-meter-long bridge is the first in China to be made of all glass. Suspended 180-meters above ground between two cliffs at Hunan's Shiniuzhai National Geological Park, the Haohan Qiao - Brave Men's Bridge - was originally meant to be wood, before being constructed with 24mm thick glass that is 25 times stronger than normal.

"The bridge we build will stand firm even if tourists are jumping on it," said a worker to China News Service. "The steel frame used to support and encase the glass bridge is also very strong and densely built, so even if a glass is broken, travelers won't fall through."

This Improvement to Channel Glass Makes Curved Glass Walls Easier than Ever

14:00 - 10 September, 2015
This Improvement to Channel Glass Makes Curved Glass Walls Easier than Ever, © Holger Jahns
© Holger Jahns

A lot of architects love glass. A lot of architects love curves too. The two can be combined, but in most cases this is a highly bespoke and expensive process, with individual sheets of glass being heated in a kiln over a mold created especially to fit the desired curve. Cheaper options are available though, and one common approach is to use smaller sections of flat glass - often a U-shaped channel section - angled to approximate a curve.

But this strategy also leads to a problem: as the desired curve gets tighter, the gaps between the glass segments get more and more apparent and less efficient as enclosure. To address this problem, German designer Holger Jahns has created "c--c," an update to standard U-shaped channel glass which can be fixed together at any angle and create any curve without gaps appearing between the panels.

© Holger Jahns © Holger Jahns By contrast, c--c can easily adapt to a wide range of curves. Image © Holger Jahns © Holger Jahns + 20

Mediated Matter's New Platform 3D Prints Glass with Stunning Precision

13:22 - 20 August, 2015

Glass can be molded, formed, blown, plated, sintered and now 3D printed. Neri Oxman and her Mediated Matter Group team has just unveiled their new glass printing platform: G3DP: Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass. A collaboration with the Glass Lab at MIT, G3DP is the first of its kind and can 3D print optically transparent glass with stunning precision. 

"G3DP is an additive manufacturing platform designed to print optically transparent glass," Oxman told ArchDaily. "The tunability enabled by geometrical and optical variation driven by form, transparency and color variation can drive; limit or control light transmission, reflection and refraction, and therefore carries significant implications for all things glass: aerodynamic building facades optimized for solar gain, geometrically customized and variable thickness lighting devices and so on."

View Dynamic Glass Raises $150 Million to Create Windows with Responsive Tint

16:00 - 17 August, 2015
View Dynamic Glass Raises $150 Million to Create Windows with Responsive Tint, © View
© View

View has raised $150 million to fund their specialized Dynamic Glass tints. The new technology automatically responds to outdoor conditions or from a mobile phone, resulting in a reactive tint that reduces heat and glare. This, as the company said in a press release, allows for "greater occupant comfort and energy savings without ever compromising the view." The tinted windows have been installed in more than 100 locations across North America. The funds will be used to accelerate product development. 

ARO and Heery Design Nippert Stadium Expansion for University of Cincinnati

08:00 - 28 July, 2015
ARO and Heery Design Nippert Stadium Expansion for University of Cincinnati, Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati
Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati

Architecture Research Office (ARO) and Heery International have designed the West Pavilion, a 115,000 square-foot extension to the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. Set at one of America’s most historic college football venues, the new expansion will stretch 450 feet in length —about half of the stadium—and “will introduce the program’s first true premium seating, club spaces, and high-end press facilities.”

In addition to being a part of university-wide expansions, the project is the centerpiece of the $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium itself, which includes adding more restrooms and concessions, and better pedestrian circulation.

Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati Courtesy of The University of Cincinnati + 17

"Hang Out" In These Extraordinary Peruvian Sky Pods

12:39 - 14 July, 2015
"Hang Out" In These Extraordinary Peruvian Sky Pods, via Huffington Post
via Huffington Post

Adventure seekers have yet another reason to visit the Peruvian Andes; Peru-based tour company Natura Vive is now offering a luxurious night's stay 400-feet above the Inca Empire in these glass sky pods. Visitors can access the "Skylodge" by scrabbling up the mountainside. After staying the night, and indulging in some fine dining on top their 192-square-feet room, visitors return Peru's famed Sacred Valley via a series of (terrifying) zip lines. 

Paris Approves Plans to Build Herzog & de Meuron's "Triangle Tower"

13:54 - 1 July, 2015
Paris Approves Plans to Build Herzog & de Meuron's "Triangle Tower", © Herzog & de Meuron
© Herzog & de Meuron

Paris has approved its first tower in over 40 years; the city council has agreed to move forward with Herzog & de Meuron's 180-meter-tall "Triangle Tower" - or "Tour Triangle" - after initially rejecting the proposal last year. The controversial plans have been the center of an intense debate since its unveiling in 2008 on whether or not Paris should preserve its 19-century skyline. 

As Gizmodo reports, the Swiss architects sold the tower to the city by claiming its glass facade will "disappear" into the skyline.

“Almost everything the architects say has one message: This building is invisible,” as Foreign Policy pointed out last year. “As if to reinforce this strange duality, the renderings omit Paris’s one true existing skyscraper: the wildly unpopular Tour Montparnasse, built in 1973.”

SageGlass Unveils Latest Developments in Smart Glass Technology

15:30 - 24 June, 2015
SageGlass Unveils Latest Developments in Smart Glass Technology, Courtesy of SageGlass
Courtesy of SageGlass

With the demands of sustainability today placing tight restrictions on performance metrics such as how airtight a building is, one of the sacrifices that often has to be made is user control. Windows are often no longer openable; shades and blinds often replaced with non-openable louvers. In recent years new technology such as smart glass (sometimes called "switchable glass) has promised a modicum of compromise, allowing windows to be tinted on demand. But smart glass is limited - it's either on or off, clear or tinted.

Until now, that is. At the AIA convention in MaySageGlass revealed a range of innovations that greatly increase the options available to designers when specifying smart glass.

Competition Entry: AECOM Proposes Transport Center for Solana Beach

08:00 - 19 June, 2015
Competition Entry: AECOM Proposes Transport Center for Solana Beach, Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio
Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio

AECOM has designed a preliminary study for a mixed-use transportation development in Solana Beach, California, as part of a response for a RFP (Request for Proposal). Located near major roads and connected to railroads, the project proposal consists of a combination of retail stores and restaurants, providing transit users with leisure spaces on their travels, in addition to parking for the nearby AMTRAK train station. 

Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio Courtesy of AECOM LA Design Studio + 15