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.
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.
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 Phys.org, 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.
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."
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
AECOM has designed a $42,000,000 campus and training facility for a professional basketball organization in West Los Angeles. The building contains a basketball arena, corporate headquarters, a hall of fame, and gardens, among other programs. Despite the building’s varied uses, AECOM was determined to make it “basketball centric.”
China will soon finish construction on what will be the world’s tallest and longest glass pedestrian bridge, floating 300 meters above a canyon in the Zhangjiajie National Park. Designed by Israeli architect, Haim Dotan, the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge will be 380 meters long, six meters wide and feature a transparent glass floor.
For Maya Lapp and Denis Perera, owners of the company Glass MaDe in the Italian town of Belluno, bubble wrap is just about the most everyday material they know. It is the utilitarian material they use to protect their products from damage - yet despite this, it still holds a certain amount of fascination, resulting in their latest project, "Fragile." This video by Studio Meddle shows the making of the project, as the glassmaking duo create a mold of the bubble wrap, cast the glass and finally drape the resulting product over a wrinkled wire mesh to create an almost eery facsimile of the original, subverting our usual expectations of the familiar bubble pattern. Check out Studio Meddle's Video above (make sure the captions are turned on), and see more images of the completed work after the break.
The world’s longest glass skywalk has been inaugurated in China, jutting off the edge of a 718-meter tall cliff in the Longgang National Geological Park in Chongqing, reports CCTV. Aptly named Yuanduan, which means “at the end of the clouds,” the horseshoe-shaped walkway offers visitors stunning (and a bit terrifying) views of the surrounding mountains and canyon below. Extending for more than 26 meters off the cliff’s edge, the bridge is five meters longer than the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Only 30 tourists will be allowed on the bridge at a time. View a gallery of photos at The Daily Mail.
If you search the web for information on MVRDV's Glass Farm, you'll find plenty of people writing about the project's 33-year history, and about its context in the small town of Schijndel. You'll even find plenty of people theorizing on the nature of those glass walls, and the relationships between image and authenticity and between modern technology and modest tradition. But strangely, you'll find almost no information on how the project made use of Digital Ceramic Printing, a relatively new process which was able to handle the many colors, variable transparency and fine tolerances required to display an entire farmhouse facade across a thousand glass panels.
In this new installment of our Material Minds series, presented by ArchDaily Materials, we spoke to MVRDV's project leader on the Glass Farm Gijs Rikken, and to Niv Raz, an Architect at Dip-Tech - the company who produces the printers, ink, software and support required for the process.
Concrete beams are suspended in midair by load-bearing glass walls, inverting the traditional structural hierarchy between the two materials and allowing uninterrupted river views. Read more about the project and view selected images after the break.