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.
While fritted glass can be used in many different ways, its most common aesthetic is a highly stylized one, with architects using frit to blur away the joints between glass panels (like in the Whitney Museum), create controlled views of higher transparency out a building (Frank Gehry’s IAC Building) or to produce a graphic statement (Snohetta’s Student Learning Center at Ryerson University). Many other high-style materials in recent history (think gold-tinted glass or brightly-colored marble) have eventually become seen as dated or gaudy, and therefore relegated to simply a trend. Has fritted glass returned to architecture for good, or is it destined to be seen as a fad?
Here are some exemplary projects to help you come to a decision: