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  1. ArchDaily
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  3. Diffused Light: How to Design 'Lantern Buildings' With Self-Supporting Glass Walls

Diffused Light: How to Design 'Lantern Buildings' With Self-Supporting Glass Walls

Diffused Light: How to Design 'Lantern Buildings' With Self-Supporting Glass Walls
Diffused Light: How to Design 'Lantern Buildings' With Self-Supporting Glass Walls, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan

Recurrently we see how architects opt for translucent facades to create the envelopes of their buildings, promoting the entry of a large amount of natural light, while simultaneously controlling it during the day. Illuminated during the night, many of these projects can be seen in the dark, appearing as lanterns or lighthouses for their neighbors and community. Being exposed to changing conditions – day or night – to choose the right material, it's necessary to study in detail the orientation and location of the building, the pre-existing context, and the configuration of the interior spaces.

We present a system of glass panels that allow buildings with this type of façade –spanning from floor to ceiling without interruptions – with minimal frames and different colors, textures, thermal and acoustic performances. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects. Image © Timothy Hursley Nelson Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl. Image Cortesía de Bendheim + 28

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan

In buildings that require high levels of natural lighting and where visual transparency is not an essential requirement, diffused light is an effective option for the cladding of their facades. In these cases, glare is avoided and homogeneous light is obtained in the interior spaces. Mixing textured glass channels with more transparent ones in the same frame can seamlessly create spaces with varying degrees of privacy.

C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe
C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe

Using self-supporting channel glass panels can provide the ability to construct curved façades or glazed corners without the need for visible vertical frames. In this way, the building maintains clean and continuous design lines, avoiding the incorporation of intermediate structural elements in sight. Each panel can reach 7 meters in height (23 ft).

Cortesía de Bendheim
Cortesía de Bendheim

The fairly low weight of the 7 mm (1/4”) channel glass, close to 1.8 kg/m2 (4 lbs/ft2), is preferable for buildings that have limits on their structural weight capacity. The light and modular glass channels can be handled by as few as 3 people without heavy equipment, facilitating and speeding up the installation process.

Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects. Image © Timothy Hursley
Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects. Image © Timothy Hursley

With a thermal transmittance (U-value) between 0.49 and 0.19, the glazed building can achieve a high thermal efficiency. The channel glass panels also present a good acoustic performance, reaching a sound transmission of STC43.

C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe
C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe

Detail Drawings

Elevation

Elevation / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed
Elevation / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed

Section SD1 / Floor to Ceiling

SD1 - Typical Head Still Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed
SD1 - Typical Head Still Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed

Section SD2 / Joint Between Two Modules

SD2 - Typical Stack Joint Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed
SD2 - Typical Stack Joint Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed

Plan SD3 / Joint Between Modules

SD3 - Jamb Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed
SD3 - Jamb Details / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed

Plan SD4 / Corner Detail

SD4 - Typical Corner Detail / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed
SD4 - Typical Corner Detail / Bendheim SF60S Single Glazed

Application in Built Projects

Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects

According to its architects, 'translucent channel glass was selected to subtly obscure occupants within and around the new building like an impressionist painting – blurring the distinction between new and old, building and landscape.'

Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects. Image © Timothy Hursley
Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects. Image © Timothy Hursley
Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects
Magnolia Mound Visitors Center / Trahan Architects

Institute of Contemporary Art / Diller Scofidio + Renfro

In this case, the translucent facades have been placed on the lateral sides of the building – east and west – illuminated from the inside during the night and generating an intimate and contemplative environment to see the art through two large galleries.

Institute of Contemporary Art / Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Iwan Baan
Institute of Contemporary Art / Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Iwan Baan
Institute of Contemporary Art / Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Institute of Contemporary Art / Diller Scofidio + Renfro

C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design

Inspired by the glass explorations of Philip Johnson, Mies van der Rohe, Larry Bell, Dan Graham, Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst, this house is an exercise of transparency, 'manifesting a maximum exposure with minimal environmental impact.'

C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe
C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design. Image © Taiyo Watanabe
C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design
C-Glass House / Deegan Day Design

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects

'The lenses' multiple layers of translucent glass gather, diffuse, and refract light, at times materializing light like blocks of ice. During the day the lenses inject varying qualities of light into the galleries, while at night the sculpture garden glows with their internal light,' its architects say. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Andy Ryan
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Steven Holl Architects

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About this author
José Tomás Franco
Author
Cite: Franco, José Tomás. "Diffused Light: How to Design 'Lantern Buildings' With Self-Supporting Glass Walls" [Arquitectura de luz difusa: cómo diseñar 'edificios linterna' con muros de vidrio auto-portantes] 10 Aug 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/899779/diffused-light-how-to-design-lantern-buildings-with-self-supporting-glass-walls/> ISSN 0719-8884
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