The Monadnock Building in Chicago began construction in 1891 and is still in use today. The building features a somber facade without ornamentation and a colossal height - at the time - of 16 floors. It is considered the first skyscraper built in structural masonry, with ceramic bricks and a granite base. To support the entire load of the building, the structural walls on the ground floor are 1.8 meters thick, and at the top, 46 centimeters. One hundred and thirty years later, this construction system remains common and allows for the erection of taller buildings with much thinner walls, accomplishing even new architectural works economically and rationally. But what is structural masonry about, and how can designers use it in architectural projects? And for what kinds of buildings is this system most suitable?
Humans have used mirrors since as early as 600 BCE, employing highly polished obsidian as a basic reflective surface. Over time, people began to use small pieces of gold, silver, and aluminum in a similar manner, both for their reflective properties and for decoration. By the 1st century CE, people had started using glass to make mirrors, but it was only during the European Renaissance that Venetian manufacturers began making mirrors by applying metallic backings to glass sheets, remaining the most common general method of mirror manufacturing today. Since then, mirrors have continued to play both a decorative and functional role in architecture, serving a clean, modern aesthetic despite its ancient origins. Below, we investigate how mirrors are made, provide a brief history of mirrors in architecture, and offer several tips for architects looking to use mirrors in their designs.