In the world of politics, the notion of “transparency” refers to the honesty constituents expect of their elected officials. In architecture, it means something much more literal: a transparent surface, like a window or glass wall, is one you can see through. In the small Dutch municipality of Albrandswaard, architects Gortemaker Algra Feenstra have melded the two definitions with a circular, glass town hall. As the firm writes of the project, “a single transparent space...shows the process of democracy as soon as you enter.”
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In the midst of the tall, rectilinear skyscrapers which make up downtown Chicago appears a short, sloped glass curtain wall, topped by a protruding truncated cylinder structure: Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center. Opened in 1985, the building was to be home for a variety of agencies of the State of Illinois, and its design was a play off of the traditional American statehouse, updated with glass walls symbolizing government transparency and an immense atrium evoking the atrium spaces found in most United States’ statehouses. The interior spaces, however, stirred further contention with the public. Unconventional red, blue, and white paints coat the interior elements—a design choice many believed to be provocative and even jarring.
Two teams have been announced as the finalists of a competition to rebuild Norway’s government headquarters after it was bombed in 2011 during the country’s worst terrorist attack in modern history. The state building agency Statsbygg selected G8+, comprised of A-Lab and LPO Architects, and Team Urbis, which includes the firms Haptic and Nordic, out of a group of seven teams to create a safe, inviting hub of ministry buildings for central Oslo.