We’ve been using glass in architecture since the 19th century. However, more than 100 years later, we still have so much to discover. You might have noticed glass has become an increasingly common feature in construction in the past three decades, especially in office blocks and public buildings. Let’s take a look at the innovative and exciting ways in which glass is being used in architecture.
Inexpensive, recyclable and visually attractive: the advantages of glass
Glass is inexpensive and, even better, environmentally friendly, being 100% per cent recyclable. As contemporary architecture has become increasingly focused on boosting the amount of natural light in the places we work and live, glass has become an obvious choice. Rather than spending our days and nights in small, dark rooms, we’re choosing to inhabit large, airy spaces. Even though (or perhaps because) we’re becoming more and more urbanised, we want to feel as close to the natural elements as we possibly can.
In addition, cutting-edge technologies mean that glazing provides insulation. There was a time when excessive use of glass was viewed as compromising energy efficiency, but advanced coating techniques mean that temperatures can be kept comfortably consistent. Plus, tempering has resulted in increased resistance to breaking. When tempered glass does break, it usually shatters into small pebbles, rather than dangerous shards.
Façades, skylights, entrances: how glass is being used
Most people would agree that glass is pleasing to the eye. It certainly offers a welcome break from traditional bricks and mortar constructions. It’s being used both internally and externally to give a striking and attractive appearance to modern buildings.
Externally, glass features frequently in façades, windows, skylights, skywalks and entrances. All of these elements can play an important role in promoting the external image of a business or organisation. Curved glass is often used to cut through the cold, monolithic impression created by office blocks. Internally, glass is commonly found in handrails, balustrades, partitions and panelling.
Some striking examples of glass in architecture
Now, let’s check out a few of the world’s most beautiful and creative examples of glass architecture.
This is the National Grand Theatre of China, designed by architect Paul Andreu. It’s undoubtedly one of China’s most important architectural developments of recent years. A truly enormous dome, made of a combination of glass and titanium, it functions as both a concert hall and theatre and can handle 5,452 audience members in one go. What’s more, the building is situated in the middle of a man-made lake, creating a stunning reflection.
This work, designed by Coll-Barreu Architects, is the Basque Health Department Headquarters, located in Bilbao, Spain. It represents one of the world’s most advanced and sophisticated applications of glass in architecture. Angular panels form an imaginative, organic shape.
Finally, it’s nearly impossible to talk about glass in architecture without mentioning the Louvre Pyramid. This jaw-dropping work was designed and built in 1984 by architect I.M. Pei, at the request of French President Francois Mitterand. At 70-feet in height, it represents a blending of modernist and classical architecture.
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