The new science of glass
Glass architects and engineers are balancing aesthetics with performance.
(Page 2 of 2)
Mr. Heintges's consulting firm in New York has worked on more than 30 million square feet of building facades internationally. He must often balance aesthetic transparency with energy performance. When glass is tinted, sandwiched with different materials, or coated, it can boost the building's green credentials, but it also can diminish the windows' transparency, thus diminishing the purpose of using glass in the first place.Skip to next paragraph
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People might talk about wanting a "green building," he says. Yet how many will sacrifice dazzling views through wide expanses of glass for the sake of energy conservation?
Such trade-offs have begun to fade, as green-minded architects and high-tech engineers collaborate more closely and more creatively.
Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, completed in 2006 on the city's harbor front, features a long glass protrusion that houses its theater. The dramatically cantilevered building offers panoramic views of Boston Harbor thanks to designs by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and technical work by Arup Engineering. The center's 325-seat theater boasts a massive glass wall capable of instantly changing from transparent to opaque in synch with any performance on stage.
Sometimes the engineer and architect are the same person. Werner Sobek showcased his dual skills with "House R 128," a four-level, glass-wrapped, solar-powered house he designed for himself just outside Stuttgart, Germany. Constructed from 20 tons of glass and 12 tons of steel, the building has no definitely defined rooms and interior walls, with the exception of the bathrooms. Every element of the house can be recycled. Its triple-glazed walls insulate the house so well in winter that no interior heating system is needed, he says.
In North America, one of the most distinct heralds of new glass design is the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Glass in Ohio. Designed by SANAA, the firm led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the Glass Pavilion is a capacious structure holding the Toledo Museum's collection of glass art in an ever-changing, light-filled maze of translucence and transparency.
The museum's lightness (on many levels) is made possible through large panels of curved glass that seem weightlessly suspended – an illusion created through engineering – between the museum's concrete floor and steel roof. Interior glass walls define galleries, and the spaces between these glass walls allow ventilation.
The continuously curving building required advanced technological expertise. Its precisely bent, enormous glass panels shape a structure with no right angles, causing sound as well as light to travel in surprising directions, while confusing conventional perceptions of distance.
Jeff Mack, manager of the Pavilion's Glass Studio, describes the building as "an homage to what is around us" – a park with 150-year-old trees.
Robin Schultes, who teaches glasswork in the pavilion, says, "I'm a weather fanatic. I love being able to see impending storm systems coming in while feeling safe and cozy within the building."
She also enjoys the looks of first-time visitors coming to the Glass Pavilion. "They initially are looking completely at the pavilion – then they turn their attention to the glass collection in it."
In a museum housing more than 5,000 pieces of glass art, this 76,000-square-foot glass museum, made sparkling with 32,000 square feet of glass, reveals how Wright's vision of glass walls has arrived.