How is the evolution of advanced glass solutions transforming architects’ and designers’ perceptions of glass?
As architects and designers, we have always looked to glass to provide transparency and strength (or protection) in our applications. This has most typically come in the form of using glass to define a transparent enclosure i.e. a window, an office partition, a table top, or full glass building exteriors known as curtainwalls. These applications have historically relied on glass production methods that consisted of allowing molten glass to cool slowly on a bed of metal – a method that produces float glass. Float glass’ inherent structure and rigidity results in glass that must be held by frames or points in space to hold its weight. Typically, this meant the bigger the glass; the bigger the frame or more points of support necessary. Innovations in glass manufacturing technology have been radically altering the dimensions and physical properties of this age-old material, creating chemically toughened sheets of glass that are lighter, thinner, and optically clear with little to no visual distortion while continuing to provide exceptional surface strength. Architects and designers are now exploring ways to implement this spectacular ancient material.
I was introduced to thin, chemically strengthened glass approximately 10 years ago. I was excited to handle the paper-thin material and know that it was, in fact, chemically strengthened glass – I had never seen anything like it. While I was used to designing with thick, heavy pieces of glass, I was intrigued by the possibilities of extremely thin, transparent, lightweight, strengthened glass and the opportunities it lent to the architecture industry. Since that first chance encounter, my firm has been collaborating with fabricators to explore opportunities to introduce the advanced glass solution to the architectural market.