Feature contributed by James Carpenter, founder, James Carpenter Design Associates Inc.
What is the significance of glass in the built environment? Light carries information about the world around us and glass allows us to layer many different components of light simultaneously, augmenting our ability to share a transcendent experience of nature. Beyond the problems defining glass scientifically, I am interested in the simultaneity that glass possesses. It is a dense material with the ability to appear weightless and its mass is literally transparent, but once we understand the full range of optical properties found in glass - transparency, reflection, diffusion, refraction and diffraction – it becomes evident that glass has the potential to capture and represent many levels of light information simultaneously, and that this information can also be deployed across the depth of the glass at all scales.
Often called upon as an interpreter of a site’s inherent natural character, my studio has remained focused on the transformative potential of integrating phenomenal light into the public realm while proving our expertise in both the technical details of glass construction and techniques required to integrate light into the urban fabric. At the same time, the studio has always brought into its practice fundamental concerns with climate engineering and other issues. As a designer, my interest in architecture is focused on the possibilities of creating human environments seamlessly informed by a sense of light and the constant feedback light gives us about our contextual experience.
We have deployed glass in countless ways but we are not limited to any one material or method as our work is primarily a response to the specifics of site, context and performance. As far as glass goes, that range can be illustrated by three projects that deploy glass in very different ways.