“Take 60 parts sand, 180 parts ash from sea plants, 5 parts chalk – and you get glass” – 650 B.C., a clay tablet in cuneiform

Glass architecture is the term used to describe a volume, for which glass is used as an architectural design element that goes beyond the usual extent. It begins with the industrial production of larger glasses in the mid-18th century. 

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History of glass @History of glass | Vetropack Group

1. Crystal Palace, London, 1851

The 6.4ha big Crystal palace (Glass Palace) designed by Joseph Paxton is the first iconic glass building. It was constructed in Hyde Park for the Great exhibition, later moved to Sydenham and destroyed by a fire in 1936.

The Architecture embodied the spirit of the British innovational and industrial mindset. The concept followed form following the manufacturer’s limitations. The sizes and shapes were influenced by the panes delivered by the supplier. The volume is constructed out of prefabricated cast iron in modular construction. This enabled an abandonment of masonry and made the use of glass possible.

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Crystal Palace @Datei:Crystal Palace General view from Water Temple.jpg – Wikipedia
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Crystal Palace @Datei:Crystal Palace General view from Water Temple.jpg – Wikipedia
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Crystal Palace @TheCrystalPalaceMuseum/photo

2. Large Tropical house, Berlin, 1907

The large tropical house with cantilevered hall construction was built in 1907. It is situated in the Botanical Garden Berlin-Dahlem. The lighter construction without double glazing is inspired by Dutch and Russian greenhouses.

The supporting structure is located outside the greenhouse. This prevents heat loss through the supporting structures and the formation of dripping water on the steel beams. It favors the supply of daylight inside the building, additionally. 

The plans for the building were drawn up by Alfred Koerner.

In 1968 the entire building was rebuilt, renovated, and glazed with an acrylic glass. During a renovation between 2006 and 2009, the focus was on preserving the historic building fabric and reducing energy requirements by 50%. This was achieved, e.g. through special laminated safety glazing. 

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Large Tropical house@Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum | visitBerlin.de
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Large Tropical house@Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum | visitBerlin.de
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Large Tropical house@Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum | visitBerlin.de

3. Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau, 1926

The Bauhaus Dessau is located in Dessau-Roßlau and is considered as the ” Icon of Modernism”. It was finished in 1926 according to plans by Walter Gropius as a building for the Bauhaus school of art, design, and architecture. Due to its destruction during the Second World War, it has been restored by monument preservation principles. Since 1996, it is part of the Bauhaus UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The building consists of five wing-shaped volumes and is characterized by a lack of ornamentation and a glass curtain wall on the workshop wing. The pillars are dissolved in glass throughout the three storeys and the entire length. The steel construction gives the building lightness and transparency. This creates a relationship between the outside and the inside. The facade caused a sensation at the time as it created a new idea of aesthetics. 

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 Bauhaus Dessau@Dessau Bauhaus neu – Bauhaus Dessau – Wikipedia
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 Bauhaus Dessau@Dessau,Bauhausgebäude – Bauhaus Dessau – Wikipedia
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 Bauhaus Dessau@Bauhaus-Dessau Werkstätten – Bauhaus Dessau – Wikipedia

4. Louvre Pyramid, Paris, 1989

In the early 1980s, the Louvre was smaller and more somber than it is today. Due to a rush, the entrances of the old building were no longer up to the task. 

Therefore the Louvre Pyramid was designed by the architect Ieoh Ming Pei as a new entrance. It is located in the courtyard since 1989. 

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Louvre Pyramid@Louvre Pyramid – Louvre Pyramid – Wikipedia
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Louvre Pyramid@Louvre Palace – Louvre Pyramid – Wikipedia
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Louvre Pyramid@Louvre Palace – Louvre Pyramid – Wikipedia

5. The Dancing House, Prague, 1996

The Dancing House follows the concept of two composite houses. These two parts were supposed to reflect Czech society, from its larger – totalitarian, static part, a smaller, dynamic part separated itself and set out on the path of democratic changes.

The design was created by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry. The name dancing house was inspired by the association of the glass facade with a dancer in a pleated dress leaning against her dancing partner.

The architecture was realized by a reinforced concrete construction of 99 curved custom-made facade elements. The static supports the upper floors of the curved building. The first floor supports extend beyond the sidewalk to the street edges. Both parts are vertically separated.

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The Dancing House@Architecture | Architectuul
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The Dancing House@Architecture | Architectuul
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The Dancing House@Architecture | Architectuul

6. Reichstag Dome, Berlin, 1999

The Reichstag dome was constructed in 1999 and designed by Norman Forster in collaboration with specialist engineers.

A light deflecting element (cone) is located in the center of the dome. It reflects diffuse daylight and provides ventilation for the plenary hall.

To avoid exposure, selected mirrors can be shielded. The sun shield element consisting of a steel frame and aluminum louvers is controlled by a computer program. 

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Reichstag Dome@Datei:Reichstag Luft 2004.jpg – Wikipedia
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Reichstag Dome@Glass Dome of Reichstag building, Berlin – Reichstag dome – Wikipedia
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Reichstag Dome@Glass Dome of Reichstag building, Berlin – Reichstag dome – Wikipedia

7. The Great Glass House, Carmarthenshire, 2000

Nestled in hills the Great Greenhouse sits in the middle of the National Botanic Garden of Carmarthenshire Wales. It was built in 2000 and designed by Forster and partner.

The ground plan of the volume is elliptical. Above it extends a facade out of aluminum on a supporting tubular steel structure. This is designed to use as little material as possible and maximize light transmission. 

The roof curves in two directions. The concrete base of the building is sloped to the north to protect it from cold north winds and is concealed by a lawn. Thus, the three entrances appear to be inconspicuously cut into the slope. A computerized system monitors and optimizes energy consumption.

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The great glasshouse@The Great Glass House Rises from the Ground Like a Giant Blue Egg (inhabitat.com)
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The great glasshouse@The Great Glass House Rises from the Ground Like a Giant Blue Egg (inhabitat.com)
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The great glasshouse@The Great Glass House Rises from the Ground Like a Giant Blue Egg (inhabitat.com)

8. ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, 2004

The ARoS Aarhus Art Museum was designed by the firm Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen and got constructed in 2004. Itself is a symbiosis of art and architecture. The concept of the architecture is based on Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and, therefore, a metaphorical and physical representation between heaven and hell.

The building consists of two volumes; a cube-shaped building and the artwork “your rainbow panorama” by artist Òlafur Elìasson. The cube is nine stories high. Hell is symbolized on the first floor by the exhibition concept ‘De 9 rum’ (The 9 rooms).

A spiral stair tower and a glazed lift ultimately lead to the roof terrace and the panoramic walkway. It shines in all colors of the light spectrum and represents heaven. From step to step, the color creates a new mood of light.

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ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum@ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum i Aarhus C – Find Museum & udstilling i hele landet (discoverdenmark.dk)
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ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum@ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum i Aarhus C – Find Museum & udstilling i hele landet (discoverdenmark.dk)
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ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum@ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum i Aarhus C – Find Museum & udstilling i hele landet (discoverdenmark.dk)

9. 30 St Mary Axe, London, 2004

30 St Mary Axe is a 41-story building in London designed by Ken Shuttleworth and Norman Forster for Swiss Re. Characterizing is its curvilinear shape. This makes it less dominant than a rectangular building of the same size and reduces wind deflection.

The construction and design were possible due to new digital technologies. The modeling of curved shapes was originally used in aerospace and automotive fabrication. The structure consists of steel tubes tilted against each other, horizontal steel beams, and a cylindrical shaft in the center. The diagonally braced structure allows for a column-free, fully glazed facade. 

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St Mary Axe@30 St Mary Axe from Leadenhall Street – 30 St Mary Axe – Wikipedia
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St Mary Axe@Swiss.re.arp.750pix – 30 St Mary Axe – Wikipedia
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St MaryAxe@https://it.wikipedia.org

10. National Grand Theater of China, Beijing, 2007

The National Performing Arts Center is located in Beijing. It was designed by architect Paul Andreu and built-in 2007. It is characterized by its elliptical shape and its surrounding artificial lake, which reminiscents the traditional yin and yang motif.

The building is connected to the shore of the lake by a 60-meter transparent underpass. This creates the impression of a complete building without an opening. 

The titanium shell has the shape of an ellipsoid. It is divided into two parts by a curved glass dome. During the day, light streams into the building through this roof. 

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National Grand Theater of China@National Grand Theatre – Nationales Zentrum für Darstellende Künste – Wikipedia
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National Grand Theater of China@National Grand Theatre – Nationales Zentrum für Darstellende Künste – Wikipedia
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National Grand Theater of China@National Grand Theatre – Nationales Zentrum für Darstellende Künste – Wikipedia

11. W Barcelona Hotel, Barcelona, 2009

The hotel of the chain Starwood Hotels & Resorts, designed by Ricardo Bofill, fits into an urban redevelopment project of the coastal strip of Barcelona. It is 105 meters high and has 26 floors. The shape of the building is like a sail. This is enveloped by 15 000 m² of a glass wall.

The reflective facade of silvered glass blends with the sky colors and sea shimmers. A low atrium building offers a view of the sea in the lobby. Public activities take place under a platform designed in the form of two huge terraces. 

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W Barcelona Hotel@Lifestyle-Hotels in Barcelona | W Barcelona (marriott.de)
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W Barcelona Hotel@Lifestyle-Hotels in Barcelona | W Barcelona (marriott.de)
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W Barcelona Hotel@✅ Hotel Vela Barcelona – Hotel W Barcelona – Ficha, Fotos y Planos – WikiArquitectura

12. The Domes, Singapore, 2012

Gardens by the Bay is a park area that was created in the central district of Singapore on artificially raised land. Since 2012, it has also been home to the flower dome, and the cloud forest. 

Designed by Wilkinson Eyre, both glass halls were realized as lightweight structures consisting of steel arches and suspended lattice shells with thermal glazing. A counter draught system with a textile covering was installed as glare and sun protection. This is part of the energy concept of the glass halls.

As a result of the energy efficiency, the domes can imitate other climatic zones. The Flower Dome has a mild, dry climate. The Cloud Forest is a cool misty forest with a 35-meter high mountain and an indoor waterfall. The Domes include the Supertrees. These collect rainwater, solar energy, and act as ventilation channels for the greenhouses.

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The Domes@File:Singapore Flower-Dome-and-Cloud-Forest-in-The-Gardens-01.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
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The Domes@The_Cloud_Forest_Dome_singapore.jpg (1600×1067) (nerdnomads.com)
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The Domes@Cloud_Forest_Dome_gardens_by_the_bay__Singapore.jpg (1600×1069) (nerdnomads.com)

13. The Shard, London, 2012

The 310 m high Shard is located in London on the south bank of the Thames. The architect is Renzo Piano. The building is completely glazed with 11,000 panes of glass and tapers towards the top like a pyramid. A special white glass is designed to match the sky and reflect light. 

A double-skin ventilated façade was developed with internal blinds that automatically respond to changes in light conditions. 

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The Shard@The Shard from the Sky Garden 2015 – The Shard – Wikipedia
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The Shard@The Shard, Inauguration Lightshow, 2012 – The Shard – Wikipedia
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The Shard@ShardRadiatorFloors – The Shard – Wikipedia

14. Louis Vuitton, Paris, Frank Gehry, 2014

The Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 2014. It is located in the west of Paris and was designed by Frank Gehry. The main building is enclosed by twelve curved glass “sails”. 

The challenges in planning and implementation included the complex, free-form architecture and the requirements for the curved façade elements. The core of the building consists of 19,000 facade panels. They are attached at four points each to prefabricated, insulated support elements. These in turn are attached to the solid structure.

The complexity of the building required a complete 3D BIM model, which was divided into a consultant model and an architectural model. 

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Fondation Louis Vuitton Museum@Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (FR) | Schollglas Holding- u. Geschäftsführungs GmbH
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Fondation Louis Vuitton Museum@Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (FR) | Schollglas Holding- u. Geschäftsführungs GmbH
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Fondation Louis Vuitton Museum@Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (FR) | Schollglas Holding- u. Geschäftsführungs GmbH

15. Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, 2016

The Elbphilharmonie was completed in November 2016 and designed by Herzog de Meuron.

It consists of two volumes: the Kaiserspeicher, built-in 1963, and a volume with a glass façade. This is supposed to be reminiscent of sails, water waves, and icebergs. A plaza on the old warehouse connects the two volumes. A plaza on the old warehouse connects the two volumes. 

The windows consist of flat and curved insulating glass units (IGUs), while triple laminated curved single glazing was used for the loggias. Low-E coating, a solar control coating, chrome mirror dots, and a ceramic screen-printed pattern are glazing the facade. Thus, the light transmission is 47 % of visible light. Besides, it has a low total energy transmittance of 36 %, which helps to reduce the amount of air conditioning and temperature control required for the building.

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Elbphilharmonie@Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg – Elbphilharmonie – Wikipedia
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Elbphilharmonie@Elbphilharmonie, Februar 2015-4958 – Elbphilharmonie – Wikipedia
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Elbphilharmonie@Besuch der Plaza der Elbphilharmonie • a-tour Architekturführungen (a-tour.de)

References

Architektur: Wie Glas als Baustoff die Kurve kriegt – WELT

Flachglas – Wikipedia

History of glass | Vetropack Group

Großes Tropenhaus | BGBM

Sanierung des Großen Tropenhauses | BGBM

Die Bauten des Königlichen Botanischen Garten Berlin Dahlem.pdf (bgbm.org)

Bauhaus Dessau – Wikipedia

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum – Wikipedia

Your rainbow panorama (visitaarhus.de)

Your Rainbow Panorama in Aarhus | Glas | Sonderbauten | Baunetz_Wissen

PRESS RELEASE (d3c80vss50ue25.cloudfront.net)

Elbphilharmonie: Komplexe gebogene Glasfassade – DETAIL – Magazin für Architektur + Baudetail

Gardens by the Bay – Visit Singapore Offizielle Website

Gewächshäuser im Garden by the Bay in Singapur | Sonnenschutz | Freizeit / Sport | Baunetz_Wissen

30 St Mary Axe London – “Swiss Re Tower” – GRIN

CAAD.indd (ethz.ch)

BAUWELT – Die Konstruktion der Fondation Louis Vuitton

Deutscher Bundestag – Die Kuppel

Great Glasshouse | Architecture Projects | Foster + Partners (fosterandpartners.com)

Geschichte | Dancing House Hotel, Prague 2

Einweihung des Shard Tower in London am 5. Juli 2012 | Business WireHotel W Barcelona von Bofill Spanien | Floornature

National Grand Theater of China / Paul Andreu | ArchDaily

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