When we think of architecture and buildings in the classical sense, we don’t often think of the qualities we associate with a glistening spider web or a seashell we accidentally found beneath the waves. Both these precious objects possess an intrinsic translucency, revealing only so much about itself that it captures our imagination and instills a curiosity for it in our minds.
We do, however, think of both opacity and transparency in our association with the quality of spaces we immerse ourselves in. What then can we describe as translucency in Architecture?
What we cannot see, and fathom holds an air of mystery and suspense about it. But what we can see gives us a sense of familiarity and comfort. A translucent space is one that combines the mystery of one and the memory of the other.
Translucency in architecture is both rarer and more common than we think it to be. Here are few such examples for you to look at:
Mirroring the typology of the historic glass workshops on either side (restored as part of the same project), the translucent glass tiles the structure drapes over itself allows it to be the torchbearer for the company ideology.
Embodying the spirit of a continued glassmaking tradition in a contemporary setting, the building, complete with the imprint on the tiles, is reminiscent of the architectural accent of the slate-shingle-covered houses found in the Česká Lípa region. But while imbibing this intrinsic language the building stands as a stellar example of the thinly veiled beauty of translucent spaces.
2. Macau Apple store in China
Another shining example of a translucent embodiment of institutional Architecture would be the Macau Apple store, brought to life by the esteemed Foster+Partners. Clad in a sheath of an inspired innovation of glass and stone, the inward glow of the structure makes it appear as if it floats above the dense thickets of bamboo that surround its plaza, almost like a paper lantern.
A sharp contrast to the dizzying neon lights of the island, the sobering colors, refreshing bamboo, and almost celestial translucency of the structure transforms the fantastic showroom. The tall bamboo inside the structure, almost reaching for the skylights, makes the space a welcome pause from the scurry of the city.
3. Crystal Houses in Netherlands
Adhering to institutional values is a feat in itself. But using these values to reimagine everything a material stands for is truly a unique distinction. Add to that the phenomenal achievement of a rewritten architectural dialogue that preserves the history it reimagined, and you will find yourself talking about MVRDV’s Crystal Houses.
An innovative expression of Dutch tradition through a startling use of glass bricks, the facade designed for these flagship stores mimics the beautiful order of the heritage street. The seamless transition of the glass bricks into terracotta makes the elevation come alive. And the continual refraction the glass bricks achieve adds to the mystic translucency the design gracefully achieves.
But the stark contrast between the opacity of one material and translucency of another, brings out the softness in the quality the latter brings into the space, and the Lago events space, Israel by Architect Pitsou Kedem achieves precisely that.
Settled in a vast open space, beside an artificial lark located on the fringes of the city, the structure is an iconic landmark that hosts the city’s largest banquet halls in Israel. Through a sheer expressive display of materials over a simple geometry, the structure radiates a unique presence. A delicate contrast balances throughout the shell that houses the structure. Be in the visual weight added by the clean opacity of the massive concrete slabs or their seamless joinery to the weightless glass panels.
Another example of the ethereal quality. The type of stark contrast that can be achieved is highlighted on the serpentine façade of the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, designed by ALA Architects.
The structure houses the country’s flagship library in a celestially translucent reader’s abode. Standing proudly opposite the Finnish Parliament building, the library symbolizes the relationship between the citizens and the government. The fascinating form of the structure, coupled with the angled skylights piercing the roof and deep contrast between the two levels of the building, radiates a serene comfort through its architecture.