Glass as a design choice
A look at today’s architecture and design magazines, or at new construction projects in NYC, confirms that the current material of choice is glass. Floor-to-ceiling windows, 360° views, natural daylight, connecting inside to the outside are the design vocabulary du jour. Glass, and lots of it, is intended to convey modernity, sophistication, and, increasingly, green design.
The first glass was made about 2,000 years ago. It was used to seal off small apertures made to let in light. However, it was not until many centuries later that the use of glass in buildings became widespread. Still, window sizes were constrained by practical considerations: impact on the load-bearing capacity of the walls, material limitations, energy conservation requirements, expense. In the 20th century, the development of structural steel, and later reinforced concrete, allowed to transfer bearing loads from the exterior walls to interior columns. At the same time, glass came in increasingly bigger unbroken sheets.
The International Style in architecture, made simple glass façades and huge opens spaces synonymous with modernity. In the late 1940s, double-pane glass with thermal insulation was created. Windows were becoming bigger and bigger, until eventually the entire exterior skin of a building was made of glass – it was called the curtain-wall. Lever House, built in 1952, was the first curtain-wall building in New York. By 1970s, coated, laminated glass, and other innovative glass products were created. Today, fully-glazed office buildings are ubiquitous, and in residential buildings, especially on the higher end, panoramic, huge, often floor-to-ceiling windows became a requisite amenity.
What is it that makes glass so appealing to architects and building owners?