10 Fascinating Uses of Glass in Modern Architecture

There’s no denying it, glass adds a certain elegance to buildings. You’ve probably found yourself marveling at an overwhelming structure of glass at least once in your life, right?

Ever since London’s Crystal Palace in 1851, we’ve been obsessed with using glass in architecture. As one of the first large-scale glass construction projects not designed for cathedral windows, it showcased how light and architecture could interact with more modern buildings.

It didn’t end there. From the Louvre to the Shard, architects continue to utilize glass to protect exteriors, bring in light, and shape buildings into functional, modern works of art. Here are ten fascinating examples of stunning glasswork.

1. It connects two sides together.  Aldar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi is completely circular.  Two convex, shell-like glass facades are joined by a strip of corrugated glass. The building aims to reflect the image of the growing city around it, taking some of its inspiration and “open shell” design from the maritime history of Abu Dhabi. This unique structure led to the development of a complex external structure that is composed of diamond-shaped steel. This “diagrid” reinforces the stability of the circular building.

2. It breathes new life. The New York Times Building on W 41st St is the rebirth of an old New York classic. Renzo Piano’s translucent design evokes a feeling of clarity. Composed of glass and steel, the new building is ready to face the digital age of news.

3. It provides a different perspective. National Grand Theatre in Beijing, China stands out for its three performance theatres encapsulated by a glass and titanium circular shell. In spite of its location, the structure was designed to blend in with the ancient Chinese architecture while also offering Beijing a fittingly modern performance hall.

4. It redefines. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, located in Bilbao, Spain was designed to showcase art, but the building itself is now a masterpiece. Utilizing a mix of titanium‭, ‬limestone‭, ‬and glass shapes, the building sets out to catch the light streaming into the port city of Bilbao. The construction of the structure in the 1990s eventually became the draw for people to visit the city. Decades later, people are still talking about its unique design and its impact on the architecture world.

5. It stands out. 30 St Mary Axe in London, better known as the Gherkin, stands out among London’s historic and conservative architecture.  But aside from its shape, the building’s glass structure is also energy efficient – helping bring natural light into the building and warming its occupants in the winter using passive solar heating.

6. It protects history. Domkirkeruinen ved Hedmarksmuseet of the Hedmark Museum in Norway is an important part of the country’s rich Viking history. To protect the ruins of a 13th-century cathedral built at that location, a glass structure was built over it. The glass structure utilized advancement in structural glazing systems to create a way to not only protect its contents but connect a new generation to its history by allowing events like weddings, christenings to take place within the glass structure.

7. It reunites a nation. The Reichstag Dome in Berlin, Germany symbolizes the reunification of Germany, after the fall of East Germany. The dome was designed by Norman Foster and utilizes glass and steel.  Sitting on top of the original Reichstag building when the capital moved to Berlin, the dome has been referred to as a “sculpture of light above the German government.” The glass and steel structure also allows the people to look down into sessions of the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.

8. It stabilizes the temperature. The Glass Crust in Moscow is a unique glass structure above the Zaryadye Park Concert Hall.  Its 2,618 panels, 152 of which are solar panels were designed to work with the surrounding hills to maintain its microclimate year-round – helping cool the occupants during the short summer and warming the air during the long Russian winters.

9. It allows for growth. Amazon’s Spheres in Seattle, Washington are three glass bubbles housing about 40,000 plants. The desire to build a structure out of glass that would allow for plant life to grow eventually led to the development of “clear low-E coating” for low-iron glass that is both able to reject the visible light spectrum that contains the most heat while still allowing for daylight to penetrate inside for photosynthesis.” This development made the spheres a suitable home for plant life and a place for human collaboration.

10. It dances. The Dancing House or the Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague, Czech Republic incorporates steel, glass, and prefabricated concrete panels to reflect the deconstructivism movement at the time. Inspired by the famous dancing pair – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, one of the two towers is made of glass which leans into the other part as though the two were engaged in a waltz. Two layers of glass curtain walls are also used to envelope the steel, glass and concrete structure.

Make Portella a part of your next renovation or new architectural design. We provide high-quality steel doors, steel windows, and so much more. Find out more about us or get in touch today to see how our products can make a big difference in the look of a building’s architecture.

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