Dreaming in Glass: Architects Share their Design Wish Lists

During an Architects' Dream List discussion, panelists shared their visions of what they'd like from the architectural glass and design industry.

During an Architects’ Dream List discussion, panelists shared their visions of what they’d like from the architectural glass and design industry.

What do architects want? It’s a question GlassCon Global addressed during the “Architects’ Dream List” panel discussion Wednesday afternoon. Panelists included Christoph Timm of SOM, Winfried Heusler of Schuco International, Michel Micho of Enclos and Graham Dodd of Arup. The speakers focused on what they envision as improvements in the glass industry, as well as what they would like to see in the future.

Timm began with a detailed wish list, complete with his “challenges” for the glass industry. One of his concerns, he said, is the issue of edge deletion.

“I don’t think anyone likes edge deleted glass, but we still have to do it,” Timm said. “So I challenge the glass industry to come up with new coatings so we don’t have to do it.”

He also gave the example of low-iron glass, noting that architects love to work with low-iron glass. He questioned, though, why the industry can’t standardize low-iron glass. He said you can have five different types of low-iron glass, and they all look different.

Another concern was quench marks, which he said architects and owners are looking at more and more closely. His challenge to the industry is to make better heat-strengthened glass with fewer quench marks. An alternative method, he said, is chemically strengthened glass, which he noted is not often done in the U.S.

Timm said they also love working with hot bent glass. But with these projects, there is the issue of coatings, because they can stretch in the bending process. His challenge was for the industry to continue developing coatings that can sustain these stresses so one glass type can be used throughout the building.

He also said they love dynamic skins.

“We like them because of their function, such as electrochromic glass,” said Timm. “The challenge to the industry: make it cheaper. Everyone loves it until the numbers come in.”

Heusler next talked about various criteria for façade designs and noted the importance of making the project sustainable. He told his audience that the solutions developed have to be economic; they have to look at the whole life cycle of a building, taking into consideration the environment, economy and social aspects of a life time. For example, he said, in the design phase, think about how to recycle products at the end of the building’s life time.

Heusler said both the glass industry and the architects need to work hand-in-hand to have both practical and architectural functions.

He also talked about from where innovation in product developments comes. He said there is the “market pull,” or the architects’ dream, which challenges the industry to find the right solution. There is also the “push” strategy, which is the scientist’s/engineer’s dream.

He gave some examples of projects and developments and said his company has worked with architects to develop many of its products. In 2013, for example, he said they began working with geometric shapes. He also stressed how important it is for parties to work closely together and to share knowledge and creativity.

Next, Dodd shared some of his visions, one of which is to eliminate distortion, quench marks, and the like, in the glass. If you can measure it, he said, then you can create a specification that’s agreeable and can be enforced.

He also talked about advancing coating technologies, such as, for example, structured silica coatings. Why use metals to create performance coatings, he questioned, as nano-structured glass could perform similar functions?

Like Timm, he also talked about electrochromics, noting that he’d like to see the products available in neutral colors. He also said it could be effective to reflect the light back out rather than absorbing it.

“Do something useful with reflected energy …,” he said.

But most of all, what Dodd said he wants as an engineer is stiffer glass that is ductile.

Micho next talked about various innovative projects and gave examples of some projects on which his firm has worked. For example, they have been doing projects that incorporate moveable parts. One example it the Tilt project, which opened recently at the Hancock Tower in Chicago.

“We’re seeing more and more projects with operable components,” he said.

Another trend he said they’re seeing involves double skin walls, “with the challenge to keep the façade very, very slender.”

GlassCon Global concludes today. Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for more reports from the conference.

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