From the Inside Out
Frequently Used in Interiors, Decorative Glass Makes its Way into Exterior Facades
by Ellen Rogers
When it comes to architectural design, whether for a casino or a shopping center, so much of the structure’s energy is held tight inside. Once inside, it’s easy to keep people’s attention—dazzle them with details; capture them with colors; enthrall them with everything else, be it a stellar sale or a slot machine that promises to
But what if that excitement and energy was also on the building’s outside face? What if the building itself conveyed the same experience on the outside that is shared by those inside? And in doing so, what if glass was the dominant design element? Intrigued? You should be. Thanks to a combination of glass and a bit of creative thinking, the architecture and design industry is on the cusp of what just could become the next big trend—decorative glass facades.
Decorative glass’ place in the world of architectural interiors is quite common. Thanks to the eye-catching features of many decorative products, designers can incorporate small amounts and still wow the
“You probably get more for your money [when decorative glass is used] in a restaurant or an interior façade because you can create a major impact in a small area,” says Barry Marshall with the architectural firm Hnedak Bobo Group in Memphis, Tenn. “Decorative glass is expensive so it tends to be used in smaller
The steep price tag is one reason decorative exteriors are not as popular as interiors; small amounts won’t always work when it comes to using glass on the outside of a building. “[In instances] where people have extremely tight budgets there is only going to be so much they are able to do. If you are building a school and you have very little money, you can still put in some [decorative panels] to create an effect,” says Donald Press, general manager of Schott’s architectural products group. “You might have to scrape up a little bit of extra money for that, but it’s not a budget blower. Of course, there are still other cases where some may not even have the budget for
Hayes Slade, a partner with Slade Architects based in New York, agrees.
“For retail applications specifically, if it’s a small shop that will only be taking on a small portion of the building, the owner often wants to keep the store consistent with the rest of the building,” she says. “An overhaul of a building like that would have to have a pretty large footprint tenant/owner or it would have to be a new building. So in New York, where a lot of boutiques are going into an existing building, they are not going to change out the exterior so
James Slade, also a partner with Slade Architects, agrees.
“The exterior skin is a huge part of a building to begin with because the aesthetics of the building [are important] and I think the custom and colored glass products tend to be pricey,” he says. “Ceramic fritting, for example, is still pretty standard and the cost on that has come down a lot in the last ten years. But when you get into colored glass that’s a whole other manufacturing process and it becomes more difficult to
Generating Awareness Working with any type of product that’s new to the market, or even using it in a way that may be perceived as unconventional, is likely to bring with it a few challenges, concerns and questions. Take digitally printed glass for instance. While companies have been screenprinting glass for many years, some in the glass industry have begun moving toward full-scale, high-quality, full-color printing. Matthew Tangeman’s company, Custom Glass Machinery, is the U.S. representative for the Israeli company Dip-Tech, which offers digital-printing equipment for the glass industry. In recent months a number of U.S. companies, including General Glass International Corp. and Oldcastle Glass, have purchased equipment for digital printing. When it comes to printing on glass, Tangeman says in the past architectural concerns have included color durability, weathering, UV resistance, de-lamination and acid rain resistance. “Printing on surface one also presents some practical limitations other then the just ink resiliency,” says Yariv Ninyo, marketing director for Dip-Tech Ltd. “Many architects have pointed out that, due to the combination of dust and water, which stains the glass, the printed image looses it vividness and forces the building owners to constantly clean the façade in order to maintain the building appearance. For that reason the architects prefer to print the image on surface two or
But digitally printed glass isn’t the only type of decorative material that can pose questions about its use in exteriors. Press says this is true of many decorative glass types, including colored glass. Schott, for example, offers a product called Colortherm, which is available in five standard colors as a 1-inch overall unit, tempered and with a low-E coating. He says that while in the past architects may have wanted to bring colors into their facades the challenge was meeting thermal
“Most colored glasses are not adapted to the architectural market, whereas these have all the technical details an architect needs for specification and can include them in the thermal model of the building,” says
Likewise, many products also can be laminated and/or tempered to create safety glass. In fact, several companies offer digitally printed products that involve printing the images directly onto the interlayer. Companies such as Arch Deco Glass, J.E. Berkowitz, Pulp Studios and Standard Bent Glass all fabricate digitally printed laminated glass, which can be used in exterior
Though decorative exterior facades may still be a relatively new concept, many in the industry agree that the market could begin to see more as the technology
“An architect who is well known enough to do a high-profile project wants to be assured that the project endures over time,” says Tangeman. “Architects are already comfortable with the permanency of frits via screenprinting so getting them to take the next step—digital frit printing—is quite easy. Plus, the icing on the cake is that opacity and layer thickness are
Ninyo agrees, saying most architects are focused on generating an architectural
“If one is achieved the architect [becomes more recognized] and has the opportunity to leave his mark for many years to come,” Ninyo says. “Printing on the building’s façade or exterior envelope enables the architect to create a unique appearance that will act as the project’s
In order to bring full awareness to the architecture and design community, many glass companies are focused on educational efforts. Some often host lunch-and-learn programs. Talking to architects frequently and providing them with new information is also
Hayes Slade says that while her firm has used decorative glass frequently as part of interior projects, they have done little on the
“It’s something we’d really be interested in doing more of. We just have not had the chance … yet,” she says.
A House for Barbie
If Barbie is the number-one doll property in the United States and the number-one worldwide property in the traditional toy industry (facts according to Mattel), why shouldn’t the doll have what no other doll has—a store dedicated to anything and everything Barbie? On March 6 the world got just that when the House of Barbie opened in Shanghai. The building was commissioned in honor of the doll’s 50th
Covering approximately 40,000 square feet of retail space over six floors, New York-based Slade Architecture used decorative glass on the façade as a way to capture everyone’s attention before ever even entering the
“The store is going to be the first thing that people see and one of the things that Mattel kept saying is that the ‘House of Barbie experience begins across the street.’ So we really wanted it to reflect the elegance and fashion focus of the store and still be playful,” explains Hayes Slade, a partner with Slade Architecture.
Slade was brought into the project by Brand Integration Group (BIG), the strategic branding and design division of Ogilvy & Mather, Mattel’s agency for branding and advertising.
In designing the façade, which has an exterior layer of glass that features a ceramic frit pattern of whimsical, feminine Barbie-trademarked iconography and an interior layer of molded polycarbonate, the Slades combined references to product packaging, decorative arts and fashion to create the store’s identity.
“We looked at a number of different strategies and the one that we liked best was playing with the idea of the packaging that the Barbie actually comes in, the blister packaging, and also using the façade at the same time to create links with historic design,” says Hayes Slade. “The two-layer facade uses polycarbonate on the interior and glass on the exterior. This creates an envelope where the polycarbonate on the inside is molded and the shape resembles cameo picture
James Slade, also a partner with the firm, says the original idea was that the outside surface would be a glass
“But we wanted something that also had a decorative pattern and we wanted something that would reinforce the molded polycarbonate behind the glass so that from a distance it [resembled] windows or openings in the façade but then when you get close up you see it is this other pattern that adds another detail,” says James Slade. “We worked with the graphic designers at BIG, who did the final design of the lattice frit pattern itself.” In addition, Mattel fabrication facilities produced mock-ups and models of architectural elements using the same skills and resources used in prototyping Mattel products.
King Glass Engineering Ltd. In Shanghai served as both the glass fabricator and installer. In order to ensure the glass was produced to the highest standards and to ensure quality performance, Slade worked closely with King Glass. “We gave them the design and the intention and we provided detailing for how we thought the mullions should be put together,” says James Slade.
“We worked with them through mock ups and shop drawings because we had a very clear intention and we detailed the curtainwall to achieve that. We also had to work with them to figure out a cost-effective and buildable way of doing it within their expertise and skill set. It was definitely an iterative process where they led the engineering side of it and we led the design and aesthetics side of
Like a lot of other architects, while Slade often uses decorative glass in interior applications, it has not used the material as much on the exterior. However, both James and Hayes agree that, having been involved with the House of Barbie, they would be open to doing more decorative exterior work in the future.
“This was definitely a unique project,” says James Slade. “I think the combo of the glass and the formed polycarbonate is pretty original in
“This is probably our biggest project so far. It’s very exciting and was interesting to work with a group like Mattel that makes things and develops things themselves. [Mattel] was open to exploring [different ideas], which was refreshing and led to a great collaboration,” adds Hayes Slade.
The back of a building may not be the most likely location to spend top dollar, unless, of course, that’s where the most frequently used entrance is located. Such was the case for the Potawatomi Bingo-Casino expansion project in Milwaukee, Wis., which now features a “Welcome Wall,” a 63- by 123-foot, three-story animated curtainwall of LED-light tiles choreographed with 632 programmable music, color and motion features. Designed by Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) in Memphis, Tenn., the Welcome Wall, which is located on the rear side of the building, is connected to the casino’s new parking decks via a glass-enclosed bridge. The new parking structure created a unique challenge for the design team as it essentially refocused entry for the majority of casino guests from the north-facing front entrance to south of the complex—the back side of the property.
“We really had to create an energetic and exciting back door,” says Barry Marshall, principal casino designer with HBG. “It became the focal point of the garage. And it creates a sense of excitement and energy as you approach the casino from the garage because you can sense it and see it and as you get closer you get an even greater sense of excitement from the sound and the moving lights … we wanted it to be played up so people knew they were entering a casino and not a library. The exterior is where we wanted to try and capture some of the energy [from the
To capture that energy Marshall and Rob Lee, HBG project director, chose to use frosted glass set into a curtainwall, colorfully illuminated by a series of computer-controlled LED
“The movement of the light, patterns and effects, such as the sound and the display, are all part of the computer program, which the owner can change at any time,” says Marshall.
As appealing as the lighted glass is, it wasn’t HBG’s first choice.
“We actually started out with dichroic glass and then found that it would be too costly to use based on the scale of the project,” says Lee. “So we ended up stepping back and saying ‘how can we create a similar effect with frosted glass and
Marshall adds that they began reviewing many different options.
“We just wanted to figure out how we could get the most bang for our buck without being [plain]. The way it evolved, we found a way to create [the energy and excitement] through a relatively common curtainwall system and with the use of the computer-controlled
Both Lee and Marshall agree that sometimes it can be challenging to sell an owner on a particular vision or design concept, as many projects involve strict budgets.
“On this project in particular we did have to do several presentations … but I think the owner realized our point that this wall is the main [entrance],” says Marshall. “More people go in this way than the front door so it became the front door by default and the owner agreed with us on that and was open to doing something exciting there.”
Ellen Rogers is the editor of Decorative Glass (DG) magazine.
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