Volume 36, Issue 2, February 2001

A Modern Fairy Tale

How the Glass Palace was Built

by Dez Farnady

     Once upon a time … not so very long ago … a group of princes of industry sat in their council chamber and decided to build a new palace. This was to be a monument to themselves, so they decided to select one of the best architects in the land to design it, and since it was to be paid for by their subjects, money was no object.

The architect selected for the job loved glass. All the glass people in the land knew there was going to be a lot of glass on the castle so they all wanted to have the opportunity to help build it. This was not going to be one of those vertical glass towers of the big cities; this palace stretched out low and long and required glass that extended an entire mile. The architect decided that all the windows would be made of the thickest window glass available, and he selected -inch thick glass for the entire project. The glassmaker, who was consulted for advice, provided lots of help and even suggested a special edge treatment for the -inch glass. Pencil-polished edges were recommended and specified. A pencil edge looks wonderful on heavy glass and you frequently see it on furniture. This, however, was not furniture.
The glass towers of the cities are not unusual anymore and rarely provide the challenge that this project did. This was something special. All the glass was only about 8-feet high, but it ran for more than 1,000-feet. The 40,000-square-feet of glass at -inch thick weighed about 400,000 pounds, and would require about ten truckloads to transport it.

Unfortunately, the glassmaker who provided all of the information for the architect refused to make the glass. The glassmaker who finally did supply the glass would ship it from 2,000 miles away, but refused to do the pencil polish. The glass guys who would install the glass came from 1,000 miles away, and after a long search, a fabricator was found who would do the fancy edge work. He was 700 miles away.

So, 400,000 pounds of glass was loaded onto trucks and shipped 2,000 miles away to the fabricator. There, the glass was unloaded, unpacked and fabricated. After fabrication, all 400,000 pounds of it was re-packed, re-loaded and shipped another 700 miles to the job site to be unloaded and unpacked one more time for installation.
The only thing required from the local people on this project was that they had to pay for it. And obviously, all this cost a great deal of money. The glassmaker had a location a half-hour from the job site and could have done the entire thing with -inch glass at about one-tenth the price and in a fraction of the time. Looking at the palace today, you would never know that it is made of heavy glass. We can only assume that the princes of industry were happy when their palace was done.

The local suckers pay for these extravagances, and in this case, without even the benefit of being able to retain the money in the community for the local trades. In most fairy tales the community built the palaces, just as the palaces and churches of olden days were built with the help and support and for the pride of the local community. Oh well, no matter, because this is only a fairy tale.

Well, maybe it’s not. Maybe you and I are the peasants paying for it. Maybe your payment is just a portion of your telephone bill.

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