Guide to Glass
A special section of USGlass magazine
First in Fashion
New Glazing Trend Sets the Stage for Future
by Ellen Rogers
Sometimes it’s the simplest of ideas, designs, fashions
and trends that make the biggest statements. Think Audrey Hepburn circa
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To this day few items make as much of a fashion
statement as a simple black dress and a few strands of pearls. And a simple,
yet memorable statement, was exactly what the Spanish architectural firm
of Rafael de La-Hoz was going for when it designed the new facade for
the home of Inditex, the company behind fashion brands such as Zara, Pull
& Bear and Massimo Dutti, located at Castellana 79 in Madrid, Spain.
“We were looking for an abstract and plain composition for the façade
that wouldn’t penalize the view from the inside because of the façade
‘character,’” says design architect Francisco Arévalo. “The client’s
request was to have a singular building, but discreet at the same time,
with an impeccable function as an office.”
Glass and glazing materials played a key role in bringing this architectural
creation to life. Arévalo says they looked to the squares of a
chessboard as the design inspiration, while also incorporating a double
skin to provide natural daylight penetration.
“This resulted in a neutral, abstract and plain façade, but at
the same time [one that is] alive, with volume.”
Setting the Stage
When it came to the early stages of the design process, Arévalo
says the location of the building within the city posed a challenge.
“Located next to one of the best office towers in the country of one of
the great masters of 20th century Spanish architecture—Francisco Saenz
de Oíza—[the location] raised the idea of respecting the past,
yet being able to differentiate our styles from the rest of the buildings
without much architectural show-off,” says Arévalo. “We could not
compete with the Banco de Bilbao Tower in height (it stands 107 meters)
nor the location, but we [also did not want to] merge with it.”
He continues, “These urban premises and the client’s requests to have
a singular, but at the same time discreet, building, conditioned the concept
of the project from the very first moment.”
So when designing this new office building, Arévalo says a number
of components came into play. These included not only the aesthetic, but
also the performance features.
“From our experience, especially with office buildings in Madrid, having
a double-skin façade helps the interior comfort, both acoustically
and thermally, so we considered this façade solution from the very
first moment,” he says. “The building location, in one of the great thoroughfares
of the city and the south orientation, also advised this solution.”
But there was also the aesthetic appeal—the checkerboard appearance—and
the question arose as to just how to make such a look work, while still
ensuring the views of the outside from within.
“We searched all sorts of glass treatments: silkscreen with different
degrees of opacity and color, [acid] treatments, sandblasting, [working]
with different colored sheets of butyrals, but all of them affected the
view from the inside,” says Arévalo.
From our experience, especially
with office buildings in Madrid, having a double skin façade
helps the interior comfort, both acoustically and thermally, so we considered
this façade solution from the very first moment.
Rafael de La-Hoz
Then there was the idea of incorporating a metal. Arévalo explains
that on many other projects his firm has worked with companies that specialize
in laminated glass with metal meshes, but the concept never worked well.
For example, a true metal mesh can come with a high price tag, for one,
and also add weight to the glass, making it difficult to work with and
install. Other reasons he says such previous materials were unsuccessful
include the fact that they had either not passed testing requirements
for use on façades or did not meet their architectural aesthetic
Already working with DuPont’s SentryGlas laminated glass products, the
architectural team soon learned of a product called Sefar Vision, which
is an alternative to traditional metal mesh; it’s a metal-coated fabric
interlayer, typically laminated within glass or other transparent materials.
Peter Katcha, director of North American sales with Sefar, says that while
double-skin facades are popular in Europe, creating one with just a laminated
glass product does not provide much of an aesthetic, and the aesthetic
feature was something architects were looking to capture.
“[DuPont] introduced Sefar Vision in combination with SentryGlas, which
provides a nice aesthetic, an almost 3D appearance to the façade,”
While Arévalo says he was interested in working with the Vision
product, there was a challenge: at the time it was not approved for use
with glass in an exterior façade in Spain.
“We had samples of laminated glass with metallic interlayers and Sefar
meshes in the office, but none of them could be used at that time outdoors,”
he says. “We got in touch with official Sefar suppliers in Spain and after
several negotiations we reached the [opportunity] to use it, since it
was already in testing and standardization processes in our country and
[and would be ready in time to meet] construction dates.”
Ellen Rogers is the editor of the Architects’ Guide to Glass &
Metal magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com
or follow her on Twitter @AGGmagazine and like AGG magazine on Facebook
to receive updates.
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