Just because 2009 has been a slow year for commercial construction, doesn’t mean we’ve been short on innovative glass projects. In fact, if you take a look back through all of issues from the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal or scroll through the archived stories on our website, you’ll see quite a few that pushed the envelope a bit when it game to the glazing details. Part of what I find most interesting about many of these projects, is the fact that they go beyond just being a glass building. Many were interesting shapes and sizes and most all used glass for more reasons than just a view.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the glass usage in a few of projects we featured this year.

For the Cathedral of Christ the Light project, architects at SOM worked extensively with glass to create the qualities of a lantern that would glow during the day from sunlight and in the evening from the light within. One unique feature of the cathedral is the Omega Wall, which re-images a 12th-century sculptural depiction of Christ from the façade of Chartres Cathedral in France. As Craig Hartman, project architect, explains, “The idea was to make this image, like that of the overall building, change as the quality of light changes. So it comes and goes; it really is like a veil, which sometimes, depending on the nature of the light, is very strong and vivid. That’s typically when the light is strong on the outside and less so on the inside. As you get more light, either through light coming off the ceiling and down on the surface of the image or as light becomes brighter on the inside moving toward evening … that begins to diminish in its intensity.” (CLICK HERE to read more about the project.)

Designed by the Dallas offices of HKS Inc., the Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a contemporary, two-story, 40,000 square-foot “jewel box” building, that stands as a blue glass structure with canted walls. While architects selected the blue glass to complement the colors of the surroundings, it also needed to meet Miami’s stringent large missile impact requirements and hurricane codes. Luckily, contract glaziers Accura Glass Works were well versed in installing hurricane-glazing systems. The challenge they faced, though, was doing the in-stall in the midst of hurricane season. “With hurricane season you do your planning but you still have to be reactionary because you do not know when it will happen,” says Rob Parker, president of Accura Glass Works. “There were two different times during the project where we had named storms out in the Atlantic; we were in the ‘cone of probability’ as they call it and in both cases we were there on Saturdays and Sundays making sure everything was secure. Luckily, all we had was some bad rain, but it all just added to the pressure to get the building wrapped.” (CLICK HERE to read more about the project.)

But glass is not just for use on the outside; it can also create a dramatic statement on the inside. Such was the case for the Thompson-Boling Arena at the University of Tennessee. Designed by Blankenship & Partners LLC, the arena was renovated to include structural silicone glazed guardrails. After 20 years of complaints about metal handrails that obstructed the views of those watching the games or other arena events, the University of Tennessee decided a new view was in order. “The University of Tennessee really wanted an improvement to the old metal rails so they went in the complete opposite direction by creating an all-glass rail. This allowed us to remove all of the vertical posts and horizontal lines from people’s views,” says Blankenship. Because the guardrails are a structurally glazed system it was necessary to find a way to hide all of the mechanics and attachments. To do so a black opacifier was added to the bottom part of the glass by GlassKote USA. (CLICK HERE to read more about the project.)

Projects such as these represent just a sampling of what we saw this year when it came to architectural glass. Have you been involved with a unique project? Please tell me about it and it may just be featured in a future issue.

Happy holidays!