Expressive Exploration: Trends and Considerations for Backpainted Glass

By Jordan Scott

Backpainted glass is ideal for high-traffic areas because it is easy to maintain and can provide bright pops of color for public spaces. However, there are several considerations to keep in mind when specifying or installing backpainted glass products, as well as creative ways to make a project stand out.

Dallas Love Field Airport | Dallas

Part of the airport’s expansion included a parking garage attached to one of its terminals. For the transition area between the two locations, architecture firm Corgan utilized backpainted glass to create a vivid entrance to each space.

Chris Mammen, co-owner and board member at M3 Glass Technologies in Irving, Texas, says the matte finish of the glass helps soften the space, and reduces glare and reflective light in the double height atrium elevator lobby. The backpainted glass also provides a backdrop for an art installation. It was made using Walker’s low-iron Satinlite and backpainted using M3 Glass’ ColorBak process.

Glazing contractor Denison Glass & Mirror in Denison, Texas, installed the back-painted glass. Business development manager Tyler Hall says it is easy to clean so the glass continues to look pristine.

Denison Glass & Mirror president Mark Gampper says that jobsite communication can be one of the biggest challenges of a project, emphasizing that it’s important to coordinate with adjacent trades and vendors.

“In some cases, backpainted glass can be a quick lead time item, but if using a custom color or custom substrate you have to be cognizant of lead times and cost during construction and if a lite needs to be replaced,” he says. People often focus on the exterior and forget about the interior, but it’s the interior where the custom stuff starts to come into play.”

Mammen says glass often shows up in the specifications in other places beyond the section for glass, doors and windows, such as the furniture scope.

“If a glazier is looking at the full scope they might miss the opportunity to bid for work in the interior package,” he says, adding that backpainted glass can be used for a variety of interior applications. “We’ve seen people who are not the glazing contractor buying backpainted glass from us because the glazier didn’t pick it up in their scope.”

The architecture firm behind the Simons Store at a shopping mall in Gatineau, Quebec, wanted to make a statement, according to Danik Dancause, marketing operations manager for Walker Glass Co. Ltd., based in Montreal. Lemay Michaud Architecture Design has done several projects for the Simons brand, but this one was a little different.

“The original design called for black, mirror-etched glass. I wanted to present to them the possibility of using tempered rather than annealed glass because it would be inside,” says Dancause, adding that tempered glass is safer for high-traffic areas. “I also wanted to talk to them about our Satinlite finish because it has high scratch-resistance.”

The glass is 6-mm Starphire glass from Vitro Architectural Glass, fabricated by Miroirs Laurier Ltée. Using tempered backpainted glass allowed Walker to match the green color on the wall to the exact green color of the Simon brand, according to Dancause, who adds that the glass is easy to maintain and durable.

“Glass is a wonderful design element because it’s so flexible,” he says. We etched the glass which softens the lighting around it, making it so that you’re truly able to enjoy the color and design.”

900 North Michigan Avenue | Chicago

Downtown Chicago’s 900 North Michigan Avenue, commonly known as the Bloomingdale’s Building, was renovated to enhance the shopping center‘s aesthetic. While it’s one of Chicago’s tallest buildings, the emphasis was on the first floor. Guardian Glass, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., supplied its Deco HT coating on Guardian UltraClear low-iron glass for the buildings parking garage.

Low-iron glass was used to reduce the appearance of green tint and provide a better color match compared to the company’s Deco HT on clear glass, according to Brian Craft, architectural design manager with Guardian Glass. He says the company’s backpainted glass is more uniform than some ceramic frit products, which were originally considered for the project.

Craft says that durability was a project concern because the backpainted glass was used on the exterior of the building. He adds that Kurtis LeVan, president of glazing contractor Chicago Heights Glass in South Holland, III., ensured that there were no compatibility issues with the glazing tape and coating.

“We’ve never seen anything like this project It’s not backpainted glass on an interior application or in a true spandrel application. It is truly on the outside of the building,” says Craft.

Trulite Glass & Aluminum Solutions fabricated the glass.

Avery Dennison Office | Glendale, Calif.

Pulp Studio, based in Gardena, Calif., provided back- painted wall cladding and feature wall glass for Avery Dennison’s office in Glendale, Calif. Designed by HOK Los Angeles, the wall image logo panels use SentryGlas Expressions on both the flat and curved panel. Pulp Studio CEO Bernard Lax says the adjacent wall cladding features the signature Avery red color, which was a challenge because the brand’s trademark color is the most critical element. The handrails and table tops were produced with tempered Pintura back-coated materials. Town and Country Glass of Signal Hill, Calif., was the installer.

Lax says using textured glass with backpainting is a growing trend along with painting techniques to create texture. When it comes to installation, Lax says it’s important to use the recommended and tested adhesive. He also emphasizes making sure the supplier has a minimum of 3 mm of dry coating of color to prevent adhesive shadowing.

“Don’t try fabricating the coated material unless you have checked with the manufacturer that it is acceptable to do, as most coatings are applied after the glass is fabricated and can flake off.” he adds.

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