Glass & Translucent Materials Supplement 2017 – Editor’s Comment

Window glass has come a long way since early broad sheet glass was little more than a poorly transparent material. Over the centuries different methods of glass manufacture emerged but it wasn’t until the invention of laminated glass at the beginning of the 1900s that much larger window panes were being safely glazed without dividing bars.

Early technology and techniques for better quality, strengthened and economically produced glass systems gave glass new impetus in building construction and architects were quick to utilise glass in the early skyscrapers. For example, Chicago’s 14-floor Reliance Building constructed in the 1890s featured large plate glass windows. And even earlier, south London’s cast-iron and plate glass Crystal Palace of 1851 was a major innovation in its time. However, a glimpse into the future of glass technology in architecture had already be seen in architect Peter Ellis’ 1864, five-story Oriel Chambers building in Liverpool which featured a metal framed glass curtain wall.

These pioneering structures are just a few examples of the forerunners of today’s new age of challenging structural glass buildings that continue to symbolise innovation and modernity. Increasingly, tall glass buildings continue to dominate the skylines of our cities and cutting edge projects around the world utilise light and glass filled spaces in striking new, renovation and heritage projects.

In this supplement, structural glass designers and engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan also take a retrospective look at glass with reference to Charles Schridde’s 1960s futuristic ‘House of the Future’ illustrations. They point out that some have already been realised, if not superseded, by advancements in curved glass, interlayer technology, high performance coatings, solar control and more. Ian Langham, the firm’s associate director, also poses the question, what next? He refers to dynamic glass, hi-strength thin glass and other transparent materials that could transform our not too distant future.

The project features in this supplement are exemplars of challenging structural glass design and engineering feats: 27 Linden Gardens once a neglected Victorian building is now a desirable townhouse conversion of apartments transformed by glass. The new HQ for the EU Council in Brussels, the Europa Building is an innovative egg-shaped structure of predominantly glass and translucent materials. Plus, an eight-storey glass lift in a London mansion is likely to be the tallest self-supporting annealed glass structure in the world.

In this supplement we also hear from experts about some of the glass materials and new technologies being developed that will enable architects and engineers to turn their visions into reality and which are sustainable and eco drivers for the future too.