Innovative glass architecture from across the world
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Innovative glass architecture from across the world

17 Dec 2013

Glass is one of the most important building materials of the modern world, used in everything from social housing to city skyscrapers. As the importance of glass in building design continues to grow, we present the latest unique and innovative applications of glass in architecture, exploring projects that highlight its beauty and versatility.

Innovative glass architecture from across the world

Ars Electronica Center

The trend of using glass in the construction of public and private buildings has steadily grown to dominate the modern skyline in the 21st century. It’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down, especially with advances in glass technology that allow for even more complex and elaborate designs.

Glass is a popular architectural material because it is aesthetically appealing, it allows natural light to pour into the interior of a building, it creates a sense of flowing space, and is recyclable and cost efficient – the latter two being of increasing concern for modern architects. In particular, glass is increasingly used for skyscrapers in cities, as huge dropping glass facades allow people to look over the glittering cityscape while also creating a sense of space in often bustling and cramped locations.

Dancing Dragons, Seoul, South Korea

Designed to be situated in the Yongsan International Business District in Seoul, South Korea, these 450m and 390m tall Dancing Dragon towers are so named because of the scaly effect that is created by angular cuts of layered glass. Functional as well as visually impressive, the gaps between the overlapping panels of glass will feature operable 600mm vents through which air can circulate, making the skin ‘breathable’ like that of certain animals.

"The Dancing Dragon towers are so named because of the scaly effect that is created by angular cuts of layered glass."

Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the towers’ design is inspired by elements of traditional Korean culture; for example, a dramatic series of diagonal massing cuts create living spaces that float beyond the structure, recalling the eaves of traditional Korean pagodas.

The towers will be home to apartments, a hotel, offices and shops over 88 and 77 floors. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture was commissioned to design the towers for the 23,000 square mile site along with 15 other architects commissioned to design buildings for the Yongsan International Business District master plan, the biggest commercial urban development in South Korea, which is due for completion in 2024.

Suzhou Center China

Last year US-based architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) won a competition to design a skyscraper in China called the Suzhou Center with a proposal for a 358m supertall tower featuring an atrium with a 30-storey tall operable window.

Called the ‘lung’ of the building, the large window invites cool air flow during summer months and floods the interior spaces with natural light. The atrium has also been designed to facilitate mixed mode ventilation in the lobbies and public spaces, providing a fresh air supply source for the building and its inhabitants.

The building is to be located beside Taihu Lake in Wuijang and will house offices, apartments, shops and a hotel across 75 storeys. The building is the sixth project Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has done with developers Greenland Group.

Emporia shopping mall, Sweden

Emporia in Malmö, Sweden, is an innovative in-ward curved glass building featuring 804 panes of glass fabricated by glassmaker Crícursa, each individually designed and manufactured with a complex curvature allowing for the smooth curve in the centre.

An important feature of the building is the colourful glass-clad entrances – amber and blue – said to be inspired by Sweden’s nature. The curved glass was coloured by laminating the panes with bright blue and amber coloured plastic films that were then glued into aluminium frames. The frames connect to tubular steel structures that are suspended from the roof slab like a curtain walls. Overall, the glass covers a surface area of 27,857ft².

Inside the partially built mall, which is open to shoppers but yet to be completed, retail shops are organised around a three-storey figure of eight. Currently, the roof has a rooftop park and in the future it will also feature outdoor dining and a spa.

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, Iceland

This grand concert hall in Iceland, which is situated on the border between land and sea in Reykjavik, is designed to reflect sky and harbour space as well as the vibrant life of the city.

The building’s facade is made of glass and steel in a twelve-sided, space-filling geometric modular system called the ‘quasi-brick’. The building appears as a kaleidoscopic play of colours, reflected in the more than 1,000 quasi-bricks composing the southern facade. The remaining facades and the roof are made of sectional representations of this geometric system, resulting in two-dimensional flat facades of five and six-sided structural frames.

During the design process, Henning Larsen Architects, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and the engineering companies Rambøll and ArtEngineering from Germany used three-dimensional computer models, finite element modelling, various digital visualisation techniques as well as maquettes, models and mock-ups.

The interior of the award-winning building, which recently won the The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, Mies van der Rohe Award 2013, features an arrival and foyer area in the front of the building, four halls in the middle and a backstage area with offices, administration, rehearsal hall and changing room in the back of the building.

Arts Electronica Center extension, Austria

The Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria, originally opened its doors in 1996 as a ‘Museum of the Future’ featuring six floors showcasing the most modern techniques from the technology sector. After a €30m redevelopment designed by Treusch using both glass and steel the building has become a changeable work of art based on the principle of dialogue with its environment.

"The building is covered by 1,085 glass panes that can be lit by 95,000 colour-changing LEDs."

The redevelopment, which opened in 2009 after two years of construction, features a new twin tower alongside the main building and a new space for the Ars Electronica Futurelab. The building is covered by 1,085 glass panes that can be lit by 95,000 colour-changing LEDs, which artists can use to create interactive artwork displays.

Most recently, in December 2013, artist Javier Lloret turned the building into a giant Rubick’s cube. Called Puzzle Façade, Lloret used a blank white 3D-printed Rubik’s Cube as the controller for the changing lights of the facade. The controller is able to use the electronic software in the Wifi cube to change the lights on the building facade. As the building can only be seen from one side the player is able to rotate and flip the interface of the cube.

Nanotechnology building for Pennsylvania University, US

Described as a "towering nave bathed in celestial light" by a Bloomberg news writer, the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology building is poised at the eastern edge of Pennsylvania University and hailed as a beautiful example of elegant glass building design, where tired scientists can soak up some rays after a long stint in the lab.

According to designers WEISS/MANFREDI the three-storey $92m building is designed to "encourage the collaboration, exchange, and integration of knowledge that characterises the study of this emerging field". The building is wrapped in a panelled glass curtain that allows light to soak into the front of the building where researchers and scientist can gather. However, the building’s main feature is its highest elevation, which encompasses a meeting space that cantilevers over the quad below and opens to views of both the city and campus.

Inside the building, which was finished this year, a long orange pane window that filters ultraviolet light lines the galleria wall discretely hiding a 10,000ft², two-storey-high series of labs.

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