Leaves of Glass
by Brent Richards
Glass, as a building material, offers a special interlayer between our outer and inner space and has opened up and contained, as well as sheltered and revealed, the architecture of its time. Architects' pursuit of the minimal environmental envelope has created an evolutionary and reductionist approach, whereby glass has become a predominant and essential cladding material of contemporary architecture.
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In particular, new developments in glass technology have enabled it to be used as a complete structural material, through the use of special films, glues and coatings. Subsequently, the notion of spatial design has become more significant, and, when successfully articulated, defines an innovative art in its own right.
This approach has involved the treatment of space as matter, and a move away from the creation of solid forms, shells, envelopes, and the engineered language of structure. It has permitted the potential for buildings to have depth, discovery, mystery, and shadow, to be truly multisensory, to be a multifaceted experience of the metaphysical.
City Hall in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, was designed by Erick van Egeraat Associated Architects and completed in 2002. The city of 70,000 has major ambitions for the redevelopment of its entire center, and the free-form curvilinear city hall forms the centerpiece of the master plan.
The city council sought to represent their approach to administration and the process of communicating with local people through a building that is transparent, open, and inviting. The building's appearance relates directly to this ambition and is expressed primarily through the transparent glass facade.
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This article is excerpted from New Glass Architecture by Brent Richards, with permission of the publisher, Yale University Press, Inc. Images are reproduced with permission from Laurence King.
City Hall in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, designed by Erick van Egeraat Associated Architects. Layers of the glass facade reveal varying surfaces appropriate to the function they cover.
Photo: Dennis Gilbert
The double-curved, tempered-glass panels are covered in a leaf pattern that provides both solar control and a measure of privacy for building users.
Photo: Dennis Gilbert
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