Good Design Worth Traveling For

I don’t generally find articles such as 44 Places to Go in 2009, which appeared recently in The New York Times Travel section, interesting. Do I really need 44 suggestions for places to go around the globe this year?


However, one thing that caught my attention in this article was that part of the suggestion on why you should visit two of the destinations was glass-clad buildings.


I am old enough to remember in the 1980s when the first energy crisis hit and glass was blamed as being an energy waster and frowned upon as a construction material. Going even further back was the criticism by architectural critics that glass boxes were a blight on design. How far we have come.


Chicago, where I actually do hope to go this year, was on the list. Here is the quote from the article on why you should visit the Windy City. “They’re already calling it the “Building of the Century.” No, not the new Trump hotel and tower, though the 92-story skyscraper does command attention as Chicago’s (and the United States’) second-tallest building. The real buzz is the long-awaited Modern Wing ( of the Art Institute of Chicago. Designed by Renzo Piano, the immense limestone-and-glass addition opens May 16, and will house some of the 20th century’s greatest art….” The architect’s website also provides information about the project (


The building’s exterior limestone walls on the east and west sides, complemented by a double-glass and steel curtainwall on the north and south sides, is designed to create a transparency of the northern elevation, integrating the interior of the building with the dramatic setting provided by the adjacent Millennium Park. Josef Gartner USA, a division of Permasteelisa North America, in Chicago, provided the glass for the structure.


Stockholm, which is not on my to-visit list this year although I would like to make it there eventually, made the list and architectural design with glass was at the top of the recommendation reason. The article said, “The biggest splash comes from the 558-room Clarion Hotel Sign, which opened last February. The glassy and angular building is stocked with iconic Scandinavian furniture….”


The Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh created the spectacular building, which is dominated by granite and glass. It leans over a square, reflecting a green park. His description of the project is found at He used a combination of black granite, either polished, hammered or cracked, glass and mirror to give the structure its distinct look. The dominant architectural feature is two towers that resemble scissor blades. Interestingly, in an earlier model, the hotel was dominated by two bottle-green towers.


I contacted the architect who referred me to the company most involved with the glazing, Fasadglas, for details about the project. I emailed the gentleman they suggested at the company, Lars Bengtsson, who provided this information: The largest component for us in the project was delivery and installation of a specially made unitized prefabricated system (developed with Schüco) that features set-back glass and 30 mm granite in the same “level” of depth, roughly 3000 square meters of façade. The glass combination was mainly: 8 mm Stop Ray Safir with a light transmission of 61 percent and solar factor of 32 percent. Interior glass was laminated annealed float with a special sound-protective foil. AGC supplied the glass.


Good design can make a recommendation for travel. But in addition to Gothic cathedrals today’s list can include structures made of architectural glass and metal.