Glass and Building Designers Gather for GPD

This year, for the first time, Glass Performance Days (GPD) included an architects’ forum, fully bringing together every member of the chain from design to construction. The speakers highlighted case studies and presented their input on upcoming trends during the biannual technical conference, which took place June 12-15 in Tampere, Finland.

In his session titled “Architectural Trends – Through the Looking Glass,” Charles Bostick, of Charles W. Bostick Consulting Architects, cautioned his audience that innovations in what glass is capable of is leading architects to more demanding designs than ever before.

“When you realize architects are making these types of decisions – complex or complexer – you have to start getting the tools to build this,” he commented. He pointed to “complexity” as a trend now among architects “because we now have the computers to draw it.” Programs such as building information modeling (BIM) can ease the process, too, of transferring files among contractors. The trend toward using BIM (CLICK HERE for related article) was. Richard Green of Front Inc. presented a session on how BIM greatly eased the complex coordination in working on Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York. BIM helped the designers on through the installers track the more than 2,500 unique components that made up the skylight.

Bostick said another trend was toward curved structures. “The structural engineers are telling us we can do that, no problem,” he said. Modeling is helping the fabricators to follow through on this as well.

Niccolo Baldassini of RFR elaborated on this trend for curved structures in his discussion on “New Trends in Free-Form Design.” He reported that “free-form” is “quite fashionable today,” but still has lots of challenges. He pointed out that even free-form designs follow a rational process and that architects are looking to achieve ever smoother and more unique designs. Architect Frank Gehry’s proposed design for a new Louis Vuitton building was pointed to by both Baldassini and Bostick as an example of where this is headed – Gehry is imitating the quintessential free-form design by basing the building on a cloud (CLICK HERE for more information).

Bostick also noted among trends, “We’re getting large facades that have little or no means of support.”

Rob Nijsse of the Delft University of Technology had an interesting solution to an architect’s request for a large glass façade with little support.

“If I take a flat leaf of paper it’s very weak,” he first explained, waving a sheet of paper in the air, “but if I put a few folds in it it’s much stronger.” He applied the same essential concept to glass and detailed the results in his talk on “Corrugated Glass as an Improvement to the Structural Resistance of Glass.” He presented some unique case studies. One couldn’t help but wonder about the distortion when looking through these large windows, but Nijsse explained, “the architect likes it because it makes the views of the city ‘non-real.’” He also discussed some acoustic benefits when applied in a concert hall and its resistance to deflection.

Bostick also pointed to transparency as a prominent trend for the glass industry – a great trend promoting the use of glass.

Bostick also pointed to one interesting new technology that has been the subject of several seminars. “The technology that I think has the most potential … is that many people in the industry are using bonded connectors,” he explained.

Several presenters discussed opportunities for bonding metal directly to a laminated glass interlayer as the newest trend for connecting lites with minimal visual interference. He noted that with point-supported glass, the fabricator is in essence “wounding the glass [by drilling into it] and putting the most stress of the system on that wound. It has its limitations.”

According to Bostick, “Once it becomes known in the architectural world that you can do this and the costs are down, it’s going to explode.”

Despite the strong theme of solar energy at this year’s event, Bostick did note one “non-trend” of sorts: “Solar cells are not really big on any architect’s mind … I think it’s also too expensive still,” he said. He added candidly, “I don’t think the architects are quite that interested in energy efficiency yet.”