London Calling

If someone ever asks you if you can go to London, don’t hesitate in responding yes. Yes, if you have the opportunity, you can and should go to London, even if it’s just a whirlwind trip. From the history to the culture to the architecture and glass, there’s plenty to see and do.

I first had the chance to visit London when I went with a school group in high school, and was lucky enough to make the trip across the pond again last week for a pre-glasstec press conference organized by Guardian Glass. Like many of us in the industry, the company is gearing up for the biennial trade fair, which will take place October 23-26 in Dusseldorf, Germany later this year. London was the ideal setting for this particular event, which took place at the Grange St. Paul’s hotel. The location offered amazing views of the city, including the soon-to-be-completed One Blackfriars tower, which is sheathed in Guardian Glass.

One Blackfriars in London features Guardian Glass products constructed in a double-skin facade.

Located on the most northerly bend on the Thames, the project is the closest tall building to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The 50-story, double-skin façade tower stands 170 meters and includes 5,674 glass panels. Yuanda was the façade contractor.

Construction actually began back in 2004 and was delayed a few years later. Having since resumed, it’s expected to be complete later this year.

As Ian Simpson, founding partner of project architectural firm SimpsonHaugh, explained, it will have been under construction for virtually 15 years by the time it’s finished later this year—that’s half the lifetime of his firm’s practice.

According to Simpson, the twin skin solution creates a balcony space that serves as a “winter garden” that can be used year round.

He said in their designs they like to use floor-to-ceiling windows so you can be inside the space and look out to see the views and not have to “go to a window.”

Looking at the tower, Simpson said it changes from every viewpoint.

“We wanted to create a beautiful building,” he said of the design, explaining that what was important as architects was a singular form “… something that would last hundreds of years.” Unlike the interiors, which can easily change.

Simpson said they wanted a flush, smooth outer skin, and didn’t want it to look green. “So we worked hard to ensure we could afford a low iron glass,” he said.

SimpsonHaugh has worked on a number of tall buildings in the U.K. Simpson says tall buildings capture light and can add something positive to a city’s skyline.

“Glass is a fantastic material and we want to use it on all of our buildings because what’s important to us is light,” he said.

I think we can all agree that glass is indeed a fantastic material. And London seems to be a city that loves using it. What are some of your favorite cities for glass? Share your comments below or email me at