In the Know Spring/Summer 2022

A Year Like No Other: 2022 Celebrates the Importance of all Things Glass

In 2022 the world is celebrating glass—from architecture to sustainability, technology, communications and beyond. The United Nations designated 2022 as the International Year of Glass, a recognition stemming from the efforts of the International Commission on Glass, the Community of Glass Associations and the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Glass, which began in 2018.

“A U.N.-endorsed Year of Glass would truly be a worthy celebration of glass as the most transformative material in the history of humankind and would signal the Dawn of the Glass Age,” said Alicia Durán, chair of the steering committee for the International Year of Glass and president of the International Commission on Glass.

A draft resolution outlining the groups’ ambitions was negotiated with the Missions of several UN countries in April 2021 and passed the silent process May 11, 2021. The formal resolution was agreed at the UN General Assembly on May 18, 2021.

Light and Glass

The official celebration began earlier this year at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where 30 speakers and experts presented on the importance of glass. James Carpenter, founder of James Carpenter Design Associates in New York City, was one of those speakers. He discussed the relationship between light and glass, particularly when applied in construction and buildings.

“My lifelong fascination and exploration of glass is grounded in glass being the material of light,” he said. “And light, when captured, reduced, magnified, reflected or refracted by glass, suggests a world beyond itself–a world opening the imagination, expanding knowledge, and allowing a glimpse of the future. Light is information. And glass is its interpreter.”

Carpenter spoke on the use of glass and light in several projects ranging from art installations and video, to homes and bringing daylight into a space in different ways. He also talked about the use of glass in urban environments. One such project is a large wall near the Lincoln Center in New York, which he said was one of the first projects to ever use dichroic glass in any sort of architectural project.

“We’re looking at a background layer made out of a type of glass used for solar collectors with a reflective coating behind it, and then extending perpendicularly off the surface of these glass fins,” he said. “It’s always a dialogue between the individual’s position of observation and the position of the sun overhead. So there’s this unique thing that everyone sees– not everyone is seeing the same thing. In fact, they’re all seeing something unique for their own experience.”

The fins on the wall also provide onlookers with an optical illusion.

“You’re uncertain whether this wall has a degree of transparency and translucency to it, or is it opaque? It sort of challenges that idea of perception,” Carpenter said.

“And it’s also true that the history of glass is also our engagement with our environment around us. It’s given us this opportunity to enrich and appreciate and sort of engage more deeply with the world around us.”

Glass is Amazing

The U.S. officially kicked off its celebration in April with the National Day of Glass, organized by the American Ceramic Society. Wendell Weeks, chairperson and CEO of Corning Inc., talked about why glass is vital to the future.

He discussed how scientists and engineers use glass to solve some of the toughest challenges and said the more it evolves, “the more glass has made its way into all of our lives.”

Weeks addressed four important attributes of glass: stability, strength, interaction with light, and impermeability.

Speaking of its stability, he pointed out that glass can endure for millennia. It’s stable at the macro level but can change at the micro level. On its strength, he said historically glass is thought of as fragile, but “glass is incredibly strong.” As an example, he pointed to Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which was originally made for the iPhone.

Weeks also talked about the interaction of glass with light and manipulating the relationship between the two. Huge strides have occurred in this area, such as in optical fibers for telecommunications.

“Glass is amazing,” he said. “What will happen as we keep unlocking mysteries … think of the possibilities …The biggest contributions lie ahead.”

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