Innovations in Glass

An exploration of how architects are pushing the limits of technology to exploit the mutable nature of glass, its aesthetic qualities, and its energy-conserving potential.
By Architectural Record
James S. Russell, Josephine Minutillo, Joann Gonchar, Linda Lentz, and David Sokol

Learning Objectives:

  1. Discuss glass manufacturing processes as well as fabrication options and limitations that architects should take into account while designing glazed building skins.
  2. Define terms relevant to glass and glazing selection, such as VLT, U-value, and solar heat gain coefficient.
  3. Discuss how architects like SANAA and Foster + Partners have overcome the detailing challenges presented by curved glass.
  4. Describe how technologies such as electrochromic glazing and double skins work to improve energy efficiency.


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Below are a set of links to building type studies from Architectural Record, which are in-depth analyses of particular kinds of buildings, with photos, drawings, specifications, detailed descriptions, and design solutions. Click on each link below, read the article then complete the quiz to earn your credit and certificate of completion.

Glass may be the most chameleonlike of building materials. Depending on how it is manipulated, combined with other materials, or how it is installed, it can appear transparent, translucent, or opaque. The same glass surface can take on varying characteristics in different atmospheric conditions. It can be made flat as a pancake or bent into perfect arcs. These stories explore how architects are pushing the limits of technology to exploit this material's mutable nature, its aesthetic qualities, and its energy-conserving potential-demonstrating that glass is more than merely molten sand.

Innovations In Glass

Pictured: Elbphilarmonie, Hamburg, Germany, Herzog & de Meuron; Photo © Thies Raetzke

Straight Story On Curves

Straight Story On Curves
Fabrication advances allow architects to create buildings that are transparent or translucent, as well as sculptural.

Photo © Thies Raetzke

Reflections on the Box

Reflections on the Box
A new addition to the Corning Museum of Glass by Thomas Phifer and Partners continues a tradition of architectural invention at its upstate New York campus.

Photo © Iwan Baan


Two very different buildings deploy double curtain walls to satisfy the competing demands of transparency, efficiency, and comfort.

Photo © Shen Zonghai

Bigger, Flatter, Clearer

Bigger, Flatter, Clearer
Two towers rising is in Shenzhen, China, demonstrate Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's approach to creating transparent and pristine facades.

Photo © SOM

Dynamic Glass

Dynamic Glass
Three design teams explore the potential of electrochromic-glazing technology to enhance building-envelope performance and aesthetics.

Photo courtesy Studio 804

The Future Is Crystal Clear

The Future Is Crystal Clear
Architects, scientists, and manufacturers look toward emerging technologies and materials to develop the next generation of glass and glazing products.

Photo courtesy GlassX



Originally published in Architectural Record.
Originally published in March 2015