You can do some absolutely amazing things with glass these days. While glass used to be limited to windows, you can build entire structures out of glass now. In fact, some of the most famous buildings in the world have exteriors that are constructed almost entirely out of glass. Let’s take a look at just a few of the most impressive glass structures on the planet.
THE CRYSTAL IN COPENHAGEN | schmidt hammer lassen architects
Incredibly, The Crystal rests on a single point that makes it appear as though it’s floating high above Copenhagen. But that’s not the only astounding thing about it. It also has a special double-glazed glass on it that’s designed to reflect sunlight and keep the temperature cool and comfortable inside.
“Freestanding on the site, the building reads as a transparent, geometrical, glazed form which, resting only on a single point and a single line, floats as a visually light, crystalline structure above the plaza,” explained Partner Mr Kim Holst Jensen of schmidt hammer lassen architects. He continued: “The building and the plaza are designed to interact with each other and with the surrounding city.”
In terms of both form and scale, the building is intermediate between the city and the harbour, and harmonises with neighbouring buildings. On the southern side, it rises with reference to the gable apex of the “Elephant House” and creates space for the main entrance. From the corner of Puggardsgade and Hambrosgade, the passage under the building allows a clear view towards Nykredit’s head office building and the harbor.
The interior of the building complies with the demands for functionality, flexibility and efficiency. The typical floor plan is disposed in a Z-shape around two atria, ensuring that all workstations are well lit and enjoy a view. The disposition of the plan allows the accommodation of an open plan, separate offices or meeting rooms. The large three-dimensional steel structure constituting the building’s constructive system functions as an architectural element while at the same time freeing the building of columns, creating maximum flexibility in the office spaces.
The double-glazed façade has integrated solar screens and is decorated by a subtle silk screen frit design that mitigates solar ingress, reflects daylight, and gives the building a homogenous expression which enhances its sculptural form.
“The architectural idea of The Crystal’s design is inspired by the fascinating shapes of nature, the premises and the potential of the site,” said Kim Holst Jensen. “The building distinguishes itself from traditional commercial buildings by being a precise sculpture rising elegantly from the plaza underneath.
The design team has brought a holistic approach to the environmental strategy underlying the project. The scheme manages to combine a completely transparent office building with an exceptionally low energy-consumption at 70 kWh per sqm, which means that the building consumes 25 per cent less energy than the requirements of the existing energy legislation. The roof is covered with highly efficient photovoltaic panels generating 80,000 kWh per year. In addition, the triple-layered inner glass façade provides extremely effective thermal insulation, with a U-value of only 0.7 Wh per sqm.
THE NATIONAL GRAND THEATER IN CHINA | Paul Andreu
Standing at the center of a man-made island, The National Grand Theater is home to an opera house, a shopping plaza, a concert hall, and so much more. It was created using glass and titanium, and it’s one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights to see in Beijing.
The building is situated in the heart of Beijing on Chang An Avenue next to the Great Hall of the People and about 500 meters from Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City.
It is a curved building, with a total surface area of 149,500 square meters, that emerges like an island at the center of a lake. The titanium shell is in the shape of a super ellipsoid with a maximum span of 213 meters, a minimum span of 144 meters and a height of 46 meters). It is divided in two by a curved glass covering, 100 meters wide at the base.
During the day, light flows through the glass roof into the building. At night, the movements within can be seen from outside. The building houses three performance auditoriums – a 2,416-seat opera house, a 2,017 seat concert hall and a 1,040 theatre – as well as art and exhibition spaces opened to a wide public and integrated into the city.
The building is connected to the shore by way of a 60-meter long transparent underpass. This entrance leaves the exterior of the building intact, without any openings and mysterious looking while providing the public with a passage from their daily world to the world of opera, fiction and dreams.
The areas inside that are open to the general public take the form of an urban district with its succession of different spaces: streets, plazas, shopping areas, restaurants, restful spaces and waiting lounges. This public area is highly developed in order to endow the building with its open, popular character. The complex is designed as an open forum not a place for elitist shows. The different performance auditoriums open onto this common concourse. Their entrances are positioned so as to ensure an even distribution of people, and a smooth, easy flow everywhere while giving each element in the project a distinctive character.
ALDAR HEADQUARTERS IN ABU DHABI | MZ Architects
Most office buildings are boxy and blasé. But not this office building. The architects who built it utilized a steel diagrid to give the building its circular shape. Then, they used triangular glass panels to cover the outside of it to complete the look. There are almost no columns located inside the building, which makes it a true architectural marvel.
The AlDar Headquarters designed by MZ Architects has a distinctive and innovative design: a semispherical building comprising two circular convex shaped facades linked by a narrow band of indented glazing. This iconic fully glazed structure is completely circular in elevation and curved in all other directions.
The Circle symbolizes unity, stability, rationality. It is also the symbol of infinity, without beginning or end, perfection, the ultimate geometric symbol. It represents a completeness which encompasses all space and Time. The Sphere, the 2-dimentional circle, is hailed by Boullée as the ideal and perfect form since no trick of perspective can alter its appearance .
Inspired by the symbolism of the Circle and the Sphere, architects have used the geometric round shape in their building designs since the beginning of time. The circular shape of the tholos, the greek temple with a round ground plan rather than a square or rectangular one, is not unusual in Greek architecture and has also been used later on in the Roman building typology.
In 1784, Boullée conceived his most emblematic project: the Cenotaph for Isaac Newton which would have taken the form of an immense sphere 150 m high, mirroring the universe, and embedded in a circular base. This structure remained however a sketch and was never built.
Throughout the modern history of architecture, architects have also been designing and realizing circular-based buildings, round towers as well as domes and spheres used notably in the development of planetaria and theatres. The circular shape has always been used in the ground and floor plans with the traditional building elevation and roof. However, no one has attempted to build a structure completely circular in elevation. Such an idea would normally be left on sketches.
Unlike the conventional four sided buildings, the circular building challenges the approach to construction by questioning the typical roof structure. This three faceted building relies on its zipper-like element, a continuous glass and structural band that stitches the two main facets together, creating a slim continuous surface that is both vertical and horizontal, side and face, window and roof. This lateral element, the structural ‘backbone’ of the project, brilliantly creates the fusion between façade and roof and allows for the monolithic shape of the object.
The striking shape of this building is achieved through the use of an external structural triangular diagrid – a diagonal grid of steel. The first of its kind in the UAE, it allowed the creation of structural efficiency and stability appropriate to the circular building with greater flexibility than a conventional rectangular form. The system not only helped minimize the impact of the steel frame on the façade but also served as an architectural element that blurred all sense of scale and inflated the structure, moving away from the typical horizontal stratification of the facades that influenced most high rises in the area.
This diagrid system eliminates the need for internal columns which would compromise the aesthetic appeal as well as the views from within. This improved the building’s efficiency, providing layout flexibility for tenants. Although there are just 23 floors, the building has the same floor area as a typical 40-storey tower.
The curved glass skin became one of its most complex components to be executed. In order to solve the challenge of the façade curvature, triangular pieces of flat glass combined into diamond like shapes, came together like a puzzle working with the diagrid and the highly complex geometry of the skin.
As part of the master plan, the circular building faces the road on a west-east elevation, allowing both the sunset and sunrise to be visible in the glass. The glass facades do not only reflect the project’s surrounding and the vibrant new city in which it was born but also allow one to face his own reflection and image in the much larger universe.
ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK CITY | SOM Architects
When NYC set out to rebuild the World Trade Center, they knew they had to come up with something extra special. The result was One World Trade Center, which features a glass facade that pays homage to the original Twin Towers. It’s one of the largest skyscrapers in the world and stands out even more than it would otherwise thanks to its glass exterior.
One World Trade Center is a bold icon lling the skyline void left by the fallen towers. While the adjacent World Trade Center Memorial speaks of the past and of remembrance, One World Trade Center speaks about the future and hope as it rises upward in a faceted form. Depending on the viewer’s perspective and angle of light, One World Trade Center appears to shape-shift from a platonic solid reminiscent of the original twin towers to an obelisk recalling the Washington Monument.
One World Trade Center ts seamlessly into the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site, on land claimed from the Hudson River over centuries of development in Manhattan. The site, several blocks east of the river and in the heart of the nancial district, will ultimately house more than ten million square feet of commercial development in ve towers, a performing arts center, 500,000 square feet of retail, a transportation hub, and, at its center, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The master plan restores Fulton and Greenwich Streets, formerly blocked by the World Trade Tower plaza and the original 7 World Trade Center building, breathing new vitality into the area. The new 7 World Trade Center, which opened in 2006, reopens Greenwich Street, easing the ow of commerce and sending a message of accessibility to the approximately ve million annual visitors to the memorial and museum. The 2013 opening of 4 World Trade Center, the second tower to rise on Greenwich Street, signaled an important step towards completing the spiraling master plan, wherein each new tower stands progressively taller, culminating in the symbolic 1,776-foot One World Trade Center.
The tower rises from a podium whose square plan measures approximately 204 feet by 204 feet, the same footprints as the original towers. The podium is 186 feet tall and is clad in triple-laminated, low-iron glass ns and horizontal, embossed stainless steel slats. The more than 4,000 glass ns, each measuring approximately 13 feet by two feet, are xed and positioned at varying angles along the vertical axis to form a regular pattern over the height of the podium. This pattern both accommodates ventilation for the mechanical levels behind the podium wall and, in combination with a re ective coating, refracts and transmits light to create a dynamic, shimmering surface. The podium’s heavily reinforced concrete walls serve as a well-disguised security barrier.
Above the podium, the tower’s square edges are chamfered back, transforming the square into eight tall isosceles triangles. At its middle, the tower forms an equilateral octagon in plan and then culminates in a stainless steel parapet whose plan is a 150-foot by 150-foot square, rotated 45 degrees from the base. The resulting crystalline form captures an ever- evolving display of refracted light: the surfaces change throughout the day as light and weather conditions shift and as the viewer moves around the tower. Careful thought was also given to the design of the tower’s corners. Made of embossed stainless steel, the eight edges recall the re ective corners of the original twin towers.
One World Trade Center features a hybrid structure comprised of a high-strength concrete core surrounded by a perimeter moment frame of steel. Paired with the massive concrete shear walls of the core, the steel frame adds rigidity and structural redundancy. Both bolted and welded together for maximum connection strength, the steel members were hoisted into place by two Manitowoc cranes – the largest ever used in New York City. The tower’s tapered, aerodynamic form reduces exposure to wind loads while simultaneously reducing the amount of structural steel needed. Rising a quarter mile into the sky, the tower is brute strength veiled in glass.