What’s new and where is innovation? Two often asked questions that usually come with valid discussion to prove a point. But where should it begin and what do we actually mean, or want to know?
There is a saying in the architectural community that the last original thing in architecture was the Doric Column. Seems odd, as those columns from antiquity were stone representations of similar wooden structures. The point is that originality is wrapped up in the development of ideas. Revisiting old ideas is a tried and tested route to push concepts forward through adaptive collaboration. So Doric becomes, Ionic, becomes Corinthian Etc etc. Similarities can been seen in architectural styles as they develop over time, divergence is a key to creativity and re-assessment. Post-Modernism, for instance, grew out of this, in some ways, as a reaction to modernism.
There are two key ingredients to great architecture that will never change. Space and Light. Great architecture can play with these to infinity and beyond. So we get a vast range of architecture that tease our emotions at many different levels. Obviously some good, some bad, some downright ugly, but usually putting out a different challenge to different people in many parts of the world. The challenges are intricately woven. Into this weave come thoughts, guiding principles, technologies to be used or abused, all providing a rich creative mix to move ideas, and drive inevitably innovation.
New ideas will undoubtably come from the thinkers. Those that push boundaries and challenge the status quo. It’s unlikely that industry alone will innovate, per se, without someone somewhere pushing for something new.
I use an incredible piece of architecture as an example of how glass, manufactured for thousands of years, continues to re-invent itself. Striving to challenge emotions through the built environment. The Prada Store in Tokyo, designed by the architects Herzog DeMeuron, is now around 20 years old. It’s great to see that the project is still often referenced. For me it was a great experience to be part of a group of extraordinary thinkers from the design team, right through to the people making glass. Many groundbreaking designs start by drawing on previous ideas. I have often been aggrieved to think I had original thoughts for solutions, only for better experienced colleagues to talk me through previous similar ideas, and then to work out the best way to develop a new detail or product. In the case of Prada Tokyo the challenge lay with making a piece of glass that kept the true essence of the design intent but could withstand all the criteria that the design team perceived, plus perform in a way that a highly specified facade has to within strict local conditions. The answer came through close collaboration between groups, and individuals, that could see a common goal. That being, to produce great architecture. The glass in this case was realized by sperate companies who were able to collaborate together. Eckelt in Austria and Cricursa in Catalonia. This key collaboration, steered by the team at Herzog DeMeuron, helped develop the idea of curving glass for the facades, not particularly new in itself, into new multi-dimensional curved forms, that could be calculated, and tested to show structural integrity and show glass fit for purpose. I’d like to suggest that the work on Prada Tokyo went into developing the extraordinary glass produced for the Elbe Philharmonie, Hamburg, by the same architects. A project that may well become the best glass building of the 21st century, and as influential as Joseph Paxton’s Great Exhibition Hall in London from 1851.
At the heart of glass technologies is the desire to achieve the holy grail of façade design. Maximum natural daylight together with the best possible shading. Being drawn into this conundrum glass and coating technology alone could well be described as having fallen short in some ways. That being increasing the light transmission means essentially losing some of the g-value, the effective shading. Or conversely lower the g-value and loose the light transmission. For the designer this has meant trying to select a static high performance coating that meets the requirements of the worst case scenario, i.e. performance on those hot sunny days in the middle of summer, and then having to live with the limitations of any passive system for the rest of the year. So when the first Electrochromic dynamic glass appeared around 15 years ago the idea of being able to bring an active performance to the glass itself provided a great potential for the façade designer. A glass that increases this “worst case scenario”, of a couple of weeks in the middle of summer, to best case optimal light and shade throughout the whole year.
So out of the limitations of high performance coatings came electrochromic ideas, which like the static coatings, have their own restrictions due to the technology. Slow reaction times and dark state colour rendering, mostly blueish tones from the coatings used for the dynamic reaction to take place, have maybe restricted the further development of this particular dynamic technology. The development of the idea has meant most electrochromic glass types have themselves remained static to change. Still blue, still slow.
Sometimes these changes need some disruption. Bring into the mix a non-glass maker with also developing technology. Somewhat like Tesla to the car industry, Merck in Darmstadt have brought a disruptive stance to the glass industry. Merck have been involved with the “new” ideas of Liquid Crystal since around 1904. Most of the smart devices we use today have some Liquid Crystal technology behind them. So being the godfather of the material lead Merck to search for new ideas with the same technology. Architectural glass for facades, that allows natural daylight and shading to be varied and controlled by Liquid Crystal, is one of the thought lines born from the teams within Merck.
Out of this thought process came what is now the well-known brand of dynamic glass called eyrise. A glass for facades, and skylights, that provides an overall optimal use of light and shade, on demand, which can be completely automated, left in the hands of the individual, or a combination of both. Extending that best case scenario of natural daylight, and most efficient shading, throughout the 12 month annual cycle. Out of eyrise s350, which is the solar shading glass, now comes eyrise i350 for use as privacy glass.
Given the massive and quick change we see in the smart devices we carry around and use daily, remember the iPhone itself is less than 15 years old, you can imagine the possible journey eyrise might take us on with continued curiosity to push the technology further. Liquid Crystal could be the enabler for massive change in façade design. We are starting to see the positive results in projects commissioned, delivered and in hand right now.
FC Gruppe, Karlsruhe
A new build office space on the edge of Karlsruhe. The FC Campus is a design from the team of 3Deluxe, Wiesbaden. It consists of two cubic structures with infill curtain walling. One of the cubes is the headquarters of FC Gruppe with the second a speculative office space aimed at local innovation driven tech companies.
The facade is a straight forward stick system with around 2000m2 of triple glazed eyrise s350 units. Variable daylight transmission range of 9 – 44% and a dynamic range of g-value 0.11 – 0.28. Additional project specific requirements called for a relatively high acoustic rating of RW 47db, due to the adjacent autobahn. Also there was a need to fulfill local codes for bird protection of the glass. Therefore a surface #1 ceramic screen print design, provided by the architect, was applied to all eyrise units. Within the design intent for the façade was a requirement for multiple shaped units. Collaboration with the design team, building owner and façade contractor, was key to achieving the complexity within this design. An added point was that FC Gruppe required a specific colour that Merck was able to achieve with their knowledge from the pigmentation side of the performance materials teams within the company, applying the built up experience and knowledge to pro-actively solve specific project challenges.
Niemeyer Sphere, Leipzig.
The Oscar Niemeyer Sphere in Leipzig was born out of a desire by Kirow owner Ludwig Koehne’s interest in architecture and place making, along with a necessity to provide a high level of catering facilities to retain his Chef to sustain the teams at Kirow. Following a meeting with Oscar Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro, Ludwig Koehne managed to secure one of the last designs from this Master of 20th Century futuristic modernism. The task to execute this masterpiece under the detailed step by step supervision of Jair Valera, Oscar Niemeyer’s right hand man during the past 30 years of his working career, fell to Harald Kern Architects. The glass ball within the concrete ball was one of the primary drivers for the design intent. A glass, skyward facing dome need to be exactly that.
To keep the design integrity, no blinds or visible shading could be permitted. After trialing many of the early generations of electrochromic dynamic glass types the team in Leipzig met eyrise and started to develop solutions for the performance specific requirements for the sky light dome structure. A bespoke steel structure was developed that would not only provide minimal support, but allow the hidden cable routes to be fully accessible for installation and future needs. Performance range on variable light transmission is 2% – 43% which allows a variable g-value of 0.17 – 0.36. The glass being dark grey allowed the perfect contrast to the pure white insitu concrete structure. Every one of the 167No. triangles have slightly differing dimensions. Each had to be produced, packed and delivered to a strict installation sequence to allow for quick and simple mounting. Additionally Ludwig Koehne coined the phrase “inverted sun-clock” for the controllability of the eyrise dome. This means that every unit is able to fine tune in real time, independently from its neighbouring unit to give the optimal shading and thus energy efficiency for the space below, at any time of the day, and any time of the year. Of course all this with a possibility to manually override the control at any time. Jair Valera from Niemeyer studio said that Oscar Niemeyer is watching from above and is very pleased.
At the heart of Piccadilly in central London is the original Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour which since the early 1970s has been home to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
Benedetti Architects were tasked with the rationalization of the whole building for BAFTA’s needs in the 21st Century. This included lifting the protected roof structures up one floor to create a unique facility at the new upper level for future events. There were planning consent constraints and a desire to keep the visible connection to the neighbouring Wren church and the mature Plane trees of the churchyard. Therefore traditional solid shading devices, which would block out this important connection, were excluded early on. A scheme was developed with the design team, to use eyrise dynamic glass to provide the transparency whilst maximizing efficiency in shading. Bespoke aluminium extruded framing was provided by IPIG who did the detail design work and installation. The eyrise units for BAFTA roofs have a visible light transmission range 7% – 45% which provides a g-value range of 0.17 – 0.33. Installation was completed at the end of 2020 and an opening is expected at the end of 2021.
Eyrise is a truly dynamic glass type, which has real time adaptative response to nature. It is now produced commercially in The Netherlands and being installed in key projects in many different countries. It has the advantage of super-fast reaction times. Also, a unique control that allows a step free, fine tuning, either dark to light or vice versa, for absolute efficiency. Plus, dark state colours which remain neutral. Practically most colours are achievable if required, as well as many shape configurations. So here is a true dynamic glass that is able to do what the design team require in terms of performance and real time controllability, that is both as simple to install and maintain over long periods of time, as any piece of glass. Also, it’s a concept that can still allow further development of the product itself. With the right push, and support from within the eyrise team, new directions, that are as yet just part of the imagination, could open up. Maybe the last original thing in glass technology is eyrise.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Spring 2021 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: Bruce Nicol Architect RIBA, Head of Global Design – eyrise B.V.
Bruce Nicol is an Architect based in Berlin. He is the Head of Global Design at eyrise B.V. Having qualified at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, Bruce was immediately immersed in glass technology and innovations. Having an extended sabbatical in the glass industry, where he supported the glass design on major projects worldwide, he is now once again at the cutting edge of glass innovation, engaging with all sides of the construction process, bringing eyrise dynamic glass solutions to forward thinkers in the global community.