Industry Trends – The Use of Glass in Architecture

Glass is the most durable and versatile building material and was used in ancient civilizations. Stained glass was used in churches and can be traced back as far as the 7th century. The oldest glass structure in architecture was the Crystal Palace which was built in London in 1851. 

But how is glass used in architecture today? And why are architects using this building material more than brick and mortar? In this post, you’ll find valuable information on the advantages of glass structures and how they’re used in modern architecture.   


The Advantages of Glass in Architecture 

Have you noticed how many buildings are constructed of glass as opposed to bricks or wood? This is because glass has many benefits for you and the environment. Even homeowners are starting to build their houses out of glass. Here are some advantages you can experience from glass in architecture. 


Professional architects have stated that the industry is moving away from uni-functional to multifunctional glass. Glass has changed in complexity to be more efficient. More people are requesting glass that has thermal technology, x-ray radiation and blast protection. Lastly, glass for buildings needs to be fire rated especially when constructed on the inside of a building. 


Buildings with high security such as banks, use glass that’s bullet and blast proof. Large windows on a building are also made from shatter-proof glass to prevent injury in the event of an explosion. Glass can also help protect people from the spread of viruses by providing a barrier between two people. 


One of the major benefits of glass is that it has a minimal environmental impact. Therefore, glass is the building material of choice when it comes to sustainable structures. It also provides natural lighting in buildings which could lower utility costs. 

Uses of Glass in Architecture

To build a structure that’s stable and durable, you must use reinforced glass. In architecture, the most common type of glass used is soda-lime which is incredibly durable. Other types are floating, laminate and glass blocks. In this section, you’ll learn more about how glass is used in architecture.

Glass Curtain Wall 

Buildings with large windows allow you to see the outside world. One of the major trends happening in architecture is building glass curtain walls. The wall of the building is constructed entirely of glass to protect the building occupants from wind and rain but with the advantage of a stunning view. 

The reason why glass curtain walls are trending is because it’s lightweight material that’s affordable. Natural light is dispersed throughout the building and not simply in one area. Lastly, the glass doesn’t carry a major structural load. This architectural design works well for universities, malls and office blocks. 

Glass Ceilings 

Glass ceilings come in a variety of designs, styles and structures. Some buildings will have a three-panel skylight whereas other structures will have a ceiling made entirely out of glass. A glass ceiling can work for buildings in large city areas that don’t get plenty of sunlight from the side. 

Domed glass ceilings are still popular but architects are going for more simple designs such as flat or slanted glass roofs. 

Glass Doors 

You’ll hardly find modern buildings with wooden doors unless it’s a conference room that requires privacy when conducting meetings. Most office blocks are constructed with glass doors of different types such as swinging or sliding doors. 

Doors are made with tempered glass that’s energy efficient. You can also get glass designs set in aluminum or wooden frames. The style of the glass doors will all depend on the interior style of the building.

Entire Buildings Made of Glass 

Another architectural trend is the use of jumbo glass to construct buildings made entirely of glass which includes the ceiling and walls. Floors may not be made from glass because of their slippery surface. Furthermore, architects are minimizing the use of large frames. 

For buildings to be made entirely out of glass, the material needs to be stronger especially if there is no framing involved. Tempered glass is used for superior performance and heat resistance.  

Glass Partitions 

Instead of drywall or wood, glass is used to partition offices. It creates a functional office environment that allows managers to monitor staff. It also allows natural light to flow through the space which has the potential to increase productivity and lower utility costs. 

Examples of Glass Architectural Designs 

There are famous glass structures that were built many years ago. Architectures can use these buildings as inspiration for designing their buildings using glass. 

The Louvre 

The Louvre museum in Paris has a glass pyramid that was designed by an architect named I.M. Pei. It was commissioned in 1983 and was completed in 1989. There were challenges building the glass pyramid because Pei wanted it to be constructed out of transparent glass. 

Transparent glass wasn’t available at the time and construction companies could only get glass with a blue or green tint. Pei approached a company called Saint Gobain to develop the glass he wanted for his project. It was called diamond glass and it took two years to get the correct composition.  

The Louvre’s glass pyramid was constructed with over 19,000 square feet of glass and it weighs approximately 200 tons. 

The Crystal Palace 

The Crystal Palace was the biggest glass construction in the 1850s. It was believed to have started in the modernism movement in architecture. This stunning glass structure was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton to host the Great Exhibition of 1851. 

This structure was made using the glass sheet method which was originally invented by the Chance Brothers in 1832. During the 1850s the largest glass panels were 10 x 49 inches and so the entire Crystal Palace was built using sheets of glass with these dimensions. 

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when the building burnt down on December, 30th 1936. The only towers that survived were demolished in 1941. There were talks of the palace being rebuilt but the development group failed to meet the criteria and 16-month deadline. So the project was terminated. 

The Gherkin

The Gherkin is a large glass building in London. It’s so named because it resembles a gherkin or cucumber. It was designed by Foster+Partners and is one of the UK’s most recognizable modernist buildings. The design features diagonal bracing and the glass is double-glazed. 

Despite its curved shape, only one piece of curved glass was used in the construction of The Gherkin which sits at the top of the structure. The entire building consists of 5500 flat diamond-shaped panels. 

Final Thoughts 

Glass is a versatile construction material that’s been used in various ways to construct impressive skyscrapers and homes. If you want inspiration, take a look at the glass structures in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is one of the most inspiring glass structures in the modern world. If you’re looking to create interesting glass buildings, use this post as inspiration for your designs. 

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