Philip Johnson said, “Architecture is the art of how to waste space.” And what better way to do it than by using glass! In a world where the cost of building materials, labour and design processes can hinder creativity, it’s a wonder such amazing structures get built. However, when it comes to glass – one of the most beautiful, extravagant, and perhaps underrated materials – inspiration appears to flow freely. This creativity needs to be celebrated, so here is a countdown of the 10 most inspiring glass buildings in the world…
10. 30 St Mary Axe, London, UK (2003)
Image: Jim Linwood (Source)
This building, more commonly known as ‘The Gherkin’ was built in 2003 and designed by Norman Foster. The Gherkin has very quickly become a celebrated design in the UK. It has catapulted itself into London’s business heart and is instantly recognisable by its shape. This tower uses energy efficient methods, using half the amount of power that similar sized buildings would use.
9. Gas Natural HQ, Barcelona, Spain (2005)
This building stands out as one of the tallest buildings in Spain. It has an innovative design with blocks protruding from the sides. Built in 2005, it houses the Gas Natural Headquarters.
8. The Great Glass House, Carmarthenshire, Wales (2000)
Designed by Norman Foster and Partners the structure was built between 1995 and 2000. It is the largest single span glass house in the world and looks like a gigantic water drop on Wales’ landscape. The Great Glass House became the centrepiece for the National Botanic Garden in Wales.
7. Reichstag Dome, Berlin, Germany (1999)
Image: Roberto Arias (Source)
This glass dome provides a 360 degree view over the city of Berlin and is situated on top of the Reichstag. Berlin is one of the most interesting cities for architecture. Old buildings are preserved and share space with building’s of contemporary design, so despite the Reichstag Dome’s unusual look, it still manages to work in this once war-torn city, where the landscape is as diverse as its history.
6. The Farnsworth House, Chicago, USA (1951) – Can you see the glass?
Image: Benjamin Lipsman (Source)
Designed by celebrated architect Ludwig Mies van de Rohe, what’s most spectacular about this house is the true transparency throughout. This simple yet breath-taking design was supposed to represent Mies Van de Rohe’s personality and embody true modernist architecture.
5. Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre), Paris, France (1989)
This is the main entrance to the famous Louvre museum, designed by architect I. M. Pei. Not only does it serve the purpose of welcoming the museum guests, but structurally it distributes the weight of the flood of daily visitors evenly. The structure was built with this in mind, and commissioned because the previous entrance couldn’t withstand the weight much longer.
4. Hotel W, 2009, Barcelona, Spain
Image: Andrey Belenko (Source)
This gigantic sail-shaped hotel was designed by the architect Ricardo Bofill and is situated on Barcelona’s coastline. Finished in 2009, it’s already become a landmark. This contemporary building seems somewhat out of place on the beach, however its concept is admirable because of its shape and the way it reflects the sea around the building.
3. The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic (1996)
Image: Jason Wu (Source)
A controversial concept at the time, the building, which was designed by Vlado Milunić, is an homage to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and was formerly called ‘Fred and Ginger’. The building looks oddly warped as it represents the two actors dancing. It is also known as ‘The Drunk House’ and has become an attraction due to its strangeness and stark contrast to the old and stunning buildings of Prague.
2. World Trade Centre, Manama, Bahrain (2008)
Image: Jan Michael Pfeiffer (Source)
The towers, designed by architectural firm Atkins are not only remarkable structurally, but they also have the environmentally beneficial bonus of creating energy through wind turbines placed on each of the three skybridges between the towers. The clever positioning of glass panes on the sides gives the illusion of hollowness.
1. National Centre for the Performing Arts, Bejing, China (2007)
This architecturally stunning design was built in 2007 and designed by French architect Paul Andreu. It is known among natives as ‘The Bird Egg’ – the titanium and glass building is surrounded by an artificial lake, making the dome appear like as an oval shape at first glance. In the architectural world, this is considered a masterpiece and I fully agree. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the art of architecture both in design and execution. The addition of the manmade lake around it is a stroke of genius and as much a part of this performing arts centre as the glass covered exterior.
Tower blocks are being phased out in many major cities, making room for more attractive buildings – as a much more timeless material, glass will play a big part in this.
With innovations always around the corner, and the creativity of designers seemingly never-ending, we’re sure to see more remarkable designs coming through, perhaps even transcending the globe throughout not just cities, but towns and even villages too.
So as you can see, not all glass buildings – even the likes of everyday conservatories – are the same, which begs the question – what have I missed?
This post comes courtesy of Lia Schopmeyer from our “make a guest post” page. Got a great lead, product find or idea? Share yours and it could make it on the 2Modern blog!