Archive for September, 2010

Such Great Heights

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The accelerated urbanisation of western countries in the latter part of the 19th century saw the appearance of the first sky scrapers – a revolution in architecture that brought glass to the forefront of construction.  One of the first buildings in the world to incorporate the core principles of sky scraper design was Oriel Chambers in Liverpool, Merseyside – not too far from the home of Pilkington.

When Oriel Chambers was unveiled in 1864 commentators were sceptical about the building, particularly its use of glass as one person described it as “an agglomeration of great glass bubbles’’. Regardless of early criticisms, this humble five story office block influenced grander projects in the USA like the Home Insurance Building in Chicago and the Waignwright Building in St Louis that were considered the world’s first true sky scrapers.

Oriel Chambers, Liverpool

Moving into the 20th century the size of sky scrapers rose vertically as they grew to dominate city skylines from Melbourne to Tokyo and London and to New York. The increase in size led to more glass being required to cover vast iron frames leading to a demand for specialist window cleaners who were tasked with scaling dizzy heights to clean the glass exterior.  Completing this maintenance work was a dangerous occupation as health and safety regulations were non-existent and only basic equipment was used to ensure workers safety, as the pictures below reveal.

A Window Cleaner at Rockefeller Center, New York City

Restoring the Glass Roof of the Alexandra Palace in London, 1933

In 2010, modern technology has improved the working conditions of window maintenance specialists particularly those workings at vertigo inducing heights. However, they have not dramatically altered the key ingredients to keep glass clean, soap and water. The world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the best example of this as its 206 storeys covered by 120,0000 square meters of glass and is still cleaned by hand using soap and water.  The building is cleaned all year round and is done so by a team of 36 workers who are transported around the building’s exterior in state of the art machines along a track, not too dissimilar to a rollercoaster, although much slower! This state of the art cleaning system cost £4.6 million to build and is the only way to keep the windows clean in the dusty desert conditions.

Pilkington glass is also striving to develop glass technologies that reduce the amount of time and money spent on maintaining glass structures of all sizes. Pilkington Activ™ self – cleaning glass is doing just that, and uses the forces of nature to maintain a cleaner and clearer appearance. In a dual-action process, organic dirt is broken down by daylight and is then washed away by rain, thus making it environmentally friendly and very easy to maintain.

Burji Khalifa in Dubai is maintained by state of the art equipment

Sky Walking

Friday, September 17th, 2010

It’s hard to see how you could improve on the views over The Grand Canyon. But new innovations in glass technology are making this most dramatic of vistas even more dazzling – and changing the way we look at the world’s most breathtaking sights.

Viewing the planet and all its wonders through glass, is something humans have been doing for hundreds of years. Whether it’s peeping into a spy glass, telescope or window, our take on the world has often to be filtered through a frame.

Now, a new generation of tougher, smarter, more resilient structures – architectural pieces with endless potential for looking beautiful – are offering new ways of using glass to experience the world and its wonders.

They are enabling visitors to appreciate the planet’s most breath-taking sights up close and showcasing the work of glass manufacturers like Pilkington. Here at Pilkington glass UK, we are always keen to celebrate glazing innovation – and highlight new ways glass can make life amazing.

And these stunning walkways, glass skylights, viewing platforms and floor-to-ceiling windows are a sight to behold – and something we’ll all be seeing more of.

The biggest and best of them all, and one that’s inspiring us and making our hearts sing right now, is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. These pictures say it all – about the stunning scenery, the epic scale and the sheer audacity of building a path this high.

A triumph of engineering and glass technology over nature, it puts visitors at the very heart of the canyon – spiritually and physically.  We love everything about this amazing creation but we’re aware these things are subjective so feel free to get in touch and tell more us more about the glass structures you admire most.

Suspended 4,000 feet (1219 metres) above the Colorado River and costing £15.3 million, the 70 feet long path is the world’s highest glass floor.

The brainchild of architect Mark Johnson, it can support the weight of up to 120 people and will withstand winds of up to 100mph, with the overhanging section containing shock absorbers to keep it from bouncing like a diving board.

Opened in March 2007, the U-shaped glass structure has attracted more than 1 million visitors and become the globe’s most recognisable cantilever structure. Since then, it’s spawned hundreds of imitations and continues to make lots of people very happy – us included

The Benefits of Interior Glass

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The aesthetic benefit of glass allows for it to be used inside the home as well as outside, with many people opting to use it for different interior functions.  From walls to flooring and kitchen cabinets to banisters, glass is now deemed an essential part of interior design and can complement and improve the appearance of any room.

This trend is also very accommodating because glass is a versatile material that can fit into practically any design style, from Victorian to contemporary. With this in mind, we are going to take a peek at a couple of homes that are being discussed on cool design blogs to hopefully provide readers with inspiration on how they could integrate glass into their own home.

To kick things off we are going all the way to Melbourne, Australia to take a look at the Cubby House; a renovated apartment that was brought to our attention by the fantastic design blog ‘We Heart’. As the images below reveal, the apartment’s interior makes great use of glass.  We especially like the banister on the landing and the single pane of glass used to separate the shower room.

Cubby House Landing

The opulent YTL Residence in Kuala Lumpur is home to a Malaysian power family and uses glass throughout the interior to enhance the already spacious feel of the rooms. Glass was used in almost every single room and provides an open plan feel to an interior that has over a dozen rooms. The best illustration of this is the master bedroom which is divided from the ensuite bathroom with a sliding glass wall (pictured below). More images of this outstanding property can be viewed on the ‘Cool Hunter’ blog here.

Bedroom in YTL Residence

Pilkington provide glass for all kinds of exceptional properties, as our involvement with leading Australian architect, Malcolm Carver’s, tree house demonstrates. Carver constructed his tree house entirely out of glass using Pilkington materials to create walkways, staircases and interior walls. He used Pilkington Activ self cleaning class to construct the building’s exterior to minimise the cleaning regime and keep the structure in pristine condition.

Situated at MacMasters Beach on the North Central Coast of New South Wales, the house is perched on stilts among eucalyptus trees, metres above the steeply sloping ground level, a fabulous location but one that would otherwise multiply the cleaning problems.

MacMasters Tree House Interior

Carver described the performance of the glass as ‘phenomenal’: “We have never had to clean it even though we are right by the ocean with its salt-laden winds and mist,” he said. “There is also the debris and sap falling from the surrounding eucalypts, along with bird droppings and other soiling, but the first rain shower along strips it all as clean as a whistle it always looks as if the window cleaners have just left!”



Tree House Exterior

The buildings featured in this blog post show that using glass in less traditional ways can add style and substance to your living space. From a standard apartment like Cubby House to more opulent dwellings, glass,/strong> can be deployed to meet the expectations of any imagination and Pilkington can help homeowners realise these visions.