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Glass curtain facades, glass architecture and the importance of commercial glass restoration

We may take it for granted, but architecture is one of the most important and influential ways we express our culture. Buildings across the world tell stories of the period in which they were constructed, expressing values and culture in both a visceral and beautiful way.

Glass as a building material has played a vital role in that cultural and artistic expression ever since it was first used as a building material by the Romans two thousand years ago. With the discovery of clear glass by glass blowers in Alexandria around 100 AD, the Romans began using glass in residential and commercial building projects.

Throughout the centuries, architects across the globe have used glass in fresh and exciting ways, reinventing architectural design and pushing new boundaries in constructive technology. We can observe formidable examples of this in the late 1800s and following decades when architects and constructive designers leaned towards what is now known as the glass age; a trend where the dizzying angles and bright lights of newly constructed buildings spoke of the political views of the moment.

As technology progressed and glass standards improved, architects became braver in their use of glass across all types of commercial buildings. Early examples include Crystal Palace, featuring one of the world’s first glass curtain walls constructed in 1851, and Oriel Chambers in Liverpool (circa 1864) which features the world’s first metal framed glass curtain wall.

The Glass Curtain Facade at Crystal Palace London

The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park featured one of the world’s first glass curtain wall facades. Sadly the building was destroyed by a fire in 1936. (Credit: Wikipedia)

These early examples of curtain wall glazing represented a giant leap forward for commercial construction, demonstrating a level of architectural prowess that would reshape our construction industry forever.

Inspired by the glass designs of Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, high-rise commercial buildings across America would soon feature glazed facades. By the 1950s, architects would build high-rise buildings featuring fully glazed facades such as the one seen on Lever House in New York, constructed in the early 1950s.

Today, commercial architecture makes use of glass walls and facades in unique and awe-inspiring ways to create modern and environmentally friendly building designs. In this article we explore three notable examples, looking at the importance of commercial glass restoration and commercial window restoration in preserving the aesthetic and longevity of the glass used to make these buildings stand out.

The Glass Curtain Facade at Lever House in New York

Lever House in New York stands today as an early example of glazed facades on a high-rise building. (Credit: Wikipedia)

London’s immaculate Shard

Let’s look to the more present-day for an example of stunning glass-wall architecture: The Shard in London. Completed only recently in 2012, this soaring design pierces the skyline of our capital in a captivating manner that can’t be ignored. Clocking in at over 300 metres tall, this building was brought into being from the design efforts of the famous architect Renzo Piano.

Practically speaking, the glass curtain architecture of the Shard belies a diverse interior that is home to hundreds of offices, shops, eateries and hotels. The towering structure even has a residential space which lives alongside more commercial areas and enterprises. It’s a proud new element of the London Bridge Quarter.

How does this speak to the past? Simple: The gentle incline and sweeping glass-wall curve of the Shard is architect Renzo Piano’s reference to the designs common to sail ships and churches often seen in and around the Thames in the past. Historical references aside, the Shard is modelled on a shard of glass (hence the name) and its 11,000 glass panels have a total area of 56,000 square metres.

The Basque, Bilbao

Juan Carloss Coll Barreu: Quite the name and quite the architect! The Basque Health Department HQ is bold, to say the least. Chamfering, a carpentry technique where edges are sliced away to create sloping surfaces, is the defining feature of the Basque. It’s a lot to take in, and the atypical design of the structure goes with its glass façade to make an impression that sticks in the mind – and divides opinions thereafter.

The principles of the bewildering design of the Basque are appropriate: The Health Department wanted a building which clearly and boldly reflected the many different opinions, specialisms and backgrounds in the teams and professionals that form the department. Another classic example of how important a building’s glass façade is in portraying the message and goal of the people and companies within it.

The Point, London

The Paddington Basin is home to a rather special building. The Point was designed by Terry Farrel Architects with practicality in mind. A stunning glass-wall façade coats a building that is extremely important for both local residents and businesses.

The Point was completed in 2003 after a smooth construction project commenced three years prior. Nowadays, its glass curtain façade and unique design command attention and stand out with aesthetic appeal in the area it’s situated within.

The importance of commercial glass façade restoration

But with vast expanses of glass come vast maintenance responsibilities. The See Brilliance team are proud to have helped keep the aesthetic appeal of The Point alive and at its best, providing glass curtain facade restoration services from a specialist team who removed accumulated stains, pollution and limescale using a top-down cleaning process that left the structure good-as-new.

Nigel Bennett, Special Projects Lead at See Brilliance, explains:

“Sheer walls of vertical, curving glass meant our team had to complete a top-down, methodical cleaning job, removing stains and limescale from the glass structure using specialist products and techniques. We’re happy to say that they excelled in their task and the various faces of the building are once again gleaming as a result!’”

See Brilliance glass facade restoration and cleaning services

If you’d like to chat with the See Brilliance team directly, we’re right here and happy to talk. Call us today on 01635 230888 or email our specialists directly on [email protected].

See Brilliance has over 30 years of experience in specialist restorative cleaning of metal, glass and stone. We can provide glass wall restoration, façade and cladding restoration, DOFF Steam Cleaning, commercial graffiti removal, and much more, all across the UK.

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