In a previous post, “senseless”, we considered the paradoxical nature of glass, strong in compression but also brittle, clear but easy to foul
Playing with these opposite aspects of the material is key feature for designer and engineers. Recently the use of glass privilege the view, and therefore glass main property, transparency, in wider surfaces, everywhere with just glass. Regardless its potential flow, glass participates to the comfort of the envelop and even its safety .
FIG: Chamonix Skywalk Pic de L’aiguille du Midi France Designer: P-Y Chays 2013
Transparency now comes with a thrill ! a safe and “comfortable “thrill, but still, standing on a glass floor or in a glass box above a void makes you, not only, feel the transparency but also challenges your vertigo. When experiencing a “skyslide”, in Los Angeles, or a sky pool in Dubai , Transparency is there to be felt by your whole body as if you were floating into the landscape.
FIG: Skyslide Los Angeles – Skypool Intercontinnental Dubai
FIG: Glass Ledge deck Sears (Willis) Tower Chicago Architects: SOM 2009
FIG: Jasper National Park glass walkway Alberta Canada 2014 – Grand Canyon Glass Walk Architect: M. R. Johnson 2003
“Floating” is meant literally with some sky pool projects. Even if glass is replaced by Pmma mostly , to remove part of the brittleness , the same aims and paradox are underlying these pool, thrill/ safety / floating / in the water/air up high.
It also refers to one of the recurrent Science fiction movie cliché, which most often need to show a scene with a body in weightlessness, being cut from earth gravity. With a bit of imagination you “almost fly” at no risks. Even if there is still a glass floor and if it is a bit fake.
When the floor becomes a glass box, you are immerged into a 360° viewing device, the almost perfect omnivision tool. Transparency is not only an extended plane, it surrounds your body….
FIG: Event Horizon Director: P Anderson 1997 – wingsuit jump
This trend reveals two aspects of the use of glass.
The first one is this notion of enlarged transparency which go beyond making the window bigger, surrounding you to achieve omnivision.
The second is this combination of using glass with experimenting something “extreme”, even if it a soft and safe extrem, similarly as in an attraction park, it shows that playing with ones fears, being at the limit of comfort is one way to push one the paradoxical nature of glass, but there are more than toughness / brittlemess.
In fact, if breakage is certainly the most common flow of glass, many other flows or unattended consequences of glass could be considered, such as glare, optical distortions, concentration of heat and light, moiré effects….
If you allow bright spot, high intensity contrast, far more disturbing or at least as much as the fear of breaking can be exploited as a source of discomfort but also as some field of design potential, a large range of glass composition open up which can extend much wider the use of glass which also play with its paradoxical nature.