Go on. Admit it. The thought of glass blocks probably makes you shudder. Unless you fall into the 5%* category of new generation designers who have already embraced the potential of this highly misunderstood and marginalised building material. (*btw, this statistic is entirely subjective and quite probably completely inaccurate – just sayin’!)
This versatile construction staple was introduced to commercial architecture nearly 100 years ago, and since then it became widely used by renowned architects around the world in the creation of iconic buildings. Alas, throughout the late 70s and early 80s, glass block was mocked and ridiculed, having fallen prey to ill use by average architects, and various dicky applications on shoddy ‘feature walls’. Excuse me ‘average architects’ and/ or propagators of said ‘feature walls’ (excuse me while I go vom under my desk for a second) – why did you have to mess it up for everyone, and do a disservice to the poor old glass block? This delicate material is capable of producing the sweetest of results in the hands of masters, but the minute it is used incorrectly, it becomes instantly cringe-worthy – much like make-up, hairspray, shoulder pads and flavours like salt and vinegar, I suppose.
Glass blocks, or glass bricks as they are also widely referred to, date back to the late 1880s when they were produced in squares and hexagonal shapes by Swiss Architect & Engineer Gustave Falconnier. In the 1930’s, further development of machine production created more advanced types of glass bricks which became easier to work with. Designed to be laid in the traditional style of masonry, glass blocks quickly became known for their ground-breaking qualities. This adaptable, modular and thermally stable material allowed for the flow of light without sacrificing privacy. Jackpot.
In the late 90s, French luxury brand Hermès enlisted the of-the-moment prolific architect Renzo Piano to create their iconic 10-story Tokyo’s Ginza headquarters, constructed of 13,000 bespoke square glass blocks.
There have, of course, been many other less dramatic but equally interesting projects in both commercial and residential sectors of late, which have heralded the comeback of this oft-misunderstood material.
Today we explore the finest examples of glass bricks in contemporary architecture and interiors, as well as paying homage to the handful of design classics. While ranging in application, scale and type of glass blocks utilised, each project presented here has been selected on its merit for delivering soaring visual statements that celebrate the goodness of good ol’ glass blocks. Hallelujah!
Poesia Glass Bricks from Brickworks.
And whilst we’re at it, our friends at Brickworks have just launched a lust-worthy collection of Glass Bricks called Poesia, Australia’s first crystal-clear glass brick collection. Drawing on the fine quality, craft traditions and refined beauty of Italian glass-making, Austral Bricks’ Poesia transforms Italy’s famous Murano glass-making techniques into high-quality clear glass bricks available in a standard format (230 mm x 110 mm x 76 mm). The collection offers three elegant finishes (natural, polished and frosted) and five delicious colourways (Arctic Crystal, Aqua Marine, Blue Sapphire, Golden Amber and Smokey Quartz). Yummo!