5 design trends from Glass Performance Days – Glass in modern buildings

Once again, over 500 glass professionals gathered in Tampere, Finland, to celebrate glass. After many workshops and excellent presentations, I am excited to see the ambition level of glass industry professionals on the rise once again. If nothing else, the Glass Performance Days reminds us that glass is a material that can truly do it all.

And as a brief reminder, I compiled five design trends that caught my attention.

1. Glass as a structural element

Let’s make something clear: structural glazing and the use of glass as a structural element are making their way to mainstream building projects.
Glass is also making its way further into interior elements, like railings and stairs. In fact, according to many GPD visitors, interior elements include more glass than ever before. And this increase is mainly due to the growing trend of glass usage as a structural element. Here are some of the most common structural glass applications:


glass buildings

Source: www.gpd.fi  © Kenny Martens, Ghent University

Laminated glass and tempered glass are important elements in structural glass design. Due to the growing appeal of using glass as a structural element, demand for tempered and laminated glass is on the rise.

Glass used in a stairwell

Source: www.gpd.fi  ©Stig Mikkelsen, MIKKELSEN Architects

2. Building reform

Traditionally, buildings with large glass facades have been described as “boxy.” The problem is that the designers don’t want boxy. Designers want to see shapes. They want to design buildings with curves and round edges too.

As glass technology moves forward, the glass industry will start to see more complex implementation. What’s best, the business side of the equation also supports this trend. The fact is that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for custom-designed facades.

curved glass facadeSource: www.gpd.fi  ©Christoph Timm, SOM Architects

3. Total transparency

Glass is loved because it’s transparent – because it has an ability to take natural light indoors. Glass also gives the feeling of openness as it increases visibility. I’ll say what many of us think: glass adds value to our lives, and that’s why the glass industry is growing at the pace it is. In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of true landmarks in transparent design. Large glass sheets and new fixing systems are enabling designs with almost full transparency.

Fun fact: One single tempered glass sheet can be more than 10 meters long – even up to 18 meters – and over 3 meters wide.

Big glass sheet 1Source: www.gpd.fi  ©James O’Callaghan, Eckersley O’Callaghan

Big glass sheet 2Source: www.gpd.fi  ©James O’Callaghan, Eckersley O’Callaghan

Here’s an example of how the glass size impacts the total transparency of a building. The building is perhaps one of the most famous Apple stores in the world. I’m talking about the one on 5th Avenue, New York.

apple storeSource: www.gpd.fi  ©James O’Callaghan, Eckersley O’Callaghan

It’s important to remember that total transparency is also made possible for the renovation market. May I note that the renovation business is growing faster than the new-building market, and it provides a huge opportunity for both designers and glass processors.

Here’s an example of how the building can look with a transparent design.

glass structureSource: www.gpd.fi  © C. Keith Boswell, Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill LLP

4. Large printed surfaces

Digital printing technologies have evolved a long way. Mostly in terms of size. The recent development in glass sizes has led to new, more innovative use of glass and printing. How about a fully customizable and transparent facade? Here’s one that will blow your socks off.

custom glassSource: www.gpd.fi  ©Heiko Mertel, seele

5. Future glass and building design

The future of glass usage remains a mystery. But today, we see more futuristic designs. Benjamin Beer presented a nice collection of futuristic glass use cases.

future glassSource: www.gpd.fi  ©Benjamin Beer, Meinhardt Façade Technology

The glass industry has gained traction in many areas, like in application development. Design concepts are evolving, and more of the listed trends are becoming available. When it comes to a good design, we need to remind ourselves that functionality is key. Keith Boswell from SOM Architects said it nicely:

“Treat each project as if it was the last one you’ll ever do.”

To maximize the successes, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make sure that the project responds to the assignment.
  2. The project respects the climate.
  3. You achieve the highest level of craft possible.
  4. You use innovative and appropriate technology.
  5. Your end product makes a statement.

If you participated in GPD 2015, let me know what your favorite highlight was. If you didn’t make it this year, I would still like to hear which one is your favorite from the trends mentioned above.

Watch the Designers view on future trends:

Want to know more?

Sign up for Glastory newsletter

Share this story

About the author