Glass in Architecture - Summer Wonders #ArchiTalks

Phew! I made it through 2 whole weeks of summer school.  You see, I've been busy teaching a class for Summer Wonders at Ace Academy, a local school for gifted kids, called "Architecture Through The Looking Glass".  Here's a peek into my class about glass in architecture. The course introduces young kids to a world of architectural studies, where the boundaries between science and art are blurred, just as much as the separation between discovery and imagination.  It's a space where I believe kids thrive. They effortlessly juggle reality and fantasy.  And that makes for a great architect.

Course curriculum summary

Over 10 days, we wove the history of glass with the history of architecture, threading the past with the present, and imagining the future.

What is glass? What are its characteristics? What is it made of? Is it available in nature? We studied natural glass in contrast to manmade glass, and made the journey from ancient glass-making to modern glass manufacturing - all in the context of how this magical material has transformed architecture.

What is the role of glass in architecture? What was architecture before glass vs. now? From medieval castles to elaborate renaissance cathedrals to contemporary skyscrapers, the exploration of glass as a building material has played a critical role in the evolution of architectural styles through history.

What did we learn?

We traveled through time to see the ancient architecture of Egypt, India, and the Americas; the innovative designs of the Greeks and Romans; and their evolution to Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

“Let there be light” got a whole new meaning when glass rondels and stained glass windows were incorporated into the churches and palaces. We’ve come a long way since then in just the last 150 years.

We explored the fascinating art of blown and spun glass as seen in the amazing creations of Chihuly, and finally the mass manufacturing of float glass as seen all around us in our present day.

The kids learnt about the post-industrial-revolution era of glass buildings and the green house effect. They constructed their own version of the Crystal Palace. They were introduced to modern architecture and the minimalist period, when the 'Glass House' designed by Architect Philip Johnson was made possible, thanks to the wonder of glass. We studied the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, and Apple's flagship store, also known as the Glass Cube, in New York City.

Today, we live in the glass age.

Is glass breakable? Bendable? Stronger than steel? You might be surprised to learn that our traditional ideas about glass are being shattered as we speak.

Structural glass buildings, intelligent glass, laminated glass decks and stairs, building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glass panels, etc., celebrate advancements in glass technology.  We build taller and taller skyscrapers clad in glass curtain walls, no matter the climate.  As seen in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, which holds the record for the world's tallest installation of an aluminum and glass facade. The architectural glass provides solar and thermal "protection" as well as an anti-glare shield from the intense desert sun, extreme diurnal variations, and strong winds.  Sigh!

So, what does the future hold? What innovations can we expect to see in glass technology in the coming years? Last but not least, the kids participated in a design exercise where they have to imagine and design the buildings of their future.

Multi-sensory learning

The idea acknowledges that kids learn in different ways and that students learn best when information is presented in different modalities - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. In that spirit, the course was peppered with visual presentations, discussions, and hand-on activities that resulted in a lot of projects.  Projects with large footprints. Sorry parents!

Learning by doing - glass in architecture

Kids love making stuff.  Of course!  They learn by doing!  And what's an architecture class without some model-making.

The kids built post and beam structures, pyramids, and tepees.  They built green houses, and skyscrapers.

I was amazed at how fast they were able to decide what they were going to make. They were always eager to head down to the treasure room to pick up materials from the piles of recycled everyday stuff. I found myself repeating the concept of planning vs. doing. But, they didn't waste time planning, they immediately got to work.

The kids made art with sugar glass. They designed and created rose windows.

Learning visually - glass in architecture

The kids loved the slideshow presentations and videos.  Below are links to some of the short videos we watched.

Blown Glass - Genuine Rondels Rolled Glass Float Glass Greenhouse effect The Glass Age - Who doesn't love the MythBusters? Part 1 & Part 2 Our Future - glass in architecture and our lives

Overall, it was a great experience for me.  And the kids, I hope!

As a mother of 2 young kids, I'm no stranger to the unbounded energy and passion that children posses.  But, teaching K-6th graders from 9am-3pm took my understanding to another level.  I have a renewed appreciation for teachers and what they do to for our children.  Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, right!  So, my heartfelt thank you to all you teachers out there, for your hard work, your creativity, and for pouring your heart into our kids future.



This post is a contribution to the #Architalks series of blog posts.  For other blog posts on “Summer”, please click on links below.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) Summer is a Great Time To Market Your Architecture Firm!

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) Summer : A Review

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti) summer working, had me a blast

Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel) Lake Powell

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) Seasons of Summer

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect) The Dog Days of Summer

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome) Summer -- Architecture Imagery

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel) #Architalks 20 "summer" and architecture

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC) 4 Secrets To Getting The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) Summer Surprise

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley) An Acrophobic Architect's Illuminating Summer of Roofs

Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent) 4 Reasons Solar Power is a Hot Topic

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia) Seasonal change

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept) ... and the livin's easy

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell) Summer Rhythms

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum) Do I Need to Hire an Architect?

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch) An Architectural Spark for your Summer

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu) Summer in Seoul

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign) [Dis]Connected Summer

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch) 5 Things to Make the Most of Your Summer

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey) An Architect Summer