You might have heard of the “broken windows” theory of crime and urban decay. Social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling theorize that a building with a few broken windows becomes a target for more vandalism and escalating crime. At the extreme, they believe that not repairing broken windows can lead to neighborhood-wide degradation due to perceived apathy of the residents.
Beyond fixing broken windows to help maintain neighborhood integrity, I believe glass plays an important role in enhancing and revitalizing urban spaces.
Look for example at Lower Manhattan, where dozens of buildings were destroyed or damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the nearly 14 years since then, the city has rebuilt itself bigger and better, with glass playing a prominent role in creating impressive new architecture. Examples include:
- Glass-clad Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center), now the tallest building in the U.S.
- Steel and glass wings of the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub
- Fulton Center transit hubThese glass gems reflect the adaptive spirit of America and provide spaces to serve and energize people every day.
Consider the glass in the Fulton Center, a light-filled space opened in November 2014 that integrates five subway stations served by nine subway lines, and includes retail and office space. Instead of the stereotypical dank, dark subway station, the Fulton Center is brightly lit with natural light. Commuter Dave Palmieri told the New York Daily News, “The light pouring in is just incredible. It’s a real modern gem. Spatially, it’s like Grand Central.”
Glass is crucial to the Fulton Center’s open, inviting atmosphere: A 53-foot diameter glass oculus streams light into a grand atrium, and the retail space and elevator core have glazed curtain walls to capture that light. Most of the 300,000 transit riders using the Fulton Center won’t notice this, but for the glass geeks among us, the curtain walls are not only beautiful, but also innovative. Notably, the center’s retail space includes both fire-rated and non-fire-rated glazed curtain walls. The thing is, they look the same.
Not long ago, fire-rated frames were bulky, not like the sleek frames and clean lines of non-fire-rated assemblies. But, with matched systems like those used in the Fulton Center, meeting fire-safety code requirements doesn’t have to be a barrier to amazing architecture.
I’m proud of the ways the glass industry has continually pioneered improvements in products such as these. In the end, it’s not just about selling more glass, but in helping create architecture that inspires and amazes.
Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and is a past chair of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). Contact him at 800/426-0279.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.