Out of the ordinary

Decorative glass shows up in unconventional places

A cruise ship’s fused glass panels glow as a partition wall

A gas station in Los Angeles features channel glass that encloses the convenience store, while a cruise ship’s fused glass panels glow as a partition wall. Primarily used in restaurants, storefronts, high-end commercial spaces and luxury homes, decorative glass now shows up in non-traditional spaces. More functional, durable and sophisticated options have made their way in the United States across the ocean from Europe, and are turning up in vivid designs in the most unexpected locations. Modern architects specify more decorative glass to have their creations stand out from the rest, and the market provides innovative technology to make their dreams come true. The following feature discusses two unusual applications of decorative glass. LA station lights up with channel glass Gas stations occupy three corners of the busy Slauson and La Brea intersection in Los Angeles. A United Oil gas station is set to open this spring on the fourth corner. The nearly completed station will compete with its nearby rivals on more than just cost—it’s going to compete on looks, says Marc Fink, sales and marketing manager for Bendheim Wall Systems, Passaic, N.J. The $5 million station, designed by Los Angeles’ Stephen Kanner, features a sweeping canopy over retro-looking pumps, an all-glass façade and a large-scale decorative jewel—a curved textured channel glass wall surrounding the convenience store that will look like a glowing box at night, Fink says. “With gas stations at all other corners, the design of [United Oil] will set it apart,” Fink says. “There are tens of thousands of commuters going by that corner who will see this glowing box and will choose to get gas and to get their car washed there. “Car washes and gas stations are generally designed to be utilitarian at best. … This station is going to be a type of iconic building. This station is where the Jetsons would buy gas,” Fink says. The United Oil station features the longest channel glass planks used on the exterior of a project in the United States, says Jim Donoghue, director of technical services, Bendheim Wall Systems. Germany’s Lambert’s manufactured the 22 1¼2-foot Linit channel planks; Bendheim supplied the glass. The 1,650 square feet of channel glass planks feature the 504 Rough Texture. Most of the channels are tempered, 100 percent heat-soak tested and certified by the Safety Glazing Certification Council, Sackets Harbor, N.Y. The remaining planks are annealed. The channel glass wall design presented notable challenges for the Bendheim engineers and the team at glazing contractor Giroux Glass, Los Angeles. The curved wall consists of double-glazed channels, with the inner and outer channel glass units forming a 2-inch airspace. The wall is interrupted by a canopy, a door and a punched opening for a window, Donoghue says. “The problem with a punched opening in channel glass is how you hold the window—it can’t be held in place just by the glass,” he says. Engineers developed a steel structure to go inside the wall that supports the window frame. In addition, the wall is an ellipse. “The metal extrusions had to be curved accurately and designed to allow for common errors in steel,” Donoghue says. Bendheim supplied the clear, anodized and thermally broken frames that hold the channels at the top and bottom. Giroux glaziers bent the metal pieces to form the ellipse. Giroux’s Design Residential Department completed the job, says Rick Lawler, project manager. “In our division, we’re normally doing custom installations for very high-end houses. We’re used to doing the custom work like what was required for this job,” he says. While Lawler has worked with channel glass on previous projects, the height of the planks and the curved shape of the wall produced additional hurdles for the team. “The channel glass in this project is so tall, and the longer channels tend to bend slightly,” Lawler says. “We bent the metal to fit the elliptical shape, but the channels did not line up exactly how we wanted in the frames.” The curving channel glass façade also needed to seamlessly meet the flat-glass façade, requiring meticulous work by the Giroux team. “This system on both sides had to tie into the 1¼4-inch tempered flat glass [system] that is 16 feet tall,” Lawler says. Glasswerks, Los Angeles, supplied the flat glass; Giroux Glass fabricated the framing. Custom glazing such as that on the United Oil is becoming the norm for the Giroux team, Lawler says. “Designers and owners want to have something unique,” Lawler says. “… The limitations are only as much as they can dream up. They design and our structural engineers figure out how we can build it.” Channel glass, specifically, is growing in demand amongst designers as they look for large- and small-scale decorative elements in their façades. Bendheim has been called to supply glass for other structures that generally feature more traditional glazing, including a parking garage in Santa Monica, Calif., a waste water treatment facility in Carlsbad, Calif., and a prison in Linden, N.J., Fink says. Lawler says he’s already seeing growth in channel glass, including uses of the product in high-end residential locations. Lee Whiteside, manager for the Design Residential Department at Giroux, agrees. “With today’s architects, you never know what will be next, and to me, that’s what it’s all about,” Whiteside says. “It’s about taking new systems and technologies and pushing it to the limit.” Southwest on the high seas The owners of the Princess Cruises in Santa Clarita, Calif., had a concept in mind for two new ships and contacted an art group in the state to help make it a reality. That relationship led them to Art in Metal U.S.A. in Tempe, Ariz. The company then contacted Fusion Studios in the same city. When the new ships sailed in 2004, restaurants on the Diamond Princess and the Sapphire Princess had Southwest themes featuring fused-glass discs as dividers, glass panel window frames, and stacked glass and backlit fused glass inset panels on a wall. “[The artwork] was designed on a computer and the glass components were water jet-cut then fused into the shapes. Glass objects were embedded into the wall structures and rear-lit for final effect of a room divider,” said Richard Altman, chief executive officer of Fusion Studios. “Each metal window frame had glass panels embedded that went up and over the top and along the side like valance. In each panel was a series of South west imagery done in fused glass in different colors.” For the project, Altman used Bullseye glass from Lincoln Distributors in Tempe. The computer-aided design system helped to determine how the glass would respond to various lighting situations and with different color options, Altman said. Four sheets of glass were needed for each window frame that had 17 individual pieces of glass. The design elements were positioned on the sheets and fused in customized kilns. The ships were built in Japan. So the glass elements had to be designed for shipping overseas. The installation was done by the shipyard staff as well as staff from Art in Metal.