Future of Glass—From Transparency to Technology

Katy DevlinWhat’s driving future glass trends? Transparency, performance and technology, according to Lisa Rammig, senior associate for Eckersley O’Callaghan. Rammig spoke Jan. 23 during the 2019 National Glass Association Annual Conference in Naples, Florida. To meet next-generation demands, players from across the industry—from universities to façade engineering firms to glass fabricators, and more—are pushing the envelope of what’s possible with glass, developing everything from ultra-thin glasses to transparent sealants, and 3D-printed glass to oversized and curved lites, says Rammig.

The Eckersley O’Callaghan team has been instrumental in redefining the capabilities of glass. The firm, led by James O’Callaghan, has been a key player in the development of the all-glass facades and staircases found in Apple stores around the world.

“Our work with Apple amounts to the idea of creating transparent structures. … The latest generation [of Apple projects] achieves a new generation of transparency,” Rammig says. In several of the new Apple locations, the roof rests on just the glass, or on the glass and minimal column supports. “The glass completely disappears,” she says.

This design concept comes to life at the circular all-glass Steve Jobs Theater at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. “There are 44 glass panels forming a circle of 180 feet and a carbon fiber roof. The cantilevering roof is purely held by the glass,” Rammig says. “It appears that there is no connection between the roof and the floor. But, between every joint, there is a conduit, either for electricity or for water for the sprinklers.”

Key to the firm’s exploration of the possibilities of glass has been its work in non-commercial, research-based environments, including its participation in the glass technology live innovative exhibition at glasstec, held every other year in Düsseldorf, Germany. The exhibition, organized by four European universities, provides a venue for student designers, university teams, design firms and industry companies to explore next-generation glass solutions.

“You’ll see fabricators showing off new developments that might not be market ready. You’ll see a lot of student work. There will be fabricators and researchers and students working together,” Rammig says. “Sometimes the work is not always finished—it’s just ideas. At a later point, those ideas might be developed into products. It shows what might be possible in the future.”

For the 2018 glass technology live expo, Rammig and the Eckersley O’Callaghan team developed an all-glass seesaw made of 11 layers of 2-foot-wide glass, laminated together and pivoting on a transparent acrylic rod. The seesaw was a follow-up to the team’s stand-out all-glass slide, developed with glass fabricator Cricursa, which was a centerpiece of the 2016 glass technology live exhibition.  

Rammig noted other impressive glass displays from the 2018 glass technology live—thin glass, large curved glass installations, switchable displays, multi-layered laminates, 3D-printed glasses and more. The installations demonstrate what the industry can do today and where it's headed.

“Glass is becoming a medium that doesn’t just form the envelope or shelter,” Rammig says. The material can be a building support structure, a medium for communication and technological interaction, or an integrated smart system for whole-building performance. “It is amazing to work with this material,” she says. 

Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. Follow Glass Magazine on Twitter.

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