Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture
Material, Culture, and Technology
Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture brings to light complex readings of transparent glass through close observations of six pivotal works of architecture. Written from the perspectives of a practitioner, the six essays challenge assumptions about fragility and visual transparency of glass.
A material imbued with idealism and utopic vision, glass has captured architects’ imagination, and glass’s fragility and difficulties in thermal control continue to present technical challenges. In recent decades, architecture has witnessed an emergence of technological advancements in chemical coating, structural engineering, and fabrication methods that resulted in new kinds of glass transparencies. Buildings examined in the book include a sanatorium with expansive windows delivering light and air to recovering tuberculosis patients, a pavilion with a crystal clear glass plenum circulating air for heating and cooling, a glass monument symbolizing the screen of personal devices that shortened the distance between machines and humans, and a glass building symbolizing the social and material intertwining in the glass ceiling metaphor.
Connecting material glass to broader cultural and social contexts, Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture enlightens students and practitioners of architecture as well as the general public with interest in design. The author demonstrates how glass is rarely crystal clear but is blurred both materially and metaphysically, revealing complex readings of ideas for which glass continues to stand.
Table of Contents
Foreword by James Carpenter
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Matter Infused with Spirit: Sanatorium Zonnestraal’s Healing Glass Transparency
Chapter 3: Mirroring Ipswich: Contextual glass transparency of the Willis Building
Chapter 4: Cracking the glass ceiling of a crystal palace: The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Chapter 5: Air, Light, and Liquid in Motion: The Glass Pavilion in Toledo
Chapter 6: Impermanent Monument for Intimate Machines: Apple’s Glass Cube
Chapter 7: Quasi-Transparency of Harpa Concert Hall
Aki Ishida is Associate Professor of Architecture at Virginia Tech and a registered architect.
"This well considered volume on glass is a pleasure to read for those of us who are fascinated by material exploration and detail. Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture engages both academic and practicing architects and will certainly be required reading for both. I am asking all of my studio colleagues to read it."
— Julie Snow, Founding Design Principal, Snow Kreilich Architects
"Aki Ishida’s thoroughly researched and thoughtful Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture reveals essential truths. It should serve as a clear demonstration of the importance of reflection and scholarship by practitioners, providing insights at the intersections of craft, technology, and history. As we struggle with the blurriness of transparency across our culture and society, such detailed and subtle insights into the physical construction of transparency provides not just these discoveries, but an essential window into the larger condition also."
— Nicholas de Monchaux, Craigslist Distinguished Chair in New Media and Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California, Berkeley
"Any design student, and every design instructor, should read this book. In six historically grounded case studies Aki Ishida show how a presumably familiar material—glass—can, through manufacturing advances and novel design, remain a source of innovation, surprise, and discovery."
— Sandy Isenstadt, Professor of Modern Architecture, University of Delaware
"Aki Ishida's investigations recall Bauhaus pedagogy where design emerges from the artistry of studying a substantive material. She choreographs physical qualities of glass alongside experiential gestalt, environmental systems beside a social milieu. Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture is an essential read for a spectrum of design enthusiasts."
— Heather Woofter, Sam and Marilyn Fox Professor, Director of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, Washington University in St. Louis
"Unique to Ishida’s book is its capacity to interweave architectural history, cultural interpretation, building construction analysis and the acumen that can only come from first-hand observation of the buildings studied. A practicing architect, educator and installation artist working across fields, Ishida provides a comprehensive resume of glass architecture’s development from the 19th century to the present, always set in relation to the history of its reception in the popular imagination and in scholarly studies. At the same time, she never neglects the building as physical artifact, with all its spatial, material and technical complexities. Her chosen case studies, ranging from canonical early 20th century buildings to more controversial recent projects in the US and Europe, integrate into a logical narrative all the aspects of glass architecture that a thinking architect, a critical student or a curious layperson would want to explore."
— Lynnette Widder, Lecturer in the Discipline of Sustainability Management, Columbia University
"This book may be the most exciting exploration of cultural and social connotations and the architectural reading of glass as a modern building material since Paul Scheerbart’s prophetical publication Glasarchitektur of 1914. It takes us from the clear-cut modernist perception of this diaphanous material to the multi-faceted appreciation of its transparency in recent years. A revealing book for architects and anyone who has an interest in the turbulent development of contemporary architecture."
— Wessel de Jonge, architect, professor of Heritage & Design, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
"Glass is a ubiquitous material, yet its qualities are not easily describable or predictable. Transparency, translucency, reflectance, refraction, and coloration are all visual properties that make glass a chameleon-like substance that transforms with changes in illumination and perspective. One can appreciate the indescribable qualities of glass when attempting to represent it in a drawing…In addition, the technological capacity of glass is evolving at a swift pace—enabling innovative building applications not previously possible. // Aki Ishida, AIA, addresses the advances and ever-changing qualities of glass in [this book]… In her book, Ishida calls upon her combined background in practice and academia to evaluate the technical achievements and conceptual implications of glass as a contemporary building material… The in-depth case studies of how glass is used in these buildings enhance our appreciation for this inscrutable material and its development in recent years."
— Blaine Brownell. (May 2022). Contemporary Glass: An Instrument of Light, Shadow, and Reflection. ARCHITECT Magazine. https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/exhibits-books-etc/contemporary-glass-an-instrument-of-light-shadow-and-reflection_o