In the mid-1920s a physiologist, a glass chemist, and a zoo embarked on a project which promised to turn buildings into medical instruments. The advanced chemistry of "Vita" Glass mobilised theories of light and medicine, health practices and glassmaking technology to compress an entire epoch’s hopes for a healthy life into a glass sheet – yet it did so invisibly.
To communicate its advantage, Pilkington Bros. spared no expense as they launched the most costly and sophisticated marketing campaign in their history. Engineering need for "Vita" Glass employed leading-edge market research, evocative photography and vanguard techniques of advertising psychology, accompanied by the claim: "Let in the Health Rays of Daylight Permanently through "Vita" Glass Windows."
This is the story of how, despite the best efforts of two glass companies, the leading marketing firm of the day, and the opinions of leading medical minds, "Vita" Glass failed. However, it epitomised an age of lightness and airiness, sleeping porches, flat roofs and ribbon windows. Moreover, through its remarkable print advertising, it strove to shape the ideal relationship between our buildings and our bodies.
Table of Contents
1. The Healthful Ambience of Vitaglass: Light, Glass and the Curative Environment, Part I: Environments, 2. The Scientific Evaluation of Light, from Newton to Ritter to Maxwell, 3. Revolutions in Glass, 4. Specific Definitions and Visualisations of Disease, 5. Towards a Curative Environment, Part II: Bodies, 6. Needy Bodies: Fleetwood Pritchard and the "Vita" Glass Marketing Board, 7. Magical Bodies: The Promise of Weather Control, Labour-savings, Transparency, 8.Normal Bodies: Scientific Management, Ideal Childhood, and Biological Processes, 9. Short-Lived Bodies: The Lifespan of the Therapeutic Environments of the 1920s and 1930s, 10. Shaping Bodies: Marketing Material Performance
John Stanislav Sadar is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Monash University, Australia, and a partner of Little Wonder design studio. Having studied architecture at McGill University, Aalto University and the University of Pennsylvania, he is interested in the way our technological artefacts mediate the relationship between our bodies and the environment.