July 2010

A Colorful Presence: Pairing performance with panache, bold hues are the latest news in glazed facades.

By Jen Renzi


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Many architects choose a glass facade for its inherent invisibility: It is a medium that deflects attention from a building’s skin to its structure. But some designers have recently tapped into the material’s expressive capabilities, envisioning buildings with delightfully chromatic cladding. A host of new products has made colored glazing easier to specify — and easier to enjoy from both inside and out.

All the colors of the rainbow
Swanke Hayden Connell Architects used Chromatics’ cuttable, opaque spandrel glass to fashion a lively and uplifting facade for the King’s Mill Acute Care Hospital in Nottinghamshire, England. The glass panels, which affix to aluminum backings via a structural adhesive, can be printed with digital images or textural effects to create mural-like installations for both exterior and interior applications. The glass comes in any hue of the RAL spectrum — and can be precisely replicated in the event of future replacement. Colors derive from organic compounds and the panels contain no toxins or VOCs, rendering them recyclable at the end of their life cycle.

UV stable and distortion free, the safety glass is shatterproof, impact-resistant, and when broken, retains its functional integrity until replaced. Chromatics also offers a Toughcoat process for tempered glass, with a vapor barrier to protect the color layer. Panels come in 48'' x 118''; Toughcoat panels are 59'' x 118''. Chromatics Glass, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Textured tints
EFI now distributes Italian manufacturer Omni Décor’s line of etched, satin-finished architectural glass throughout North America. The subtly textured product is suitable for a wide array of interior and exterior applications — kitchen countertops, wall partitions, commercial facades — and has been featured in projects ranging from the Vetreria RE corporate headquarters in Milan to the Dubai International Airport. The glass is ISO 14001 certified and 100 percent recyclable, courtesy of a proprietary etching process that has a minimal environmental impact.

Smog- and stain-resistant Omni Décor is available in myriad sizes, motifs, and colorways. Select patterns and hues are stocked in the U.S. for shipment within three weeks; customization is available with about a two-month lead time. EFI, Kernersville, N.C.

Chameleonlike color
For those seeking a flexible design solution that can be changed to accommodate shifting tastes and palettes, 3form has introduced Gecko. The polyester textile, which sticks to interior and exterior glazing with a water-based solution that leaves behind no residue, can be easily removed, reapplied, or replaced as color schemes are updated. The product is sold in myriad hues and design patterns, including laser-cut perforations.

Although it is an affordable alternative to colored laminated glass, Gecko does have some limitations: The textile must be applied to fenestration from the inside of the building, which limits how it livens the facade. The low-maintenance product can, however, be cleaned with a mild detergent while it is affixed to the glazing. Gecko is sold in 56''-wide rolls. 3form, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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