The Limits of Glass

A Structural Material?

Ignacio Paricio 

Nicholas Grimshaw brilliantly won the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 1995 with his famous London Waterloo terminal for the train of the tunnel under the Channel. As everybody knows, the essential element of the building is a roof that shelters the platforms and follows the rail layout along the soft curve near the old station. That roof is formed by a sequence of arches with three articulations which support a beautiful geometric play of flat elements enclosed by sheeting on the roof side and by glass on the other. The glass roof is truly spectacular and its technical solution very sophisticated.Thanksto the ingeniousmechanisms – reproduced by numerous publications – the glass is able to take on the distortions of the lightstructure.All thisto obtain that image of transparency and lightnessthat has become an obsession for the turn-of-the-century architecture. The ‘more for less’ paroxysm, the search for a smooth skin apparently indifferent to the passage of time, the suggestion of lightness of a material supposedly ethereal and the false legend of its transparency have made the use of glass a ‘must’in any building that prides itself, whatever the price...[+]

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