Crystal House with all-glass façade at Material Xperience 2017!

We love to stay inside, but we also love daylight. In order to get our daily sunshine, many architects love to incorporate glass façades. But while those usually consist of windows, it is also possible to build with glass bricks, like the famous example of the Crystal House in Amsterdam, built by MVRDV. At Material Xperience, held from 6 to 10 February 2017 in Jaarbeurs Utrecht (NL), you can see a mock-up of this façade in real life!

The entirely transparent façade of a high-end flagship store on Amsterdam’s upmarket shopping street, PC Hooftstraat, uses glass bricks, glass windows frames and glass architraves with the goal to maintain the character of the site. The 620 square metre of retail and 220 square metre of housing unite the ambition of Amsterdam to have large distinctive flagship stores without compromising the historical ensemble.

Glass bricks stretch up the façade of Crystal Houses, eventually dissolving into a traditional terracotta brick façade for the apartments (as stipulated in the City’s aesthetics rules), which appears to be floating above the shop floor.

The facade of the Crystal House mimics traditional brick construction except that here, the bricks that form the walls, architraves, frames and sills are made entirely of glass. Also impressive is the process behind the construction of the facade, which demanded the talents of between six and ten craftsmen over the period of one year. Along with the glass bricks themselves, which were handcrafted by glass manufacturer Poesia in Venice, MVRDV developed a totally new ‘masonry construction’ technique in collaboration with the Technical University of Delft, consultancy ABT and contractor Wessels Zeist.

Instead of traditional cement mortar, a type of transparent glue was used in this new type of construction method. Much like the glue that is used by dentists, the glue between the bricks was bonded under the exposure of a UV lamp. The bonding of each brick took more than an hour in a working environment that MVRDV describes as ‘more a laboratory than construction site.’

For the entire programme of Material Xperience 2017 and a free entry ticket, visit the website of Material Xperience here.

Photos: Daria Scagliola and Stijn Brakkee / MVRDV