Recreate the Northern Light with Glass and Film

Thanks to electrically charged solar particles colliding into the earth’s atmosphere, the Aurora borealis gifts the northern skies with dancing colours. And this local phenomenon has provided inspiration for the glazing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new student centre.

Following a number of light and colour studies, the architect practice of Perkins + Will envisioned a façade of floor to ceiling windows with both clear glass and coloured glass ranging from blue to orange to raspberry – reflecting the spectacular colour phenomenon of the Northern Lights.

The challenge in creating the effect of course was achieving this much exterior glass in Alaska, where super cold winters require super powered insulation and a minimum of glass surfaces. To combat the climate, the architects positioned a specially insulated spandrel every 10 feet. In addition to the triple-glazing, with two low-E coatings, the coloured panels are laminated inside and out with a micro-thick translucent film. In order to achieve the colour vibrancy of the Aurora borealis, the films were layered together, resulting in multiple piles of the film. A lime green effect for example required several pairs of blue film, along with a number of yellow sheets.

Nice lights!