Build Your Own Crystal Palace, Brick By Brick

The recently launched Poesia glass brick collection is a refreshing new take on the glass facade.

The world first saw a transparent glass building in 1851, when London unveiled its Crystal Palace for that year’s Great Exhibition. The public was hugely impressed with the installation (it was London’s first large building - more than three times larger than St Paul’s cathedral).Glass bricks are a striking new take on the transparent facade. Similar in size and shape to a conventional brick, glass bricks are translucent and gem-like. The grid and depth of the bricks breaks up the flatness usually associated with glass. Austral Bricks now offer Poesia Glass bricks in the colours: Arctic Crystal, Golden Amber, Blue Sapphire, Aquamarine, Smokey Quartz. When stacked together, the bricks are both transparent and reflective.Dubbed the ‘Crystal House’, Dutch architecture studio MVRDV used glass bricks to transform the new Chanel boutique in Amsterdam’s high-end hub, PC Hooftstraat. The whole facade is constructed of Arctic Crystal glass bricks sourced from the Venetian glass studio, Poesia founded in 1986. What’s resulted has been a “dissolving” facade, where glass and traditional brick meet at the horizontal centre point of the facade.Co-founder of MVRDV Winy Mass, spoke of the potential for glass bricks to introduce variety back into older cities, telling Dezeen: “It enables global brands to combine the overwhelming desire of transparency with a couleur locale, and modernity with heritage”.In a century where alternative construction materials nip at the heels of traditional ones, Poesia glass bricks provide a new way to conceptualise urban forms. MVRDV, in collaboration with the Delft University of Technology, found that the bonds between their bricks were “stronger than concrete”. The Crystal House’s full-glass architraves could withstand a force of 42,000 newtons – equivalent to about two full-size four-wheel-drives.The world has moved a long way since the Crystal Palace’s construction and untimely demise, and there’s never been a better time than ever to experiment with alternative construction technology. And as ever-increasing urban renewal sees Victorian facades anew, Poesia glass bricks are an elegant complement to the cities of tomorrow.

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