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    Glass Buildings: 15 Creative Uses of Glass in Architecture
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Glass Buildings: 15 Creative Uses of Glass in Architecture

Glass Buildings – The transparent, ethereal nature of glass allows for extraordinary creations in the world of architecture. From a crystalline pyramid of light to a clear balcony 1,300 feet in the sky, glass is truly a versatile material for the creative architect. To celebrate how important glass is to our homes, offices and lives, here is a look at the world’s glass building masterpieces: 15 creative uses of glass in architecture.

Sports and Leisure Center in Saint-Cloud France

With the Sports and Leisure Center in Saint-Cloud France, Koz Architects have shown that color and glass can do wonders for the human spirit. This building is the ultimate recreation center for children, a vast and playful environment that inspires free play with plenty of room for creativity. The building’s facade is clothed in glass, stained and lit with pixelated color for a visually arresting aesthetic. When it comes to color, glass and light, this building by Koz Architects is clearly amongst today’s most progressive.

Sports and Leisure Center Gallery

Selgas Cano Architecture Office

The Selgas Cano Architecture Office is a glass capsule of creativity in the middle of a quiet Spanish forest. The outer wall and ceiling of the office is entirely open to the nature around it, thanks to a clear curved wall of glass. Throughout four seasons, the workers for Selgas Cano are directly in tune with their environment. In case you haven’t seen this architectural gem before, it was also featured on our list of brilliant works of office design. Here, the Selgas Cano Architecture Office is celebrated again thanks to the photography of the great Iwan Baan.

Selgas Cano Architecture Office Gallery

Sears Tower Glass Balconies

A touch of glass can add a fresh new perspective and a whole lot of fear to the already soaring heights of the Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower). The Sears Tower Glass Balconies extend from near the building’s peak at 1,353 feet. While the view from the Sears is an unparalleled way of seeing the city of Chicago below, we could not bring ourselves to take a step on to these balconies. While they’ve added a new dimension to the Sears Skydeck experience, we’ll enjoy it from a distance, thank you.

Sears Tower Glass Balconies Gallery

Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe

An hour’s drive from the Sears Tower will land you at one of the United States’ greatest architectural icons, the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. The Farnsworth House is one of the modern period’s most celebrated works of architecture, a piece that pushed the envelope in the use of glass. The home features floor-to-ceiling glass throughout, providing an open connection the riverbank nature of the plot. When designing the house, the client asked Mies van der Rohe to create a home that truly represented himself and his spirit, to create a structure that embodied the philosophies of the modernist era.

Farnsworth House Gallery

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 3

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO has received a new modern wing outside its traditional Roman-style centerpiece. The new “Bloch Building” is clothed in frosted glass, illuminated from within with light from corner to corner. The Bloch Building may appear to be alien next to its earlier, traditional counterpart, but Steven Holl Architects have succeeded in creating a modern representation of contemporary art for this museum. Use any other material than frosted-glass for its walls, and the majesty of this building is lost. [photos by andryryan]

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Gallery

Glass Houseboat by X-Architects

The Glass Houseboat by X-Architects takes an apparent inspiration from the Farnsworth House, this time taking the white-beam-and-glass approach to a sea-faring abode. This sprawling houseboat features two levels on a pair of pontoons, skinned with floor-to-ceiling glass in every direction. Its occupants are treated with unobstructed views of sea and city, the ultimate mobile domicile off the coast of Dubai. Does this Glass Houseboat look familiar? It was included in our feature of luxury yachts (if you haven’t seen that, is is a must-read!).

Glass Houseboat Gallery

La Estancia Glass Chapel

This serene retreat for people of faith is made heavenly with the touch of glass. La Estancia Glass Chapel of Cuernavaca, Mexico stands monolithic on a quiet wooded plot. Bunker Arquitectura designed the chapel with full glass walls, striped with frost for privacy and the feeling of shelter. The result is a stunning work of glass architecture, a monument to the faith of its visitors.

La Estancia Glass Chapel Gallery

National Grand Theater of China

One of China’s greatest architectural works of the last decade, the National Grand Theater of China is a massive dome of glass and titanium. Located not far from Tiananmen Square, Beijing, this glass building houses an opera, a theater and a music hall, combining to seat 5,452 guests at once. The dome is centered within an artificial lake, providing a reflective view of the dome from the street. Architect Paul Andreu has been a well-known proponent of glass in architecture, and the National Grand Theater is widely considered one of his greatest masterworks.

National Grand Theater of China Gallery

Basque Health Department Headquarters of Bilbao Spain

Bilbao, Spain has become an architectural hot spot in recent years, especially in thanks to the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, by Frank Gehry. The Basque Health Department Headquarters, designed by Coll-Barreu Architects, shared the sculptural focus of Gehry’s Guggenhiem. While Gehry designed his masterpiece with metal, Coll-Barreu crafted the Basque Health Dept. Headquarters in angular glass with an almost organically-inspired shape. When it comes to glass in architecture, this building is easily amongst the world’s most progressive in form.

Basque Health Department Headquarters Gallery

X House by Arquitectura X

The X House by Arquitectura X takes the rectangular glass home concept and pushes it to a grand scale. X House is a sprawling two-story home with floor-to-ceiling glass across two levels. While its shorter side walls, its ceiling and floors are wood and metal, its front and rear sides are entirely transparent. The exterior plot is as much a part of the home’s interior as the furnishings themselves. While X House may not lend itself to privacy, the home provides an open and airy feel that is much greater than the actual size of the space within.

X House by Arquitectura X Gallery

Kanagawa Institute of Technology Glass Building

As we mentioned in our earlier coverage of the Kanagawa Institute of Technology Glass Building, people in glass offices should not throw phones. When it comes to glass offices, there are none better than this. You won’t find bored cubicle workers in this hall, but a meeting of the minds of the future workers of Japan, joining for creative projects and community in one of the greatest glass work spaces in the world. It is huge, monumental even, a piece of architecture whose inner beauty is entirely exposed thanks to a thin glass skin that wraps around its entire exterior.

Kanagawa Institute of Technology Glass Building Gallery

House Cafe Kanyon by Autoban Architects

Thanks to the creative use of glass, the House Cafe Kanyon by Autoban Architects is a separate, exclusive dining experience within the Kanyon shopping mall in Istanbul, Turkey. This steel and glass shell is raised above the mall’s stone base with a walnut floor, which combines with the clear glass for an overall warm inner appearance. The glass walls of the House Cafe make this restaurant it’s own, free-standing structure within another, creating a sense of separation from the commerce around it.

House Cafe Kanyon Gallery

IT House by Taalman Koch

In the desert near Joshua Tree National Park, architect Taalman Koch has assembled a glass-walled prefab house called the itHouse. itHouse is built off-site, then installed on location, in this case in the center of one of the United States’ most picturesque deserts. The use of glass provides two primary functions for the home, first being the visual connection to the surrounding environment, and the second for passive heating and cooling throughout the year. In fact, the home is entirely off-grid, using solar panels upon its roof to power what little energy needs the home has.

IT House Gallery

The Louvre Pyramid

In 1984, French president François Mitterrand hired architect I.M. Pei to design and construct a new entrance for the iconic Louvre museum. The Louvre Pyramid was the result, one of the most famed works of glass architecture to date. This large glass pyramid rises out of the square in front of the Louvre at a height of 70 feet, consisting of 673 glass section from tip to base. Visitors enter the pyramid to descend below-ground before ascending again into the main level of the museum. While the Louvre Pyramid was built amidst much controversy and critique, it has been lauded by architecture fans as a well-executed merging of classical and modernist architecture. [images: minor9th, grufnik, djof]

Louvre Pyramid Gallery

The Glass Pavilion House by Steve Hermann

The most recent example of the pavilion-style glass house may also be the style’s best, the Glass Pavilion House by Steve Hermann. While the Farnsworth House remains king, Hermann updated the format with a design of his own. Where the Farnsworth House can be nearly inhabitable during the winter, the Glass Pavilion House takes advantage of warm Santa Barbara county temperatures. This glass home features white floors and ceilings with outer walls that are entirely glass. In contrast to the other homes listed here, the Glass Pavilion House may not push the envelope, but we included it for an entirely different reason– it perfected that envelope. If we could choose any glass home to call our habitat, this beauty would most certainly be it.

Glass Pavilion House Gallery

What is your favorite work of glass architecture in this list? Is there a building you love that we did not include? There are many more out there, this list reflects TheCoolist’s own personal favorites. Share your thoughts in the comments. In the mean time, check out these other architecture related features on

Special thanks to ArchDaily, Contemporist and Inhabitat, whose great coverage of architecture sourced many of the items on this list.

  1. Some beautiful contemporary pieces of glass architecture here. Using a very similar technique and style Daedalian Glass Studios – Bespoke Glass Design created this distorted mirrored wall for visitors to The Brooklands Hotel –