Well. Here we are. Our shiny pearl in the heavens has successfully completed another revolution around the sun, to the accompaniment, not of Richard Strauss’s Also Spake Zarathustra, (you know… 2001, Hal the Computer), but to a cavalcade of hit lists for 2023’s upcoming trends. Top of the recommendations appears to be for glass to be used in many forms: to spruce up old houses with sexy, space-enhancing bump outs; new builds with vanishing walls to merge the architecture into nature’s own structural narrative; glasshouses in every shape and size to supplement what one can grow, to be self-sustaining or simply to cultivate a collection of really cool houseplants (another trend that is only getting bigger and more exactingly exotic), or to turn into outdoor WAH offices. I like that one best!
Imho, as my book Midcentury Modern Landscapes explains, today’s desire for a bold architectural use of glass is a result of the public rediscovery of mid-century modern design, when glass walls were used to blur the division between indoor and outdoor living, which was, I believe, a response to a renewed joy – and celebration – of living during the post-WW2 period. Today’s tensions similarly drive our drive to seek solace in nature in our gardens and daily life, and innovations in materials and design are geared to to opening our living spaces to the great outdoors.
“Glasshouse” takes on a new meaning today. Say you have a small house and a small garden, but you want/need more of each. Glass-walled bump-outs give you the best of both worlds. New window technologies, too, give you the chance to replace an entire wall with sliding or bifold glass doors. And if those windows were solar-collecting glass – on a scale of 1-10 how fabulous would that be? Such a material exists, developed by Ubiquitous Energy (gotta love the name), the company started by a group of MIT and MSU technologists who were “looking for new ways to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint by seamlessly integrating solar power technology into everyday products and surfaces.” Quite a goal, yet this they achieved by developing and integrating transparent solar technology with architectural glass. At present the clear solar glass is 30% as efficient as black-glass solar panels, but that percentage could always increase, especially since applications for solar-energy-efficient glass are manifold. In November, 2022, this next-gen tech company was awarded the Business Intelligence Group’s 2022 Green Company of the Year BIG Award for Business. In Boulder, Colorado, their glass is installed at the Boulder Commons apartments and in a couple of office buildings; data is being collected from the locations and others in the USA to drive development.
Glass, let’s remember, begins with grains of sand. But while I don’t want to get into the weeds with all that, suffice to say sand is a ubiquitous material, and glass in oh-so-many shapes and sizes is ubiquitous to modern life. And much that glass ends as landfill. However, surprise!! Another next-gen tech company has stepped up with a way to return discarded glass to “sand”
Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, Glass Half Full headlines their company website as, “Grassroots glass recycling – We recycle Louisiana’s glass “waste” into sand and glass cullet for disaster relief and prevention, coastal restoration, eco-construction, new glass products, and so much more!” Those last four words cause this not-so-old devotee of glass+houses+design, to share the optimism of these companies and others like them that yes, the future is in good hands.
©Ethne Clarke, 2023
Further reading and design sources:
New Orleans glass recycling: https://glasshalffullnola.org/hom
Julie Farris designer info: https://www.landstylist.com
For Hilton Carter’s work, visit his website: https://thingsbyhc.com/collections/all
Visit the following pages to learn about Ubiquitous Energy where, a VP of Strategy Veeral Hardev says, “The mission is to turn all these everyday surfaces around us into essentially renewable energy.” https://ubiquitous.energy/
About the company’s business: https://www.bintelligence.com/blog/2022/11/29/83-global-leaders-named-winners-in-the-2022-big-awards-for-business
And for the science and construction of transparent solar windows: https://www.proremodeler.com/future-solar-light-capturing-windows