Importance Of Glass In Architecture Design

published On Feb 15 2017

glass material

Glass, a fascinating material, and usually quite viable in most places, glass have become an extraordinarily useful material in architecture. Both, classic and modern, its use in the construction industry has stood the test of times for over centuries now. Glass, when discovered, was considered a magical material and was fascinating to the world. The translucent and the transparent nature of the material often accompanied every other material, be it cement, mud or, steel in today’s times. It has now moved heights, literally, with more and more skyscrapers in the world using it with steel as the prominent construction material.

Glass has various uses, and its special importance in architecture.

importance in architecture

Image credit: Flickr/Chris

As A Representation Of Faith:

The evolution of glass as a building material ages back to the time when exorbitant churches all across Europe were constructed, and stained glasses with holy paintings were used, the clerestory windows and the light through them, enlightening the cathedrals and churches was considered divine. Glass especially then, was nothing less than a ‘magic material’.


Paris - Latin Quarter: Église Saint-Séverin - clerestory stained glass

Image credit: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

As A Window Pane:

The use of glass started as a material for the window panes. It mainly contributed as a barrier from the extreme weather changes, like the scorching heat, rain, etc. while still maintaining the visual connection with the outside world. This still continues to be the biggest market for glass-sellers in the world today. Now, along with windows, there are sliding doors, not a very recent invention but widely popular now. It helps to keep the visual connection to the maximum.

window pane

Image credit: Flickr/Allislandtrim

As A Lightweight Structural Wall (External Surface):

Glass has multiple uses, as an exterior material. Due to its varying properties of appearances, it can be used for various functionalities in a building in various aspects. Over the time,  the material was processed and lightweight glass came into existence, and all designers and architects were keen on exploring the lighter material, unlike the heavier materials with load bearing construction technique (prominent then).

Joseph Paxton, the architect of Crystal Palace, London, used glass like no one had ever seen. The exhibition center was a major motivation for other designers and led a revolution in the industry. And with that, many architects started to dream of skyscrapers, and The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, etc. came up and the concept of vertical living evolved.

crustal palace

Empire State Building-Built in early 1931   

Image credit: Flickr/Els

empire state building

Glass used on the Surface-Glazed for Insulation and Controlled Lighting

Image credit: Flickr/Rob Menting

As a Roofing Material:

Apart from the surface, glass was started to use as skylights and roofs. The colder places took it as an opportunity for more sunlight and heat in the buildings. And, climatically hot places use solar control glasses for optimizing sunlight and heat radiations.

roofing material

Glass Ceiling at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image credit: Flickr/William

As a Partition, In the interiors of a Building:

Glass found its use in the interiors of the buildings as well, mostly used as partition walls, curtain walls amongst two rooms, with doors and windows, as an element of décor, etc.

interiors of a building

Image credit: Flickr/Whitespace Consultant

On the Entrance/Exit/Transition Spaces in The Buildings:

entrance space in buildings

Image credit: Flickr/Francesco Borriello


In today’s time, glass has every quality desired of a construction material, with experiments, all types of glasses like Insulation glasses, fire resistant, thermal control, etc. are now being used to make sure that the building can withstand any circumstantial environments. It has become a material as essential as any other. But glass also has its disadvantages. With its extensive use, it tends to increase the temperature of the building and thus making the use of air conditioning a necessity for such buildings. This directly affects the environment, with CFCs released by air conditioners, causing a negative effect and degrading the environment.

Dubai in the recent times has emerged with the most number of such buildings. The temperature difference between the interior and exterior of the building is so high, that with such direct differences, a body can easily become a victim to meltdowns and heat strokes and many other air-borne and temperature related illnesses.

A city’s progress is often decided according to its infrastructure, but it is really important to consider all the factors and know what needs to come up, and where.

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