People in glass houses: The best uses of glass in architecture

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Join us as we highlight the best glass architecture we've seen so far

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Architects have long used glass to provide light and views, but the following homes and buildings go a lot further. Ranging from a practical full-time home to an experimental sustainable dwelling, each is a completed project that is either mostly made from glass or uses the material in such a way as to make it the defining feature. Join us as we highlight the best glass architecture we've seen so far.

S-House – Yuusuke Karasawa

S-House, by Japanese architect Yuusuke Karasawa, offers a take on the glass house that requires a very outgoing person. Situated in Tokyo, the unusual 50 sq m (538 sq ft) dwelling is envisioned by the architect as a comment on the limited privacy we face in the internet age.

Though the majority of S House's interior, including kitchen and lounge areas, are completely open to nosey passersby, Karasawa did at least put the master bedroom and bathroom in a basement below street level.

Vertical Glass House – Atelier FCJZ

Atelier FCJZ's Vertical Glass House can be found in Shanghai and was built for the West Bund Biennial Architecture and Contemporary Art exhibition, and it now serves as unusual guesthouse for visiting artists and architects. The home is mostly glass and steel except for the facade, which is concrete, and sports small glass slits. A generous glazed roof offers plenty of daylight inside.

Still, lest you get the impression that this is a glass house suitable for shy, retiring types, check out the placement of the toilet in the photo above.

Optical Glass House – Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP

Located in Hiroshima, Japan, the Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP-designed Optical Glass House uses glass to let residents escape from the hustle and bustle of the main road directly outside, while still providing light and excellent views.

The high-end home features a 13 ton (11.7 tonne) facade comprising 6,000 glass bricks that also offers views of its tree-filled courtyard. The facade looks to outsiders like a shimmering waterfall and the project is an elegant build that shows how glass can be used to produce a tasteful and private home.

Maintenance-Free House – Arkitema Architects

Danish developers Realdania BYG and Arkitema Architects designed and constructed an experimental prefabricated home made primarily from wood. However, the Maintenance-Free House is completely enveloped by a glass shield that keeps it safe from the elements, and the firm says the home will need no maintenance whatsoever for at least 50 years.

Based on the traditional wooden Danish longhouse, the home is raised off the ground by 30 cm (1 ft) on stilts. It also features a small gap between the plywood roof and glass shield, which creates a natural chimney effect, removing the need for any mechanical ventilation.

Glass Office – AIM Architecture

If you're the type of person who likes to slack off browsing Facebook on work time, an unusual office block in downtown Shanghai, China, by AIM Architecture would have you constantly looking over your shoulder for the boss. The workplace sports glass walls and mirrored ceilings throughout.

In order to cut down on glare, the aptly-named Glass Office also features areas of dull stone and carpet, but could still be a little migraine-inducing. It's no doubt an impressive piece of architecture and any change from the ubiquitous office cubicle has to be welcomed, but whether or not many people would be happy to work there is another question.

Crystal Houses – MVRDV

Commissioned to build a flagship store on an upmarket shopping street in Amsterdam, innovative Rotterdam firm MVRDV used glass bricks to create an eye-catching facade that fades into traditional terracotta brickwork as it rises upwards.

Between six and ten experts worked for a year to create the Crystal Houses facade. The glass bricks are held together with transparent adhesive to prevent any visible mortar from ruining the visual effect, and according to the firm, it is extremely strong, even outperforming concrete in some areas.

The store is green too, and MVRDV installed a ground-source heat pump with pipes leading 170 m (557 ft) underground, to offer efficient heating and cooling.

CHiBB House – Rotterdam University

Dutch stylist Helly Scholten and her family are currently living in an experimental sustainable house designed by Rotterdam University students and researchers, that is, essentially, an oversized greenhouse.

CHiBB House was built to explore sustainable methods of living and includes a rooftop vegetable garden for growing greens, a solar hot water system and rainwater collection system. Comprising a wooden frame with glass covering, the house is naturally warmed by the sun and offers ample natural light for those inside.

That completes our look at some of the most interesting uses of glass in architecture. You can take a closer look at each one in the gallery and let us know what you think in the comments.

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