Glass houses have long captured the imaginations of architects and home-dwellers alike. Say what you will about these types of buildings, but glass houses are striking and evocative in the hands of the right architect.
Their ability to both enable visual access to the interior of the structure, as well as to reflect the world around it, is an interesting paradigm that has been undergone extensive experimentation by all manner of architects, both pioneering and derivative.
This article will examine the different approaches to the glass house designs by builders all over the world. Though they don’t look like a glamorous mansion design or a medieval castle design, these glass houses will surely finds its way to your heart.
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Glass House by Philip Johnson
No catalogue of glass houses is complete without this paragon of the “genre”. Constructed in 1949, this house is almost universally regarded as the progenitor of the design. Taking off from the seminal Farnsworth House by modernism luminary Mies van de Rohe, Philip Johnson took the Farnsworth House’s starkness with steel, concrete, and glass, and adopted it to his own style.
Built on the 47-acre estate of Philip Johnson, the house has been called the world’s “most beautiful and least functional home”. The first part because of its breathtaking views—Johnson created the house as a sort of vantage point overlooking his property and the areas beyond. The second part was because of its glaring lack of privacy.
The Glass House was used as a living space by Johnson and his partner David Whitney for several years, alternating between this and their other, more private homes. The house has also been described as having “the most expensive wallpaper” owing to its lush landscaped surroundings.
Woning Moereels by Jo Crepain
The best architects aren’t just good at creating—they are excellent at adapting the environment towards their own ends. The best architecture, after all, is that perfectly attuned with its environment, aware of its sense of place with the location and culture in which it resides.
This second example by Belgian architect Jo Crepain is a fitting example of this philosophy. This six-story glass house is the final step of the structure’s transformation from a water tower originally built in the 1900s. The entire process took over 17 years, over a series of incremental renovations.
The final result is obvious—the structure is semi-translucent and has ample room to make up the world’s most awesome bachelor pad. The untouched reservoir up top, as well as the house’s spartan aesthetic, recall the structure’s industrial origins. At night, the tower even glows in the dark, evoke visions of a lighthouse, complete with its solitary resident.
Glass Pavilion by Steve Hermann
Briefly mentioned above, the legendary Farnsworth House by the equally legendary Mies van der Rohe is the epitome of a residence built following the tenets of modernism. It continues to be an inspiration to the present day, as evidenced by Steve Hermann’s estate, Glass Pavilion, located in Montecito, California.
Not to be confused with the 1914 Bruno Taut exhibition structure, Hermann’s Glass Pavilion is a private residence that takes the philosophies of van der Rohe’s house and brings them to the contemporary age.
Among the house’s primary features are a 32-car parking garage that also doubles as an art gallery, as well as a kitchen area with attached winery that holds thousands and thousands of bottles.
All the glass on the site is the special Star Fire glass, which is predominantly used in jewelry cases. The whole house allows for integration with nature (especially with its extensive glasswork), and the structure even appears to be floating at certain angles.
H House by Wiel Arets Architects
This suburban home in the Netherlands, created almost exclusively with concrete and glass, is a breathtaking work of modern architecture. While this is a thoroughly traditional home through and through, being commissioned for a couple’s private home, this is a fantastic example of the contemporary glass house.
The H House has no walls at all, or at least, none that provide any actual support. Instead, in the interior of the home, concrete columns support the slabs of concrete that provide firm footing. The house’s external walls are all of glass in varying shades of transparency, making the house itself blend in with the changing Dutch seasons.
Inside the house, open spaces are the subscribed design tenet, with flowing areas giving no boundary to the traditional living room, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom. The house’s foyer and the bathroom can also cantilever outward, changing the very facade of the house virtually at will. Curtains afford a certain level of privacy, allowing the couple to live in peace.
Glass House Concepts by Carlo Santambrogio
This final entry is not a real-world example, but rather a series of concepts by Italian architect and designer Carlo Santambroglio. Whereas the other examples in this article have covered houses made of a wide range of materials, the structures in the Santambrogio series are made entirely of glass.
The first, the “Snow House”, is designed to make occupants feel as if they are one with nature. Built of reinforced glass to counter blizzards and the like, the house’s clear glass can turn matte instantly, providing privacy. The house is also designed following a grid, and can be constructed in several configurations due to its modularity.
The second house, the “Cliff House”, is meant for integration with waterscapes. Constructed above a still bed of water (which could probably double as a swimming pool), the house gives an illusion that occupants are walking on water.
Due to their materials, the Santambrogio houses allow for a 360-degree view of the surrounding environment.