Rise & Influence of Glass Giants – How glass has taken over the regional style and culture
What strikes our mind first when we come in contact with words like ‘Skyscrapers’,‘Urban’, High-rise’ or even a word as simple as ‘City’. Probably tall glass buildings? Yes, tall glass buildings shimmering either in bright sunlight or adorned in glowing night lights. Glass structures have been strongly associated with being ‘urban’ or ‘modern’ since ages for now and this has continued to be imprinted in various regions as a sign of development and progress.
Influence of Glass facades
Since the advent of ‘modernism’, every culture around the globe is trying to establish itself as more developed and perhaps more ‘modern’. This constant ambition of achieving modernism led to the rise of glass structures in almost every skyline in the world. This phenomena has led to stripping away of the regional influence in architecture and has painted the cities with mundane shades of glass structures all over. Be it New York, be it Paris or be it Mumbai, glass structures have cropped up everywhere; leaving no importance to regional and cultural styles in architecture and planning.
Along with the loss of cultural importance, glass facades in certain parts of the cities with heritage importance further disrupts the heritage ecology and look of the cityscape, thus leaving behind a lot of maintenance cost, expenses of mechanical ventilation & cooling, indoor glare and excess stress on the environment. It all started with the design if the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York; it was the ‘glassy’ look and the seamless façade that encouraged cities to adopt this new ‘modern’ style and render all their structures in a similar fashion. This rise of glass giants became so influential that even hot and dry nations in the Middle East have resorted to the use of glass facades.
The inefficiency of Glass facades
The influence of glass is so strong that we have almost ignored not only other potential materials but also the huge inefficiency of glass as a building material. Glass leads to a lot of indoor glare which further brings the need and cost of shading devices. Glass buildings have to majorly depend on mechanical ventilation. This not only leads to inefficiency in terms of maintenance and cost but also compromises on the opportunities of harnessing fresh air and natural ventilation.
While the constant need for air conditioning in the whole building puts a load on resources, the hot air trapped by these glass boxes further release into the environment make the macroclimate hot and uncomfortable. This lack of openness in the glass buildings also further adds to stress on fire fighting and safety resources.
The False perception
Apart from these technical issues, one highly subjective issue is that it gives us a false perception. Why do we associate these glass structures with a certain status? Especially for the Asian and Middles East countries, where the climate is more tropical and hot. Here architecture should hence be in line with the climate. They must embrace the local cultures and styles. Concepts like open to sky spaces, natural ventilation techniques and even climate-specific responsive architectural features must be used.
But instead of making it the new ‘modern’, these countries seem to be extremely influenced by western ideas. These countries need to give it a thought that micro and macroclimates are of utmost importance. They must realise that what works in the west might not work everywhere. The western countries must give a thought on if the glass is the material they would like to go with in the future. They need to observe and evaluate the more sustainable methods prevalent today which negates the ill effects of glass.
We must as a whole rethink the future of architecture and urban spaces with an environmental angle. There is a strong need for climate-conscious architecture. We must have a consideration of the resources and the micro as well as macroclimate. Currently a lot of new techniques with sustainable innovations like solar shading, solar energy generating facades, Facade vegetation’s – green facades, double-skin facades etc. have been put to use. This is indeed the need of the hour as our future cannot be trapped in these tall glass giants, rather we must have energy-efficient and versatile cityscapes.