For thousands of years, architecture has shaped the towns and cities in which we live. Literally.
The most stunning cities feature buildings so beautiful they must be seen to be believed. If these buildings could speak, their messages would be fascinating.
Architecture has expressed the social climate and ambitions of societies across the world, with each building’s design offering insight into the minds of its country and citizens.
Glass has an intriguing history within the architectural world; every passing decade has seen architects change their views on the material. Experts in the 1990s, for instance, viewed glass buildings as speaking of confusing angles and light that went against the desire for democracy and transparency at the time.
Modern designers hold a very different view. Since famous constructions such as the Crystal Palace by Joseph Baxton in 1851, drastic improvements in the quality of glass and advancements in its manipulation have led to what has come to be known in architectural circles as the ‘Glass Age’ – a trend that is still popular even as we head into 2018.
Basque Health Department HQ, Bilbao
Bold, chaotic and flowing. Few buildings in the world demonstrate structural complexity better than the Basque.
Designed by architect Juan Carlos Coll Barreu, the Basque is a striking example of what is known as ‘chamfering’ – a carpentry term for cutting away an edge or corner to create a sloping edge. These bewildering lines come together to create a structure that is decidedly non-standard in its shape by any standards.
Juan Carlos’s design was created after the Spanish Health Department requested a building that represented the diverse viewpoints and specialisms of the Health Department coming together to serve its country.
It’s clear to see how this message has led the design of the remarkable building, with each unique angle and section reflecting the light in a unique way. The Basque is an example of what modern construction can achieve - such dizzying complexity in the shape and weight of every section would have been impossible in the past.
A worthy visit. Cleaning the many angles of this beautiful building would certainly be an entertaining challenge for our abseiling team!
The Shard, London
The Shard is a bold example of an elegant design that has pierced the sky of London since its completion in July 2012.
Also known amongst visitors and tourists as the Shard of Glass or the London Bridge Tower, the 309.7-meter-tall giant is situated in the centre of Southwark and was designed by architect Renzo Piano.
Designed as a ‘mix-use tower’ – a building with residential, business and retail space, the Shard forms part of the newly-revitalised London Bridge Quarter.
A careful eye might see the inspiration for the design. The Shard’s sweeping, gently inclining sheet glass walls come together at the peak of the structure, directly referring to the classical church spires and ship masts which were frequently seen in the Thames area in its collective past.
Although the Shard is a welcome addition to London’s ongoing expansion, architect Renzo Piano aimed for the structure to serve as a ‘vertical city’ with which to express containing the capital’s rapid growth – a single unit that contains all the elements of a city such as hotels, offices and shopping centres.
The Dancing Dragon Towers, Seoul
Can a building breathe?
Seoul in South Korea is home to one of the most visually striking pair of skyscrapers ever seen. The twinned towers, known locally as the Dancing Dragons, reach a mighty 450 meters into the skyline of the city area near the Han river.
You can guess why such a grand name was chosen! The towers are an intriguing design, essentially being formed of two pillars that are ‘sheathed’ in winged sections. This range of bold diagonal cuts and the overall shape honour the traditional design of Korean pagodas.
With rugged glass and metallic scales creating a ‘breathing’ current of wind and ventilation throughout, the Dancing Dragons are an exceptional example of extracting the characteristics of both animals and culture – not to mention a triumph of modern construction methods.
The Point, London
The Point is a striking design nestled within the Paddington Basin.
Part of a greater design project for the Paddington Basin undertaken by Terry Farrell Architects, the design of the building was determined by a range of practical requirements for residents and local businesses.
Commissioned in 2000 and completed in 2003, The Point is now home to commercial and retail for thousands of Londoners. Where the Shard spears into the sky, the Point is a wedge-shaped design which offers an unmatched viewing experience in a prime location for its visitors and residents.
The overall shape and flow of the building is an example of what chief architect Terry Farrell refers to as ‘vertical rhythm’ – a display of consistency within varying vertical spaces.
But with vast expanses of glass come vast maintenance responsibilities. See Brilliance , a glass restoration specialist from Newbury, Berkshire, boasts first-hand experience here. The company was recently commissioned to restore large areas of The Points glass structure. Technical Director Nigel Bennett explains:
“Sheer walls of vertical, curving glass meant our team had to complete a top-down, methodical cleaning job, removing stains and limescale from the glass structure using specialist products and techniques. We’re happy to say that they excelled in their task and the various faces of the building are once again glowing as a result!’”
Company: See Brilliance
Telephone: 01635 230 888
Address: Newbury, Berkshire, UK