Friday, April 2, 2010

The Emerald City?

This is my first Blog about issues that interest me in design and architecture. With architecture being one of my primary interests in life, I am passionate about its ongoing evolution and the impact it has so many aspects of our everyday lives. My first foray ( or rant ) will be on some issues that perhaps people have overlooked or not noticed in our towns and cities and something to possibly think about the next time you walk around where you live.

The built environment is at the moment going through a change.
The architectural professions tirelessly working towards a more sustainable future are trying to make our buildings more intelligent, in a sense worthy of this planet if you like. Of course sustainability is definitely a worthwhile cause and I will not deny that, but are we neglecting or even defacing our cites inadvertently in the process while searching for this unknown nirvana.
What I am writing  about is the rather worrying trend and over use of green, blue and minty coloured glass that our architects are for some reason specifying in abundance in virtually every sector, every use you can think of. I have noticed over the years that this is becoming the norm yet really, is it necessary and why are we doing this?
Call me old fashioned if you will but when I think of glass in buildings I think transparency, clarity. I think of great glasshouses, crystalline clear glass office and public buildings. I really don’t think of Green minty profusions used in a blanket, almost all encompassing manner across our cities.
So disturbing is this trend that even on structures where I see no need for green glass ie a lightbox for example we get it again! it's almost as if colourless glass suddenly doesn't exist any more.

Glass is naturally green through impurities in the form of iron oxide that is used in modern day glass to reduce glare and heat absorption. But these 'impurities' should be seen as just that, an impurity.
In the planning process elevations and renderings usually depict glass to be a transparent almost colourless shiny material, ideal images usually with a rather large dusting of artistic licence.
But then something goes wrong. What we were tricked into believing was a rather lovely glass building has now transformed into something else. This amnesia among architects and planners shows that they have fundamentally missed the point that the glass we thought we were getting is infact green Shock/Horror!! Surely this isn’t right?
 Would we accept it if a white wall was a lurid colour? I doubt it, so why is it acceptable when glass changes colour from originally perceived. It’s a sort of denial that I suppose is something most people choose not to think about or notice, well not yet anyway until perhaps it is too late.
My fear is we are so in love with the fully glazed office building that we are forgetting the big picture in that what it actually looks like in our cities as a whole. Their composition within the rest of the urban fabric and perhaps the damage it is causing especially when it's not quite what we were expecting. Would it not be sensible to set guidelines and rules that control the colour pigmentation in glass or or at least keep it to the bare minimum to reduce this unnecessary visual jarring. I do believe that this has to be addressed not only to save historic views and buildings but because I do believe that it will deface many of our cities and towns for generations to come. Glass technology already has glass that performs in the same manner as its greenish counterparts so an argument otherwise is fairly weak yet we still keep getting it again and again and's becoming a broken record.
Are we turning into an emerald city, perhaps we are but is that really what we want?

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