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The Crystal House - Chanel Amsterdam 11
  • 友善列印版本

    08/2018

    By Eugene Chang, Senior Manager – Cost & Controls

     

    In the age of globalization, luxurious shopping streets around the world are looking strikingly alike, often filled with the same groups of retailers with very similar plain glass shopfronts. At P.C. Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, a former residential street turned fashion hub of luxurious retailers, Dutch architects MVRDV have pioneered an innovative use of glass to replace the convectional brick townhouse with glass bricks, window frames and architraves, before eventually dissolving into the original terracotta brick façade from the bottom up. Known as the Crystal House, the project was one of a kind. Not only did it challenge the ordinary appearance of storefronts, it also pushed the boundaries of glass technology and retailers' overwhelming desire for transparency, while respecting the existing architectural context without losing the local character.

     

    MVRDV aimed to design a glass façade that was strong enough to carry its own weight and work against external loading (wind) without the need for any additional secondary structure, in pure transparency. To develop the technology, the architects didn't work alone. They worked closely with Delf University of Technology, engineering firm, ABT, and contractor, Wessels Zeist, to develop adequate structural design, fabrication techniques, and the installation methodology. They approached Poesia, a glassmaker in Venice, to cast the brick from solid glass. Also, instead of using the traditional opaque mortar that would ruin the transparency of the design, they decided to use a clear, high stiffness glue, provided by a Germen company, Delo Industrial Adhesives, to form a bonding layer between the glass bricks which became effective after exposure to ultraviolet light. This thin layer of adhesive enhanced the lateral stability of the glass brick façade to achieve the desired structural performance with transparency. Furthermore, during the construction, full-fat milk was applied as a guiding tool to help level the glass bricks since milk was more opaque than glass and it helped to reveal the glass edge.

     

    Since its opening as a pop up store for Chanel in 2016, the project has received nine awards across the globe including winning the award for the buildings category at the World Architecture Festival. Yet the prized project did also draw some criticism. Obviously, building a novel glass brick building took longer than an ordinary brick house. The project demanded a low margin of error and high accuracy while laying the bricks, and took six to ten experts working on site every day for a whole year to complete the job. Moreover, the extensive use of glass affects the building's performance and the need for heating/cooling sources throughout the year. For this reason, the architect went with renewable energy and installed heat pipes 170 meters below ground. Yet, such a system might present a maintenance challenge during operation. Also, the use of glass meant the whole façade could be completely recycled with the possibility that the glass bricks could be melted down for re-use. While the intention was good at a time when research suggested construction wastage was at a record high of 40%, the feasibility of this actual happening is debatable. Furthermore, some reports in early 2018 suggested cracks were spotted on the glass façade. While the architect and engineers assured everyone that "There are no cracks in the glass, only in the polymer, the adhesive which was used for the vertical joints. There is not a single constructive risk," this still makes one to wonder how well a glass brick façade would react to extremes of cold and hot weather due to the inevitable natural shrinkage and expansion of the material. As of today, the Crystal House has been closed temporarily with a hoarding over the shopfront after Chanel moved back to their permeant location on the same street in spring 2018.

     

    Source: Warenar l Real estate Amsterdam

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