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SCHOTT solutions no. 1/2011 > Architecture

Fascinating style element: Structured Conturax® brand glass was used as a large-surface solution for the first time ever in the London-based office complex ”Walbrook”. Photo: SCHOTT/M. Couchman

Unconventional Glass Tubing for Exquisite Effects

The architects of Foster + Partners used glass tubing from SCHOTT in a London office complex.

Judith Schwarz

Ensconced in a wavy looking grid of highly reflective cast-aluminum brises soleil, the office complex located in the middle of London sparkles in the sun. The curved façade elements offers protection from its rays by being lined up next to each other. They grow in density with increasing height and shimmer more intensively at the higher levels.

The international architectural firm Foster + Partners built the ”Walbrook” office complex in London’s financial district from 2005 until 2010. The sculptural building features some 40,000 square meters of office and commercial space. Retailers and restaurants will later occupy the 70-meter long front of the complex that faces Cannon Street. Those who enter the building are immediately greeted by a white illuminated wall made of glass tubes that is 70 meters in length. It separates the two parts of the foyer from each other and extends all the way up to the ceiling behind the reception area. Thanks to its wavy structure, the wall appears to be almost fluent.

The glass tubes from SCHOTT-Rohrglas that Foster+Partners used are perfectly suited for design and architectural applications. For the first time ever, the structured Conturax® brand glass was used in a large-scale application for this office complex. Two 3.3-meter high panes consisting of glass tubes that are lined up next to each other were installed in layers to form the 6.6-meter high wall. Hardly an everyday situation, despite its fascination, and the glass experts faced several difficulties. After all, the structured surface of the borosilicate glass is limited in terms of its maximum wall thickness, thus posing a real challenge for an architectural application of this dimension. ”For safety reasons, we were faced with having to find a way to reduce the risk of breakage of the glass panes that are only three millimeters thick,” explains Klaas W. Roelfsema, Business Manager at Rohrglas for Northern and Western Europe at SCHOTT.
The white illuminated wall of glass tubing 70 meters in length separates the two sections of the foyer from each other and reaches all the way up to the 6.6 meter high ceiling. Photo: SCHOTT/M. Couchman
The team at SCHOTT-Rohrglas finally came up with the idea of reinforcing the glass with a second glass tube that had a thicker wall. To do so, the installation personnel placed a pane of unstructured Duran® brand glass tubing in a thickness of 9 millimeters in front of the wall of Conturax® tubing. Both special-purpose glasses were mounted on multiple sides and halogen lighting was integrated to illuminate the tubes from the bottom. “We created a huge wall of light by combining the many glass tubes. The architects were quite impressed by the glow of the extremely even lighting effect throughout the entire height of the tubing wall and also the special glass that was used,” Roelfsema explains. The impressive wall has become part of a very impressive and energy-efficient lighting strategy.

The elevators made entirely of glass also add to the play of light and reflection in the foyer which the building is known for both inside and outdoors, thus allowing Foster + Partners to pick up on another motif in both the façade and the interior design. The wavelike structure that adorns the shell of the office complex can be found once again in the structured wall made of glass tubes in the foyer. <|