Alvisi Kirimoto, co-founder Massimo Alvisi answered our questions on his perspective of glass and its various uses in their projects.
What concepts do glass as a building material evoke in your imagination?
Immateriality, transparency, purity, lightness, permeability, fluidity.
Which criteria determine your preference in using glass (insulation, reflectivity, color, etc.) in the design process of your projects?
In our projects, we try to create fluid spaces where the glass disappears. That is why the most important criteria are transparency, low reflectivity, and the absence of color. At the same time, it should be a high-performance material that provides energy efficiency, improving thermal and acoustical insulation, offering a higher level of sustainability to the building. We believe that every project is unique. For every project, we study the ideal composition of the material in order to meet all our needs.
Which building do you find the most impressive in its usage of glass, why?
There are several buildings that make impressive use of glass for different reasons. In Musée du Louvre -Lens by Sanaa (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa) the glass that creates the facade and the internal divisions of the spaces allows a visual continuity, transparency, and lightness of the space, leaving the slab floating and a forest of white round pillars.
Elbphilharmonie Hamburg by Herzog & de Meuron is another example. Malleability is a property of glass that we can see in objects like the Vase Savoy of Alvar Aalto. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have implemented this feature on the design of the facade of the Elbphilharmonie of Hamburg, creating a sinuous movement.
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre by Henning Larsen Architects has a spectacular three-dimensional structural facade designed in close collaboration with the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. It demonstrates the structural property of glass.
Steven Holl Architects design of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has U glass as a high performance and flexible material with unique, aesthetic characteristics. During the daytime, the “white boxes” absorb the natural light through the skylights allowing the illumination of the interior with a diffused light that does not damage the artworks. On the contrary at nighttime, the “white boxes” become emissive objects, self-illuminated facades that light up their surroundings.
Lastly, The Shard by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The technological curtain wall facade changes constantly throughout the day, blending with the sky colors.
What are the attributes of glass that add value to building design?
The principal characteristic of glass that adds value to the building design is transparency. The diffusion of light through the windows sculpts the interior spaces, revealing their geometry. It creates fluidity and continuity, uninterrupted visual connections. The glass is a versatile material, it is the material of the future, with many characteristics that increase its value, like thermal and acoustic insulation, dimensional stability, fire, chemical resistance, etc. Its implementation is impressive nowadays since it can be used in a wide range of spaces with demanding needs.
How do these values reflect on your projects, how do you prefer to use glass?
We like fluidity in our projects. We try to achieve it by using transparency as our main tool, regulating the rest of the properties and values in order to arrive at the desired outcome.
For example, for the extension of the University of Luiss Guido Carli in Rome, we used glass not only as a way to merge the building with the surrounding nature but also as a primary acoustic material for the insulation of the amphitheater and the classrooms.
In other cases, it was really important to use high-performance, fire-resistant glasses like for example in the Podernuovo Winery in Tuscany or create an inside-outside space where the malleability and the transparency of the facades created an illusion of the park passing like a green carpet under the canopy, like in the Finsbury Pavilion competition in London.
Moreover, the reflection property of the glass can be used to duplicate space like in the Japanese restaurant Hamasei in Rome or in the project Medlac Pharma in Vietnam, where the structural U-glass allowed us to create an entirely transparent exterior skin.
Could you share your vision for the creative use of glass in architecture?
Innovation in architecture is most of the time an evolutionary process. Clearly, we are moving towards a more technological and connected world. Its innovations will affect all aspects of life and most of all architecture.
New technologies have the potential for crossing over and creating an impact in the building industry. Significant breakthroughs have changed and will change again the way we inhabit cities. Looking back at the history of architecture we can see the evolution of its use.
From the Roman Empire to the Five Points of Architecture by Le Corbusier; from the small windows on the walls to the horizontal ones that cut off the facade along its entire length, lightening the spaces. The evolution of the related technology, in the following decades, allowed us to create technologically superior buildings with smart facades.
Amongst all materials, glass has the most significant evolution: from a single glass panel to a smart facade, and it still seems to have great potential as new characteristics are constantly discovered. That is why it is considered to be the material of the future. We are looking forward to being a part of this evolution and embrace innovation.
We conceive architecture as a synergy of a lot of things: history, landscape, function, materiality, technology. Materials are the tools we use to bring our aesthetics to life, and glass is an integral part of our architecture. From its simplest form to the most technological one we will continue to use it in order to create unique solutions for our clients.
Photography: ©Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi (1st), Luigi Filetici (2nd-Complesso Industriale), Fernando Guerra, FG + SG (3rd-Cantina Podernuovo), Anna Galante (4th-Teatro di Corato, 5th-Molino Casillo), Luigi Filetici (6th-Ristorante Hamasei), Marco Cappelletti (7th-Accademia della Musica Camerino), Nic Lehoux (8th&9th-Private Office)