Martin Jasper, co-founder of Jasper Architects answered our questions on his perspective of glass and its various uses in his projects.
What concepts does glass as a building material evoke in your imagination?
The building envelope is the element that defines architecture at its core: the barrier between inside and outside, that defines space and volume. Through the glass, we can turn that barrier into an ephemera, sort of osmotic skin.
The inside becomes visible, the common introversion of architecture gets reversed. A dialogue between inside and outside occurs. With an infinite number of shadings, transparencies, translucencies, and reflectivities that can be applied, this dialogue can be conducted and steered in infinite ways. That is glass's potential.
Which criteria determine your preference in using glass (insulation, reflectivity, color, etc.) in the design process of your projects?
We use glass every time that we want to achieve a physical barrier that permits a dialogue between inside and outside. We play with different levels of transparency and translucency, blurriness through different grinding levels. These components, together with the reflectivity, compose the palette of effects that we seek to apply and combine to define our buildings‘ characters. The potentials of modern high-performance glass in terms of the building's physics only widen the applicability and give us more to play with. Glass and its transparency emerge by the melting of its all-opaque components: that is a very inspirational process.
Which building do you find the most impressive in its usage of glass, why?
I think after Bruno Taut's Glass Pavilion, it is in Mies Van der Rohe's Farnsworth House that the true potential of glass in architecture became most apparent. The disappearing barrier between inside and outside, the possibility to make the space flow through an open floorplan... All these concepts became reality through the new concepts for the use of glass.
Mies was a master in using glass in its very essence: if you look at the Neue Nationalgalerie, that became almost a political statement of openness and transparency of post-war Berlin. And of course, his (never built) glass tower for Friedrichstrasse. For all these projects, architecture could only be created through the application of glass.
What are the attributes of glass that add value to building design?
The attribute of being a transparent skin, creating a transparent barrier. That is, by all means, the mesmerizing attribute that makes glass so valuable for architecture.
How do these values reflect on your projects, how do you prefer to use glass?
If you look at our projects, you can see how we try to use glass to create volumes that come to life with glass' potential of ephemeral contours.
Could you share your vision for the creative use of glass in architecture?
I think creativity in architecture is expressed at its highest level when something unexpected is done with a certain material. In that sense, glass has great potential because of its diversity and versatility.
Maybe Dan Graham's work is a good example to be used in this context. His constant play with the subtle barriers between transparency, reflection, translucency, and opacity: a great moment to reflect on glass and its meaning, and a great source for inspiration for applications in architecture.
Photography: © Hans-Georg Esch (UP! Berlin office building)