Creating Crystal Houses

In an upmarket shopping street in Amsterdam you will find the most incredible building. Within a row of luxury brand shops on PC Hooftstraat sits the newly opened Hermès store. Originally completed in 2016 for Warenar Real Estate and housing Chanel, architects MVRDV titled their project Crystal Houses.

MVRDV Crystal houses Amsterdam glass bricks architetural innovation
Photo Credit: Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

The innovative design came about due to the city’s desire to have unique, distinctive, and memorable storefronts, whilst maintaining something of tradition and history. The resulting concept was for a re-creation of the original building, architraves and all, out of glass bricks. To comply with the City’s aesthetic rules, the apartments above the shop front are clad in terracotta bricks, which are slowly fed throughout their glass counterparts, creating the illusion of both a floating and crumbling structure.

MVRDV Crystal houses Amsterdam glass bricks architetural innovation
Photo Credit: Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

The outcome is truly mesmeric, an awesome balance between modernity and heritage. It is essentially a childhood fantasy come true, and is both a fun and practical take on glass buildings. Being such a unique construction means it has not been without its difficulties. Given the nature of the material, new solutions needed to be found for issues of insulation which can no longer be hidden behind layers of brick and plasterboard. To combat this, the design incorporated a ground source heat pump to provide desirable indoor temperatures.

MVRDV-Amsterdam-02
Photo Credit: Daria Scagliola & Stijn Brakkee

The bricks themselves were individually cast by Poesia in Resana whereas the adhesive was formed through research from the Delft University of Technology, in partnership with engineering firm ABT and contractor Wessels Zeist. This enabled the use of a high-strength, UV bonded, transparent material from Delo Industrial Adhesives in Germany. As glass isn’t often known to be the most resistant of materials, its strength was put to the test, and experts worked tirelessly using new construction methods and tools. The Delft University of Technology tested the bricks, concluding that in many ways it was stronger than concrete- most notably the architrave was found to withstand a 42,000 Newton force (approximately two full-sized SUVs).

IMG_4243(6)
Photo Credit: MVRDV
MVRDV Crystal houses Amsterdam glass bricks architetural innovation
Photo Credit: MVRDV

This project not only resulted in an amazing exterior, but also unearthed new building possibilities by producing what is essentially an entirely recyclable facade. The glass bricks can be, and were throughout the project, melted down and re-cast.

More on the project here.

MVRDV
Poesia

A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, July 2019.

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