What is ‘Architectural’ Glass?
It is a curious descriptor which seems to have recently come into common usage. I can understand a glass manufacturer wanting to distinguish their, say, ‘bottle’ glass from that of a ‘plate’ glass manufacturer, but the term ‘architectural’ is clearly more synonymous with design. Perhaps we can say that any glass that is used structurally to complete a building, internally or externally, should be termed Architectural Glass simply because an architect decided that it should be placed within the structure – just so. Is that the link? That an architect placed it? Of course, being included in or around a building’s structure would necessitate the glass type being of a certain standard: toughened or laminated to comply with building standards, but you could also have a glass-top table made from either of these and the sheet of glass wouldn’t, surely, be classified as Architectural Glass – would it?
In my opinion, the term is just another of those combinations of adjective and noun that has come into vogue because it has a good ring to it. It rolls off the tongue nicely and sounds a lot better than ‘Building Glass’ – and ‘Structural Glass’ would imply properties of strength beyond its limits. Given that the term is used primarily in the building industry, it is, however, a welcome addition to the lexicon of glass types as it brings acknowledgement of, and is inclusive of, architects in the whole building process. While we may know the names of many major construction company giants, we are hardly likely to know an architect’s name, and after all, it is they who design and draw up the plans for buildings. No plans – no building.
As with many in-vogue catch phrases, it could easily fall into misuse and be used as a catch-all for glass in buildings. Could the term Architectural Glass come to include the bathroom mirror, the kitchen splash-back, the glass fish tank or the mezzanine floor’s glass-panelled balustrading? All of these are more ‘cosmetic’ in usage rather than being of structural importance, surely. And can Switchable Privacy Glass, when used for internal partitioning, be termed Architectural Glass? Perhaps glass used for these latter purposes should be categorised as ‘Design Glass’, to be associated with ‘Art Glass’ with all its decorative design possibilities.
So, if we must use categorical nomenclatures for glass let me suggest that we think of Architectural Glass as being exclusively glass doors and windows – oh, and/or the glass skylights, be they Switchable Privacy Glass or not.