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Sage Gateshead

3 Iconic Old And Modern Glass Structures Around The World

Glass is an amazing and versatile material: strong, beautiful and contemporary. It has many uses, from small decorative items to huge skyscrapers. When the earliest glass was made by craftsmen in Mesopotamia about 4,000 years ago, it was a luxury item used only to make objects for the wealthiest people in society. 

Glass objects recovered from the area include jewellery, architectural embellishments, and containers for oils and perfumes. By the Roman era, new techniques led to more ambitious glassware such as vases, bowls, and sculptures being produced. These wares were sold throughout the whole of Europe.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, glass manufacturing fell into decline and did not pick up again until the 13th century. However, it was still largely reserved for decorative items and tableware that were expensive and not widely available. It took until the early 17th century before glass began to be used for window panes.

Glazing techniques advanced considerably during the 19th century, particularly with the invention of the ‘float glass’ technique, which allowed wall to ceiling glass panes to be manufactured. This opened the door to the possibility of glass being used as a building material, and the world has not looked back since!

Glazing is now a central architectural feature, opening up spaces to light and views. Here are some of the most iconic glass buildings the world has seen to date.

The Crystal Palace, London

The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park, London, as part of the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and Owen Jones, and was a plate glass and steel structure about three times the size of St Paul’s Cathedral. Far ahead of its time, visitors were entranced by the 128 ft high clear glass ceiling.

When the Great Exhibition closed after six months, the building was dismantled and reassembled in another part of the city. After a period of decline, it was restored in the late 1890s, but was sadly irreparably damaged by fire in 1936.

Sage Gateshead

To bring us right back up to the present day, we go to Gateshead in the north east of England. This might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of cutting edge architecture, but the Sage Gateshead music venue is really very impressive. The huge curved glass and steel structure was designed by Foster and Partners and opened in 2004.

Inside it contains three separate buildings that are insulated to prevent sound and vibration travelling between them. The building has won numerous awards, including the RIBA Award for inclusive design and the 2005 British Construction Industry Award. 

Basque Health Department Headquarters

This unforgettable building is located in the city of Bilbao, Spain. It stands on a prominent street corner, and at first glance is a peculiar mishmash of glazed surfaces. However, closer inspection reveals a daring and coherent design that is now considered to be an icon of modern architecture. 

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