A building made of glass bricks is definitely there and yet you can see right through it. It has a sense of both presence and absence, solidity and transparency. It is really a very poetic building.
The glass-bricked Crystal Houses, designed by Dutch architect Winy Maas and his team at MVRDV, received the Public Prize at the 2016 Dutch Design Awards.
The solid glass bricks are a revolutionary building material and will enable future cityscapes and urban experiences that were previously unimaginable. Not only is it totally aesthetically innovative, but a brick made of glass also radically reduces the amount of waste materials. All of the glass is completely recyclable and any imperfect bricks can be melted and remoulded. The entire building could be melted down, resurrected and given a new life. A glass brick is also – interestingly – stronger than a concrete one.
The Crystal Houses came out of a design project that aimed to bring together the Dutch heritage with international standard architectural innovation on the PC Hoofstraat, a luxury shopping street in Amsterdam. The glass building mimics the original design, down to the detail of the brick layering and the window frames and hopes to bring character and a sense of identity back to the street.
The building was also designed with renewable energy sources: heating and cooling comes from a pipe that goes deep underground and is able to maintain the indoor climate throughout the year.
According to MVRDV’s website, the building site looked more like a laboratory than a construction site for the year that the workers were there. Intensive craftsmanship and accuracy was required in the process, and tools such as lasers and laboratory UV lights.