MVRDV has used a pioneering glass technology to replace the brick facade of a former townhouse in Amsterdam with a transparent replica, more suited to the building's new use as a Chanel boutique. Described by the Rotterdam studio as the first of its kind, the innovative facade of Crystal Houses Amsterdam uses glass bricks, windows frames and architraves to recreate the city's traditional architectural style.
The glass bricks are held in place with a transparent high-strength glue. According to MVRDV, the construction is "in many ways, stronger than concrete", as was proven during the testing process. Towards the upper storeys, the glass elements merge with the original terracotta brickwork to create the illusion of a dissolving wall.
"Crystal Houses make space for a remarkable flagship store, respect the structure of the surroundings and bring a poetic innovation in glass construction," he continued. "It enables global brands to combine the overwhelming desire of transparency with a couleur locale, and modernity with heritage. It can thus be applied everywhere in our historic centres." Crystal Houses, now home to the Chanel boutique, is located on PC Hooftstraat, a former residential street that has become a hub for luxury
Many of the buildings on this street have lost elements of their original architecture. MVRDV didn't want to do the same, but the studio's idea to recreate the original facade in glass had never been tried before. After developing the concept, the studio worked with specialists to develop the technologies to make it a reality. Researchers from Delft University of Technology partnered with engineering firm ABT and contractor Wessels Zeist to test structural solutions and fabrication techniques.
"Six to 10 experts worked every day for a whole year in a place that bore more resemblance to a laboratory than a construction site," said MVRDV in a statement. The firm sees Crystal Houses as a starting point for reimagining the future of glass in construction. One of the main advantages is that the material is completely recyclable. During the installation, several imperfect bricks were melted down and remoulded – in fact, the entire facade could be reformed in the future.