Glass houses first appeared in the 17th and 18th century, but were usually built to house exotic plants brought back by overseas travellers from the New World. The glass structures were designed to allow these plants to flourish in an artificially warm climate. When these glasshouses first appeared, the glass used to build them was very expensive. This meant only the very wealthy were able to afford them. Today, glass structures have become more and more popular, with extensions made entirely of glass for a modern sophisticated look.
Where it all began
Orangeries were the very first glasshouses, housing exotic plants, and fruits. These were popular in Spain and exported to England during the mid to late 16th century. Orangeries became fashionable in Britain after King William II was crowned in 1689, the orange being a symbol of his. Over time, orangeries spawned the conservatory and the greenhouse, similar glass structures but used for different purposes.
The greenhouse was used for evergreens during the winter months and for growing plants sensitive to temperature and frost. Conservatories, on the other hand, provided excellent growing conditions for most plants year-round, and were very popular amongst the richer classes. One of Britain’s most iconic glasshouses ever constructed was the stunning Crystal Palace Exhibition Hall, built during the reign of Queen Victoria. This magnificent glass and iron structure was situated in Hyde Park and was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton. It was opened to the public on May 1, 1851. The building was virtually destroyed by fire in November 1936, and the surviving towers were demolished in 1941.
Today, glass is used more and more in building construction. Here is a list of the top 10 glass structures ever built.
The best of the best
1. The Grand National Theatre, China. This stunning glass house can be found in Beijing, near Tiananmen Square. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu, and was constructed between 2001 and 2007, finally opening to the public in December 2007. The Grand National Theatre (Chinese Name: 国家大剧院), seats 5,452 in its three concert halls and stands on a man-made island, surrounded by a lake.
2. Botanical Gardens of Curitba, Brazil. Opened to the public in 1991, this garden is one a major tourist attraction in the city of Curitba, the capital of the state of Parana, southern Brazil. Its designer, Abraao Assad was inspired by The Crystal Palace in London.
3. Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision. Designed by architects Willem Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk, it is one of the largest audio-visual archives in Europe. This colourful glass building which was built in 2006 can be found in Hilversum, Noord Holland
4. Glass House, Italy. This glass structure is located in Milan. The entire house is covered in blue tinted glass panels, and even the furniture and fixtures in the house are made from glass! This beautiful transparent house has sea views and overlooks scenic woodlands. It was designed by Carlo Santambrogio, who explains: “The woodland house rests on land with the scent of sun and rain. It erects the development of its transparencies till it looks onto the tops of the branches of ancient trees. The house on the sea lives the landscape. It bears witness to the succession of natural phenomena, responsive to their contrasts, reflecting and integrating into its transparencies the anger and peace of the elements.
5. Sports and Leisure Centre, France. This building was built by Koz Architectes in 2009 and cost $3.8M Euros to build! Located in Saint-Cloud, it is a structure that stands out with its bright colours and bold design.
6. Aldar Headquarters, United Arab Emirates. Located in Abu Dhabi, and designed by M2 Architects, it is the first circular building of its kind. Aldar HQ was voted the “Best Futuristic Design” by BEX (The Building Exchange Conference), held in Spain.
7. The Dancing House, Czech Republic. This unusual building in Prague was designed by Vlado Milunic; his design was inspired by legendary dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The construction of ‘Fred and Ginger’ began in 1992 and took four years to complete.
8. Basque Health Department Headquarters, Spain. Built in 2008 and located in Bilbao, this unusual looking glass and steel building was designed by Juan Coll-Barreu. The structure has a double facade that not only solves urban requirements, but is fire resistant and insulates noise from outside too. The improvement in climate means that there is no need for air conditioning or false ceilings in the building.
9. Louvre Pyramid, France. Opened on the 1st April 1989, this magnificent glass and steel pyramid is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. It was designed by Chinese-American architect, I.M. Pei. The pyramid was hugely unpopular when it was first built. This was because it was claimed that there were 666 panes of glass used to build it, the number often associated with the devil. Superstitious people thought it was a bad omen and would bring bad luck to the city.
10. The Gherkin, England. 30 St Mary Axe, London, is probably one of the most recognisable sights in the capitol. Standing tall alongside other commercial skyscrapers in London’s financial district, The Gherkin is a 41-storey building designed by Norman Foster and Arup Group. It was built to maximise natural light using thick laminated glass, and opened in April 2004.
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