Chanel’s new glass façade is stronger than brick

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Unless that house was built by TU Delft. Thanks to research done at TU Delft’s Architecture and the Built Environment faculty, a glass brick facade has been installed at the new Chanel boutique in Amsterdam, which is up to ten times stronger than the original brick wall.

PhD candidate Phaedra Oikonomopoulou testing brick wall samples in the structural mechanics lab (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

An exact replica of the original 19th century façade, the Crystal House’s load bearing exterior wall made of transparent glass is a world first, according to Dr. Fred Veer of the TU Delft Glass & Transparency Research group. Veer, who helped research the project, stated that one of the biggest challenges was finding a suitable adhesive. The best solution was a German ultra-violet curing adhesive, both quick and clear drying to meet the specifications of the architect. Where a normal brick wall uses approximately 3mm layers of adhesive, this UV-curing glue necessitates thin layers of 0.15–0.2mm.

The bricks, produced in Italy, are made of soda-lime-silica glass, and were manufactured using low iron sand which provided the most transparency. According to structural engineer of the project, and professor of Structural Design, Rob Nijsse the bricks can withstand 200MPa, making them approximately 10 times stronger than regular brick. “Thanks to our tests we proved it’s a strong, solid and safe solution,” Nijsse told Delta, adding, “the nice thing about glass is it’s a very sustainable material, it doesn’t rot or corrode, and it lets in light.”

Thanks to the high transparency and low distortion of the bricks, the 12 by 9 metre wall is like a large window, and while expected to be stunning, it was an expensive endeavour. However, Veer expects projects like this will be easier and cheaper in the future. The researchers are already working on potential projects to follow the glass wall including a glass structure for the Green Village in TU Delft.

Though the façade is complete, the interior of the store is still being built. Chanel is expected to open the new boutique in June, revealing the new store-front.

This piece originally appeared in Delta and was written by Ailie Conor.