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BOOK

REVIEW

New Glass Architecture By Brent Richards; photography by Dennis Gilbert.Laurence King Publishing.2006. 240pp. £35

The main proposition in Brent Richards' short essay and selection of 25 case-study buildings is that over the last 15 years the dominant interest of mainstream Modernism in the use of glass - the pursuit of absence, the disappearing wall - has been supplemented by a glass architecture of presence; of making the glass surface a palpable piece of architecture.

This is not without precedent, of course. He cites a brief interwar owering in such buildings as Mies' glass skyscraper designs and the Maison de Verre, and Ronchamp gets a mention later. But the general point stands up.

Case studies show different approaches to this constructing with light since 1990, such as Gehry or van Egeraat's swooping facades, whose curvature greatly reduces inward transparency, and which can spiral into the building as funnels and freestanding planes; indirect light fed in through coloured niches from Holl; use of frits (Ibos and Vitart's Museum of Art, Lille) and screenprinting on glass (Alsop's Colorium); curved or translucent individual glass panels - both found in Moneo's Kursaal Centre; and the promise of computer display facades glimpsed in Fournier and Cook's Graz Kunsthaus.

The book also includes a few Modernist case study essays in transparency (why? ), one example of 'presence' in polycarbonate (the Laban Centre), but no ETFE.

The studies give thorough project descriptions but, surprisingly, not always that much about the glazing. It's essentially a book to look at.

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