Glass Architecture Will House Glass Art

June 2005

"If we want our culture to rise to a higher level, we are obligated for better or for worse, to change our architecture. And this only becomes possible if we take away the closed character from the rooms in which we live. We can only do that by introducing glass architecture, which lets in the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars . . . through every possible wall, which will be made entirely of glass. . . . The new environment, which we thus create, must bring us a new culture.” —Bruno Taut, Architect, 1914

Housing one of the world’s finest international glass collections, the new Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art will be an international marvel of its own. The implementation of a new process in glass design and fabrication, the expertise of an internationally recognized architectural firm and a postmodern design built on the belief of social transparency make the building an architectural and social masterwork. Handpicked by a search committee led by architectural and art historians, community leaders and curatorial staff in 2000, SANAA, Ltd. was awarded the design for the glass center, which will house more than 5,000 pieces of glass from ancient to contemporary times. The Glass Pavilion was the first U.S. commission for SANAA, based in Tokyo, Japan; however, since that time, they have been selected to design the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. Kazuyo Sejima, one of the premiere women in the international architectural arena, is the lead architect on the project.

At 15 feet tall and 76,000 square feet, Toledo Museum’s Glass Pavilion combines the most advanced structural, material, environmental and aesthetic knowledge to create an elegant building that could not have been realized a generation ago. The one-story structure with basement will contain a glassmaking facility consisting of two hot shops as well as studios for lampworking, casting, molding, flat and cold-working techniques. The pavilion also will include support spaces for loading, storage, administration, conservation and photography along with a multipurpose room for both lectures and seated dinners.

About Those Walls

Emphasizing the building’s ultimate function, glass will be used in innovative ways architecturally. Curved glass walls will divide the various spaces in the building while creating connections between spaces in a new and unique way. Exterior and interior glass walls are made of two panes laminated together for extreme durability. Although some will be larger, most of the glass wall panels will be 8 feet wide and 13 feet, 6 inches high.

The glass is made by the Pilkington Glass Company and shipped to China for the fabrication process. During this procedure, the raw glass is shaped into the exact sizes needed for the construction of the Glass Pavilion. Since there are no right-angled corners on the exterior of the first floor of the building, much of the glass has to be rounded to fit the corner areas, and other pieces need to be shaped to fit specific spaces. The finished glass will be shipped to Toledo for installation in the Glass Pavilion.

The glass walls will be installed by setting one wall segment into a grooved channel in the floor. Within the channel, a compressible material will allow the wall segment to settle and move within the groove. The top of the glass panel will be held in place by a similar channel in the ceiling. Once in place, the installation technique will allow the glass to shift and twist without causing gaps to occur in the wall.

An interior 3/4-inch steel wall surrounds one unique space, and demonstrates an innovative use of steel structure, functioning both as room divider and part of the structural system.

The Glass Pavilion’s wiring and HVAC ducts are located in the floors and ceiling of the building, as well as in the few opaque dry-walled sections of the first floor. The basement level features all standard construction methods. Portions of the physical plant will be housed in a building nearby. In general, the integration of the different systems (structural, mechanical, etc.) will be at a level of precision rarely achieved in the United States, creating an absolutely unique architectural experience.

Let There Be Light

The architects and museum staff worked together to develop a design and systems that utilize natural light, safeguard works of art and provide a comfortable environment for artists and visitors. The museum has thoroughly studied daylight patterns to evaluate how light will enter the museum every day of the year. To prevent interior spaces from overheating and to control light levels, a shading system will curtail the amount of daylight entering the building The Pavilion continues an established tradition of visionary architecture commissioned by the Toledo Museum of Art for its campus, including the Center for Visual Arts designed by Frank Gehry in 1992. The Glass Pavilion’s design is an extension of a 20th century vision where cities made of glass symbolized a new cultural and social transparency and openness. Frank Lloyd Wright and other visionary 20th century artists shared this ideal.

The Glass Pavilion’s primary purpose is to provide an in-depth examination of the creative process by presenting the museum’s glass collection within the context of all the visual arts. Within the pavilion, artists and patrons will explore the creative process of glassmaking through the interpretation of the museum’s collection and by emphasizing the relationship between the art created there and the masterpieces in the collection. Some museums focus on the history of glass, and a few others contextualize works in this media by integrating them within the history of art. The Glass Pavilion will be unique in featuring the close physical relationship between its glass collection, related works in other media, and its glassmaking facilities.

This pavilion further reinforces Ohio’s cities as being among the most progressive architectural patrons in the nation. Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati possess a nucleus of buildings of international significance, including Cleveland’s Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University by Frank Gehry; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by I.M. Pei; Columbus’s Knights of Columbus Building by Roche Dinkeloo; and Cincinnati’s Union Terminal by NY architects Alfred Fellheimer and Stewart Wagner. Toledo’s Glass Pavilion becomes the second museum building in Ohio to be designed by an internationally recognized female architect.

The Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion is slated to open in 2006.