Volume 25, Issue 6 - November/December 2011


Clear Views

Location, location, location—those are the three magic words in real estate. So when a home opens to the breathtaking views of the Flatiron Mountains, blocking that vista is the last thing anyone would want. But that was the problem for one Boulder, Colo., residence, as its views were hindered by an old wood awning above the front door. Jenda Michl, principal, Vertu Studio in Los Angeles, designed and created an all-glass, suspended sculpture that provides clear views, offers protection from water/snow, and is relevant to the early 1960s façade of the home while still being current. Michl proved that glass architecture does not have to be big to have a major impact; in creating the awning he used a mere three lites of glass and off-the-shelf hardware, yet the resulting aesthetics are profound.

“The client contacted me and asked for some creative ideas,” says Michl. “The house had a sagging, old 1960s wood awning over an all-glass façade and it blocked the views. The homeowners were certain they needed to replace it and they did not want to lose the views; they wanted to be able to see the Flatirons from the living room, while still maintaining the function of the awning,” says Michl.

Michl decided to create a functional glass sculpture that would replace the awning.

“We used 3/8-inch tempered glass in varying colors. We did run into some difficulty in sourcing the unique glass colors, and found them to be surprisingly limited for a small order. As for the hardware, we used primarily off-the-shelf products from the hardware store along with a custom metal bracket and a shower door hinge. High-tension airline cable holds the glass nearly 5 feet off the house. This cable was sheathed in stainless steel tubing to prevent any lift in high wind conditions.” The PPG glass was supplied by Boulder Stained Glass Studio; Vitraform in Denver did the final fabrication work.

And while this project itself was a small one, it was one that provided a lot of opportunities and possibilities for the future.

“The small scope allowed for more experimentation and artistry than a larger scope would have,” says Michl. “It’s important to keep those creative juices alive and have projects that are fun.”

Surrounded by Glass

Newly constructed roadside tourist attractions may seem a thing of the past—think great balls of string and those famous mystery spots—but owners of the Cherokee Travel Mart in Geary, Okla., were nostalgic. They wanted to bring that fun, family atmosphere into their location, which can be found at exit 108 along I-40. Wright Group Architects Planners PLLC in Carrolton, Texas, was charged with the task of creating an eye-catching structure for the stop, and it was glass that helped make it all possible.

“Most of us still remember the themed travel stops of years past,” says Terrance J. Wright, AIA, NCARB, of Wright Group Architects Planners PLLC, speaking of those stops where travelers find such amenities as camping and picnic sites, restaurants and convenience stores all in one location. “This location has all of that.”

One feature of the travel mart is a 50-year old convenience store in need of a new look.

“The owners wanted the new store to have a wow factor. There were existing models of teepee structures on site, so we
played with that idea and came up with a nearly 50-foot high, ten-sided glass teepee tied into the building. This proved to be the look they were going for.”

Working with B&B Glass in Dallas as the contract glazier, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope was brought on as the fabricator. The glass system for the teepee, Wright says, was $260,000.

The teepee, with its cap, stands 48 feet tall; the top of the glass is 35 feet 10 inches above the finished floor. It is constructed of laminated, insulating glass panels in an aluminum sloped-glazing frame system.

Creating such a structure, however, was not without challenges. For example, Wright says the glass framing is supported by steel tubes forming the basic teepee shape. Accuracy of placement was crucial to maintain tolerances.

“There are a lot of tricky connections,” he says.
To help ensure accuracy a steel rod marker was placed in the floor slab as the center point.

“It provided a fixed point for coordination of all trades,” says Wright. “This installation was going to require a little more care than your average storefront to guarantee a tight fit.”

In creating the teepee, Wright says it was helpful that they had a client who allowed them to push the limits.

“The design was developed and presented in a 3D CAD system. We worked closely with the owner to refine the design and assure this would be a fun place for travelers to stop,” Wright says. “People began taking touristy photos in front of the teepee even before it was complete. When customers come inside the store, the first thing they do is go into the teepee and look up. It’s a fun new atmosphere for a 50-year-old travel mart wanting to be a novelty stop along the route.”

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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