Volume 43, Issue 8 - August 2008

S t e p - b y - S t e p
Decorative Glass Blossoms in D.C.
These Freestanding Glass Boxes Provide Installation Challenges

Each year the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held in Washington, D.C., to mark the beginning of spring in the nation’s Capital. The Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C, incorporates its own tribute to the delicate cherry blossoms with decorative glass. The hotel lobby features two freestanding decorative glass boxes that incorporate images of the trees. “It’s like a jewelry box,” says Stephen Beletz of the seemingly delicate structure; Philadelphia based Beletz Bros Glass Co. Inc. installed the glass.

Artist Amanda Weil of Weil Studio in New York was commissioned to photograph the famous blossoms. Next, Los Angeles-based decorative glass manufacturer Pulp Studio used DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ digital interlayer technology to print the images directly onto the interlayer of the laminated glass.

Tony Chi and Associates in New York designed the structure, and worked with Beletz Bros. to create a structure that, like the trees it mimics, is seemingly freestanding while strong enough to support doors and a roof.

To accomplish this, the glass was fastened only at the top and bottom of each wall. At the base of each box is a ½-inch stainless steel plate, upon the back of which the glaziers customwelded a deep shoe. “The glass is down there about 8 inches,” Beletz says.

Simply getting the channels onto the jobsite proved challenging. The largest plates measured 12 feet long and, with the housing for the glass welded onto it, weighed more than 1,100 pounds. “We had to have 12 people carry it in,” Beletz says.

In addition, a 1 ½-inch stainless steel channel fits on top like a lid and essentially locks the glass together.

The freestanding boxes each feature access doors, which Beletz says blend near seamlessly into the decorative partitions. “We were hoping that the strength of the glass would be enough that you could hang a door off of it—and it was.”

Since the doors had to blend in, the hardware certainly couldn’t be visible to visitors. The doors’ floor and head pivots were recessed into the top and bottom channels.

The true test of the system came when it was time to raise it.

“Once we stood the first piece up, 11 feet in the air, [we wondered] was it going to be strong enough to house a roof and a door to swing off it?” Beletz recalls.

The glaziers worked with engineers that adjusted the depth of the glass into the bottom frame, but assured the installers that the structure would stand.

Much of the assembly work was done onsite, and it provided its share of challenges. “But,” Beletz says, “for as big and massive as it was, it went together really nice.”

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