Stronger than Concrete: New Glass Bricks Support Dutch Facade

A new type of see-through glass brick used in this Dutch building facade aims to bridge traditional brick with transparency; the assembled bricks have been tested and shown to be as strong as concrete, able to support heavy loads in compression like its opaque competitor.

glass brick assembly

Architecture firm MVRDV applied this new technology to the front of a Chanel shop in Amsterdam that was damaged behind repair, allowing for a see-through storefront that still references local historic brick while using fully-recyclable glass.

glass brick detail

The bricks themselves are held in place with likewise see-through glue and help support the remaining terracotta brickwork on the floor above into which they visually transition. The structurally-sound result stands out against the street, but also lets additional light into the interior of the building.

glass brick details

glass brick in context

This new approach to brick can help mediate between the desire for solidity and openness, providing a cheap alternative to both masonry and glass construction traditions. The construction process was as much a laboratory experiment as an architectural process, involving teams from around the world in different disciplines.

glass brick view

Researchers from Delft University of Technology, engineers at ABT and contractors at Wessels Zeist joined forces to develop and test structural solutions and fabrication techniques, ultimately leading to the development of this new type of brick. The bricks were then cast by a glass company Venice and joined using glue from Delo Industrial Adhesives in Germany. (Photos by Daria Scagliola and Stijn Brakkee).