Blue and green glass are the most energy efficient which is why it’s all we use. Difficult to satisfy energy code with other colors.
— Car Free Austin (@CarFreeAustin) September 15, 2017
But this might be a specious argument — if green glass is also efficient, where’s our 333 Wacker Drive? Why’s blue the default color for a glass tower? Compare the Fairmont Bejing to the Fairmont Austin, for instance:
Okay, so the Bejing hotel looks kinda like a rose gold grain elevator — at least someone’s taking chances and experimenting with interesting colors!
Anyway, with the announcement and subsequent renderings for the (extremely sweet-looking) Gensler-designed tower planned at 600 Guadalupe, I basically expected blue as the default — see, they’re brainwashing us!
But there might be a chance for something at least a little different. George Blume, a designer at Gensler, is an Instagram must-follow — he posts great material about all the firm’s projects, but lately he’s showing off the 600 Guadalupe tower, both in renderings and physical models. Take a gander at his latest post:
In the comments, you’ll find this:
Viracon is an architectural glass manufacturer that specializes in the glass substrates and coatings used for the curtain walls in modern towers, and the use of low-iron glass means an increase in clarity — the presence of iron oxide in glass causes a greenish/bluish tint that’s more noticeable as the element’s concentration increases.
Viracon’s selection of coatings for its glass panels also impact the color of a building’s exterior — let’s take a look at some coating colors on low-iron glass from the company’s catalog:
So some of them are blue, but some of them aren’t! Blume’s comment about the building having a “subtle silver sheen” is promising, but it’s a little unclear whether that’s just a silver sheen on a building that, in the end, is still kinda bluish. A straight-up silver building, on the other hand, would be super neat.
But either way, I’ll take what I can get! At least until some visionary architect drops plans for a rose gold building. That’ll be the day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For the concerned readers reaching out about this particular take of mine, I haven’t forgotten that the sky is blue. The argument that all of downtown’s towers are blue just because they’re reflecting the sky is dishonest when you look at a photo of the skyline and see how many different shades of blue are represented — meaning there’s more to these colors than the dang ol’ sky.
My point is that a blue glass curtain wall tower is the Toyota Corolla of skyscraper design — yeah, the color of the sky impacts the reflected color of a glass panel, and makes circumventing this physical aspect of reality cost extra and require additional design considerations, but that doesn’t mean architects are just throwing up their hands in dismay and designing blue buildings because our planet’s atmosphere has a gun to their heads. C’mon.