Introduction to the research


  • Faidra Oikonomopoulou TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment



Innovations in glass technologies and engineering over the last decades have altered the way we perceive glass. Combining transparency, durability and a compressive strength exceeding that of concrete and even structural steel, glass has evolved in the engineering world from a brittle, fragile material to a reliable structural component with high compressive load-carrying capacity. At present, the structural applications of glass in architecture are constantly increasing, yet with a considerable geometrical limitation: although glass’s fabrication boundaries have been continuously stretching so far, glass structures are still dominated by the limited shapes which can be generated by the combination of the virtually 2-dimensional, planar elements produced by the float industry. Whereas glass panels in float production can stretch more than 20 m in length, the width is restricted to 3.21 or 4.5 m and the maximum commercial thickness is only 25 mm (Lyons 2010; Schittich et al. 2007; Patterson 2011).

Cast glass can overcome the design limitations imposed by the 2-dimensional nature of float glass. By pouring molten glass into moulds, solid 3-dimensional glass components of almost any shape and cross-section can be obtained1. Such objects can be shaped to form repetitive units for free-form full-glass structures that do not buckle due to their slender proportions, thus taking full advantage of the high compressive strength of glass; a solution little explored so far. Discouraging factors such as the meticulous and time-consuming annealing process required, the to-date non-standardized production, and the corresponding high manufacturing costs, have limited cast glass to only a handful of realized architectural applications. Consequently, there is a lack of engineering data and a general unawareness of the potential and risks of building with cast glass as a structural material. The loadbearing function of cast glass in architecture remains an unmapped field.

Scope of this research is to explore the structural potential and limitations of solid cast glass components and introduce cast glass as a promising construction material in architecture, indicating both the potential and limitations of this alternative production process for glass in buildings. To achieve this, the research focuses on the development and experimental validation of two new design concepts for selfsupporting envelopes made almost entirely of cast glass components: adhesively bonded and interlocking cast glass components.

Author Biography

Faidra Oikonomopoulou, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Faidra (Phaedra) Oikonomopoulou was born on 1984 in Athens, Greece. In 2009 she graduated with a diploma (MSc) of Architect Engineer from the Faculty of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens [NTUA], ranking among the top students in her class. For the coming one year she worked both as an architect engineer in Athens and as a travel article contributor. In 2010 she followed a second master degree in Building Technology at the Delft University of Technology. It was her MSc thesis initiative that introduced her to glass as a structural material: "The design of a fully glass pavilion for the Temple of Apollo Epikourios in Peloponnese". She proudly presented the findings of her thesis in Challenging Glass 3 Conference. Following her graduation in 2012, Faidra embarked on an adventure in Namelok, a Maasai village in Kenya, to work on the use of mud bricks for construction and pursue her other big passions: travelling and wildlife spotting. Many elephants and lions later she returned to Delft as a researcher for a project on innovative glass joints, followed by a six-month internship in an engineering office specializing in structural glass applications in Athens.

In 2014 Faidra returned to Delft to work on a glass project that she knew little about: the Crystal Houses Façade. Faidra was the lead PhD researcher on the research and development of the applied adhesively bonded system. After approximately one and a half years of research and experimental work, together with colleague Telesilla Bristogianni they supervised the construction of the Crystal Houses façade and even built together with the construction crew the first 1.5 meter of the glass wall. For her work in the Crystal Houses Faidra has co-received multiple awards, including the Innovation Award 2016 by the Society of Façade Engineers and the Talent met Toekomst 2017. Through the Crystal Houses façade project Faidra discovered the architectural potential of cast glass, but also saw the engineering challenges involved. Together with Telesilla they have been awarded two 4TU. Bouw Lighthouse grants for innovative research on cast glass and their research on recycled cast glass building components was nominated for the New Material Award 2018.

Faidra pursued her PhD degree while working as a Researcher/Lecturer at the Architectural Engineering + Technology Department of the Faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology. Currently Faidra is employed as a Senior Researcher & Lecturer at the same department, where she continues her research on structural cast glass. Faidra has given invited talks and workshops on the structural potential of cast glass in several institutions, universities and companies in Europe and USA. Her vision is to create circular, load-bearing and aesthetically intriguing cast glass structures. Meanwhile she continues pursuing her other big passions as well, by travelling all over the world and encountering rare animals in the wild.