Beyond Materiality, Towards Craftsmanship
Applying Design Thinking to Glass Systems in the 18 Septemberplein Redevelopment
This paper describes the design process UNStudio undertook in the redevelopment of the C&A Building on 18 Septemberplein in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The design brief primarily called for the rebranding of the building while maintaining the building’s façade historic value and aesthetic. Secondarily, the design is meant to activate the urban context where the building is located without competing with the neighboring landmarks. UNStudio saw an opportunity to rethink the transparent layer – the glass window – of the building as a tool to enhance its identity minimizing the aesthetic impact on its historic facade.
This case study outlines opportunities to innovate while designing with glass through two often polarized perspectives: contemporary architecture and historic preservation. Architects constantly negotiate the value of private versus public space, transparency versus opacity, and building energy performance in our built environment through the use of glass. Emerging integrated technologies such as LED, photovoltaic, lamination, and touch sensitive layer are enabling new ways of rethinking the roles and applications of glass: as an architectural element, an information layering surface, and an agent for light and transparency. New opportunities are thus arising for glass in digital media facades and parametric façade design. On the other hand, architects’ role in historic preservation requires a diligent approach to glass application due to the constraints of local zoning and aesthetic regulations (governed in the Netherlands by the Welstandscommissie) that seek to protect certain historic values in existing buildings. The objective of this paper is to apply UNStudio’s design thinking sensibilities towards – and understanding of – glass as a system, to contemporary themes of community, social branding, and the environmental impact of architects’ interventions on the built environment.