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Transparent and Translucent
“We delight in the mere sight of the delicate glow of fading rays clinging to the surface of a dusky wall, there to live out what little life remains to them. We never tire of the sight, for to us this pale glow and these dim shadows far surpass any ornament.” This is how Tanizaki Jun’ichir? – in his essay “In Praise of Shadows” – describes the effect that comes about when, in a traditional Japanese house, light filtered by the rice paper windows is cast on the ochre walls. This fractured transparency that the diaphanous surfaces – which allow no view inward or outward – bestow, has a long tradition in Japan. So it comes as no surprise that this nation in the Far East continues to put forth unconventional, translucent architectural solutions. Kengo Kuma, for example, developed a double-skin exterior envelope made of translucent membranes – between which air circulates – for an experimental house on Hokkaido. A residence in Hiroshima, on the other hand, has a wall of glass block – threaded on stainless steel rods – to shield it from the busy boulevard. The wall makes possible a fascinating play of light and shadow, even including variegated colours. A small office building in the Spanish city of León wears its curved expanded metal shell like an item of clothing that not only protects, but also cloaks it. Thanks to the superimpositions, differing degrees of transparency are achieved. Aside from functioning as sun shading, the metal skin also incorporates an enlarged version of the firm’s logo. These three examples – and the five others – in this edition demonstrate how translucence can be attained using a large palette of materials or measures, but also, that the transition from “seeing through” to “shining through” is often seamless. Corresponding to its theme “Transparent und Translucent” this edition contains projects such as the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, which attains its distinctive character above all through the use of expansive glazing. In our Technology section, Frank Kaltenbach and Roland Pawlitschko report on the products that currently supply the greatest possible transparency and the most increments of translucence. They also provide a survey of current research projects.
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