Crystal House. The Chanel boutique is made of glass bricks

On PC Hooftstraat, luxury shopping street in Amsterdam, MVRDV gave life to the facade of the building that houses the temporary headquarters of the Chanel boutique using high-strength glass bricks, whose producer is Italian and present in the Library of Material ConneXion: 5967- 01

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Thus, the study of architecture and urban design of Rotterdam chose transparency to redesign the front of the building, transforming this type of work into a workshop of constructive technology that involved master craftsmen, engineers, researchers and manufacturers. To carry it out MVRDV used a pioneering technology, the only one of its kind; glass bricks, cornices, windows and lintels able recreate the traditional architectural style of the city of Amsterdam.

The glass bricks were affixed with a high-strength transparent glue.

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According to MVRDV, the construction is “in many ways, stronger”, as was demonstrated during the “testing” process. Indeed, keeping the specific weight of the brick but varying the composition (still kept very secret), Poesia, a company of the Nuova Vetreria Resanese (glassmakers), created a super resistant material which, according to crash tests carried out by the Delft University of Technology, ABT engineering company and Wessels Zeist contractor, it is even more solid than cement; the lintel, for example, can withstand stresses of up to 42 thousand Newton.

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Towards the upper floors, the glass elements blend with the original terracotta bricks to create the illusion of a dissoluted wall.

Winy Maas, one of the three co-founding archetects of MVRDV, said: “Crystal House must accommodate a major flagship store, respect the surrounding structure and bring with it an innovative poetry in a glass building” and continued “It allows global brands to combine the uncontrollable desire of transparency with local colour and modernity with heritage. It can therefore be used everywhere in our historic centres.”

Many of the buildings located on this street of luxury items have lost the elements of their original architecture. MVRDV did not want to do the same, the idea of the study, in fact, was to recreate the original facade using a new material, glass. Furthermore, one of the main advantages lies in the fact that the material is completely recyclable. During installation, in fact, several imperfect bricks were melted down and reshaped.

A film of MVRDV’s installation was made entitled The Making of Crystal House, by Robert Jan Westdijk for the project’s investor, Warenar Real Estate.