When a classic luxury brand like Chanel trades its traditional concrete and glass façade with a glass bricks façade, it is surely worth writing about it!
In Amsterdam, on the only luxury brand street that was primarily fully residential, the project “Crystal Houses” assigned to architecture firm MVRDV, consisted of demolishing a traditional building and designing a special structure with 620sqm of retail for Chanel and 220sqm of residential.
The entire process of this project started with the client’s request to design a luxury flagship store that combines both Dutch heritage and international architecture. In order to echo the previously demolished bricks building and the traditional architectural language of the street, MVRDV decided to use glass bricks as the main facade material for the Chanel store on the ground floor. The extensive glass bricks façade of the shop would then fade away slowly in height and dissolve into a traditional terracotta brick façade for the apartments.
This glass bricks façade was not an easy solution though. It required MVRDV to work with a number of partners in order to create the required technologies. Solid glass bricks were cast one by one in Italy and then UV bonded with a transparent adhesive from Germany to finally be able to cement the bricks together without the need of a traditional mortar.
Even on site, the construction was not easy. New construction methods and tools were needed like high-tech lasers and UV lamps as well as a technical development team located on the construction site.
However, the results turned out to be very satisfactory: the glass construction was stronger than concrete. And, from an ecological viewpoint, the entire glass façade could be melted down and given a new life once the building reaches the end of its life span.
I personally think this project is a true example of smart structural innovation. The glass bricks design solution resulted in offering Chanel the window surface it needs while keeping the overall architecture character of the street and staying true to the environment of the area.
In addition to being functionally efficient, it brings aesthetically a new poetic dimension in glass construction.
The Chanel store in Amsterdam is today an homage to the area’s traditional style while being a landmark in glass construction.