The construction of the Crystal Houses façade: challenges and innovations

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A novel glass brick façade has been designed and engineered to reproduce the original brick façade of a former townhouse in Amsterdam. Based on the original design the resulting façade comprises more than 6500 solid glass bricks, reinterpreting the traditional brick pattern, and elaborated cast glass elements for the replication of the window and door frames. To achieve unhindered transparency, the 10 by 12 m glass block façade has to be self-supporting. Previous experimental work by Oikonomopoulou et al. (J Facade Design Eng 2(3–4):201–222, 2015b. doi:10.3233/fde-150021) concluded that it was necessary to use a clear, UV-curing adhesive of high stiffness as bonding material. Experimental work on prototype elements indicated that the desired monolithic structural performance of the glass masonry system, as well as a homogeneous visual result, are only achieved when the selected adhesive is applied in a 0.2–0.3 mm thick layer. The nearly zero thickness of the adhesive together with the request for unimpeded transparency introduced numerous engineering challenges. These include the production of highly accurate glass bricks and the homogeneous application of the adhesive to achieve the construction of the entire façade with remarkably tight allowable tolerances. This paper presents the main challenges confronted during the construction of the novel façade and records the innovative solutions implemented, from the casting of the glass units to the completion of the façade. Based on the conclusions of the research and the technical experience gained by the realization of the project, recommendations are made on the further improvement of the presented glass masonry system towards future applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-108
JournalGlass Structures and Engineering
Volume3 (2018)
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2017


  • Structural glass
  • Cast glass
  • Crystal Houses façade
  • Glass masonry
  • Adhesive glass connections
  • solid glass bricks


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