Starting from the Lever House and Seagram Buildings of New York, both boxy, International-Style skyscrapers that came into being last mid-Century, and both adorned with unique shades of glass, the use of tinted glass became a new fad in American architecture that persisted into the 1970’s — and even into today. The Seagram Building was furnished in pink-gray-bronze glass (which looked different depending on the light of the day) and the Lever House furnished with green-blue. The Seagram Building’s design, especially, had significant influence on American architecture that followed afterward. (Note: The Lever House, built first before the Seagram and designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, borrowed principles from architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe of Chicago. The Seagram Building itself, however, was actually by designed by the well-respected Illinois architect himself.)
The Seagram Building:
The Lever House Building:
Fast forward all these many years, and most buildings around us are decked in the usual: Glass tints of black, grays, or blues. Mirrored-glass (or silver) is of frequent use, too, and of course, there’s always good old-fashioned clear. Like the Lever House featured so many years ago, green-tinted (or green-blue-tinted) glass is still around and being used today — used fairly frequently, actually, as there is the popular trend of “going green.” And, like the embellishment seen on the Seagram Building of New York, pink-gray-bronze glass still was found in-demand many decades later. Yet, in the 1970’s, an even more garish glass shade for buildings came along and was used widely, introduced not surprisingly within that certain decade known for its stylish-yet-tacky way about it, and the very use of this color everywhere: Gold.
Certainly one of the most daring of any architects’ choice for glass tints, gold has been used much across the globe, and probably every major U.S. city has at least one show of it. An even rarer, bolder choice of glass shade: Pink. (Not a pink-gray, or a pink-gray-bronze, I mean straight, authentic pink.) I’m taken back by the look of it, by the choice of it. And, I’m also intrigued by the choice of it, too. Gold is garish enough as it is, but pink really pushes the envelope, in my opinion. Why would the architect choose such a shade?
Beyond pink, purple, orange, and red-tinted glass are all the rarest of choices in this department. There’s hardly an example around anywhere. I’ve questioned why. Why is black, silver, gray, blue, green, gold, and pink-tinted glass the most acceptable, and not the others? I’m not sure technically why, and it cannot come down to colors of the sky. The sky can be purple and orange, too. The sky is not usually a shade of green.
First, I want to focus on gold. In my viewpoint, gold-tinted glass used in architectural design seems a purposeful choice of showiness, and almost a taste in gaudiness. Some may consider it tacky. Or, very, very stylish. In a way, it sits right on a line between those four words I used — it can be all at once, in my opinion. Also, tinted glass (such as gold) is said to save on energy, keeping a building cooler in summer. Yet, in cold northern climates, tinted glass can keep out the natural warmth of the sun as well. So, that summer efficiency is something to keep in mind as well when you see gold glass used. Here are some gold building examples:
Market Square Center, Indianapolis, 1975.
Seeing the picture above, it is probably no surprise that Market Square Center is known mostly by its gold glass facade in Indianapolis; called the “Gold Building” locally. That nickname is all too common across America. What city has citizens that don’t dub their local gold-glass building that same nickname? So, that speaks in and of itself. There’s instant recognition, there’s advertisement, in such a choice of glass. (i.e. A company can say to a customer or client: “We’re in the gold building downtown.” Could there be any easier way to identify a location than that?)
Something to point out about the hour & weather’s lighting effect on a structure using gold glass: On a sunny day, the building can look more bronze-gold. On a cloudy day, the curtain wall looks more a solid, bright gold. So, clouds bring out the gold tint in the glass more so.
Here’s the “gold building” in my hometown — and that’s exactly what many would/do call it. Also built in the 1970’s, notice, like Indianapolis’ Market Square building, our building is also rectangular and boxy? Gold-tinted glass works best with boxes, I notice, I feel. Thinking on it, I’ve concluded it is likely because gold is such a modern, bold, intense choice of glass, so the simpler the architect keeps the form & the geometry of the building, the better it all looks, in my opinion.
Here’s a building in midtown Denver. Again, the form is rectangular and boxy. There’s the same grid of lines in the facade. Probably built in the 1970’s also. The reflective, tinted glass looks bright gold on a cloudy day.
Here are many more examples of gold buildings to look at, if interested:
Distinct gold box office buildings (with uniquely smooth & rounded corners) in suburban Dallas: http://tinyurl.com/jc46q5l
A gold box in the Nashville, Tennessee area: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/43/120202844_1e47e2a1f2.jpg
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee: http://tinyurl.com/hmgvrwc
Shopping Center in Malmo: http://tinyurl.com/z7g8d8n
Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza: http://41.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxe2tiUNLm1r2a51zo3_1280.jpg
A gold skyscraper Jiangsu: http://gold.gucheng.com/201406/2738955.shtml
A gold skyscraper in Seoul, Korea: http://tinyurl.com/zlqdzxt
A gold skyscraper in Hong Kong:
If you search images on Google, you will see that most gold buildings out there are boxy or rectangular, or at least have very simplistic geometric forms. Again, there’s something about gold-tinted glass that seems to require a simplicity in design from the creativity of the architects that choose to use it. (One link I shared here used the term “gold bar” in describing their local gold building. Maybe that plays a role in choosing gold glass to adorn a simple rectangle or box: It becomes the like-image of a gold bar. People often affiliate gold with that shape.)
Is there any symbolic meaning to gold glass being used in architecture? Some may say there is. (There’s an article about that subject linked just below.) One thing that comes to mind: The feeling & impression gold commonly gives. Of course, who universally doesn’t know gold is a very valuable, precious metal? It has been that way since ancient times. So, of course, that particular tint used in a building’s glass is likely going to give off a similar impression in which gold gives off from anything made of itself, including jewelry. What do you think, what do you feel, when you see gold?
Gold Used In Architecture article: http://info.goldavenue.com/Info_site/in_arts/in_civ/in_architect.html
Interesting to note: Dallas, Texas’ tallest building was almost adorned with gold, too. The 72-story Bank of America Plaza, the city’s skyline-defining, tall, slender skyscraper outlined in neon at night, was originally designed with two matching towers striped of gold & silver — just like a Rolex watch. However, the design was changed to just be silver & gray stripes before construction, and the second tower was never built. It is interesting seeing what was originally proposed, and what could have been.
Downtown Dallas tallest skyscraper’s original proposal:
Now, on to pink-tinted glass: To me, this is one of the strangest choices of glass tints to use on a building — if it is not mixed with any other tint(s) to tone it down, that is. But still, there’s a certain bewilderment & intrigue & excitement in me generated when I encounter a unique architectural choice made, such as pink-tinted glass. For just the right building, I think it really can work. But, that type of building is few & far between, in my opinion. Here are some examples:
The Arlington, Charlotte: A mixed-used skyscraper of Charlotte, North Carolina, much of the average-height building is residential space, and the high-rise has earned the local nicknames of “Big Pink” and “The Pink Building” and “Pepto Bismol.” Of course, local nicknames would naturally land on a structure with that choice of glass. Passing by it often, who wouldn’t notice it, or think about it, and wonder why about it? I’m not sure I like it, personally, to be honest — while, at the same time, I like seeing something architecturally very risky & different used for a change. It gives me a mixed bag of feelings.
What I do feel about pink glass is that it is the most disruptive & insensitive of glass tints to the surrounding cityscape — maybe even more so than gold. It just is very unusual. Here, in this Charlotte example’s case, it certainly is one of the main things an architect can choose material-wise to make just a regular & plain, squarish structure boldly stand out instead of just blending in, and demanding attention instead of just sitting quiet and unnoticed. Maybe that’s the motive & reason in using pink glass. Marketing the building mustn’t be challenging. In online ads or in print ads, it would jump right out, and draw interest. Finding those new residents & clientele in the region who want to live or work in the town’s new, stylish “Pink Building” wouldn’t be a challenge, I would think. People like landmarks.
The Arlington: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Arlington
Unlike gold, I find I like pink glass used better in architecture when it is not used like gold often is used, as just a curtain wall to cover a simple box or rectangle. Instead, I feel it looks better being involved with more complex geometry, buildings with sloping areas and sections, and architectural touches such as beveling.
Here’s an example of a building using pink glass in Edmonton, Canada, I find very likable:
Moscow is getting a new pink skyscraper (or maybe pink-bronze):
As you can see, there is a time & place for pink glass used in architecture — along with gold, green, blue, silver, gray, and black. However, again: Pink and gold are the most daring, the most controversial, the most upsetting.
However: If pink glass is just toned down a bit, and added a little gray and bronze tint, then we have created one of the most beautiful & fully acceptable glass shades around (and one of my favorite tints): The pink-gray-bronze tint — same tri-mixing of tints used on the glass of the 1950’s Seagram Building. This is a shade that became popular in 80’s construction, three decades after the Seagram came along. This pink-gray-bronze shade helps create a warm, prestigious look on some of the most gorgeous U.S. suburban office projects built of that decade following the ’70’s. Here are two examples in suburban Minneapolis & Kansas City:
The Carlson Towers, Minnetonka, Minnesota
Lighton Plaza, Overland Park, Kansas
Suburban Chicago also has a beautiful, similar style tower, bedecked with pink-gray-bronze glass:
The Ghallagher Center in Itasca, Illinois: http://imgtechnologies.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2-Pierce1.jpg
In closing, the subject of glass tint and its history did not have a lot written on it that I could find online, however, I was glad to learn (and now pass along) that it all started with the 1950’s Seagram and Lever House buildings of New York. So what little history there is, doesn’t even go that far back. And, it is easy to simply conclude that unique & unusual glass tint, such as gold or pink, is stylish & wanted & fashionable for a season, like anything else in design, and has its time & place, and then goes out of style like everything else — and later it may just come around to be used again. That is, unless we’re talking somewhere like Las Vegas, where gold is often a choice shade of glass, no matter what decade or era we are in, and pink glass, or probably any shade, would go just fine in that town. It’s Vegas.