In the current climate of architecture and design, efforts are split into two main areas of focus: innovating, and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved (think smart buildings and wellness architecture), and enhancing or highlighting structures that already exist (which can range from something as simple as a home extension, to a restoration of a historical listed building). Minimal glazing could be the tool which bridges the gap between these fields.
The issue of what type of glazing will best suit a project has existed since glass was first used as a material in construction, and it’s something that architects and designers have had to navigate consistently in their work. However, through new techniques in glass manufacture and design, many of the limitations that glass used to impose have been lifted - and minimal glazing plays a big part in this.
What exactly is minimal glazing?
Put simply, minimal glazing involves any glass installations, such as windows and doors, which are visually subtle. As technology and techniques have evolved in the world of glazing and construction, it’s now become viable to design glazing which is structurally sound, and aesthetically unobtrusive.
The idea that glazing can be minimal or not might initially seem a little counterintuitive - surely all glass (being transparent) is minimal? The key thing about minimal glazing is the way it factors in not just the glass panel itself, but also the frame, and the overall aesthetic of an installation or product.
Until relatively recent developments in construction techniques, windows and other glazing solutions usually involved a bulky frame, which was often made from wood. In 1959, ‘float glass’ was developed, which essentially involved cooling molten glass by floating it on a slow-moving bath of liquid tin - a technique that’s still widely used today as the primary method of creating flat glass panels. Until this, the relatively unstable nature of glass production meant that the material wasn’t uniform, and had to be supported within a sturdy (and therefore often visually clunky) frame.
Even with perfectly flat glass now an option, the arrival and subsequent rise in popularity of things like double glazing mean that frames had to accommodate a thick glazed panel. Even with updates to materials (including fibreglass and aluminium), frames remained thick. This wasn’t inherently a problem; but with the arrival of architectural glazing and toughened glass, things changed.
As new methods were developed, such as heat-strengthening and laminating, it became possible to treat glass not purely as a tool with which to let in natural light, or provide a view, but as a construction material in and of itself. This move to architectural glazing is at the heart of the projects and products Cantifix work with, and has meant that we’re able to provide truly minimal glass solutions to our clients.
Frames no longer need to be bulky, and in many cases, can be almost completely visually eliminated. This means that a glass installation no longer needs to act as a standalone feature, and can actually highlight or draw attention to other elements in a design or building. By using things like silicone bonding, which effectively eliminates the need for a solid frame between two glass panels, an almost completely uninterrupted effect can be achieved.
Minimal glazing is the term used for any glass installation in a construction which serves a practical purpose - whether that’s to provide a breathtaking view, or shelter you from the rain as you move from one interior space to the next - all without detracting from the other aesthetic elements of a design.
What different minimal glazing options are there?
The reason the term ‘minimal glazing’ is often seen as a bit of a construction buzzword is that as a phrase, it’s a little bit broad. Things aren’t quite as simple as adding the ‘minimal glazing’ product to an online shopping basket and then checking out, as the term can apply to all kinds of different glass solutions.
For many people, particularly homeowners, minimal glazing applies most relevantly to a particular style of windows, doors, or other installations such as rooflights. Using techniques like the aforementioned silicone bonding, products akin to our frameless glass wall can be created. With frameless walls, doors, and windows, it’s possible to create a seamless link between the inside and the outside, complementing other elements of a property or architectural design.
Other, more aesthetically striking options are also possible too. Innovative and bold designs such as the invisible corner can all be achieved, and while they might draw the eye more than a humble window, they still uphold the fundamentals of minimal glazing. They might be beautiful, but they certainly aren’t imposing.
Pioneers such as our partner, Sky-Frame, have also designed and created seamless sliding glass doors, offering a more practical minimal solution. Products such as these exemplify why minimal glazing is fast becoming a popular design choice in many high end, luxury, and modern projects - as they take the principles of minimalism, and apply them with elegance and style.
Why choose a minimal glazing solution?
The real question for anyone working on an extension or construction project is ‘why should I choose minimal glazing?’. Ultimately, there’s no one solution that’s appropriate for every design. And admittedly, for some projects minimal glazing might not be the best choice. With this in mind, there are a number of situations in which choosing a minimal glazing solution might be the best option.
If your home or the building you’re working on features a modern design, then minimal glazing might be the most suitable option. Glass features often aren’t the main attention-drawing element in a design, so if your structural design is the main feature in your building, opting for a minimal glazing option could help to ensure your glass doesn’t distract from its overall aesthetic.
Similarly, if you’re working on extending or altering a classic or historical building, then minimal glazing might even be a necessity. Listed buildings in particular often involve restrictions on what can and can’t be done to their appearance. If you’re aiming to create new features, link old and new (or old and old!) sections, or add viewpoints to these buildings, minimal glass can avoid the issue of damaging any visual authenticity.
Why does this all matter?
Possibly the most important thing about minimal glazing is the sea change it represents in the world of construction and architecture. The methods behind architectural and structural glass, combined with new technology, have enabled us with the ability to use glass as a complementary tool in aesthetic design and architecture.
Minimal glazing removes many of the restrictions that have existed for years in the realms of building design. Now, glass doesn’t have to intrude, and it doesn’t have to detract: it can be designed and created purely to enhance the way a home (or other property) functions, looks and feels.