The City University of New York (CUNY) will soon unveil its new science campus in Upper Manhattan featuring channel and dichroic architectural glass.
The 36,232-m2 (390,000-sf) addition, consisting of the Advanced Science and Research Center (ASRC) and the City College Center for Discovery and Innovation, has glass assemblies defining its interior and exterior. The advanced structural and decorative qualities of the glass reflect the innovative, entrepreneurial research to be conducted inside.
Architects at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC (KPF) specified the glass systems to translate the wonder and innovation of scientific discovery into the buildings’ design. Channel glass allows architects to create virtually seamless assemblies—up to 7 m (23 ft) tall and limitless in length—including corners and serpentine walls. The dichroic decorative glass, characterized by striking visual qualities, has its origins in National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) research into materials capable of protection against direct sunlight and cosmic radiation.
“Both the channel glass and the dichroic glass diffuse the natural light and create a sense of fluidity and ribbon-like continuity that we used to define the interior public and social spaces as if we carved away through the buildings, beginning at the entrances and reaching in a spiraling, upward fashion towards the light of the central vertical spaces in both buildings,” said KPF’s director Hana Kassem, AIA, LEED AP.
A total of 1579 m2 (17,000 sf) of channel glass was provided for the curved and straight double-glazed interior walls, most of which exceed 4.3 m (14 ft) in height. The walls of both buildings combine two textures of channel glass. One creates veiled images for a soft sense of privacy, and the other offers a high level of transparency for vision areas. The City College Center for Discovery and Innovation displays low-iron channel glass with an ultra-clear, brilliant quality. Ultra-clear low-iron glass does not have such high recycled percentage as regular channel glass. The channel glass at the ASRC boasts 60 percent recycled material, including up to 40 percent post-consumer content.
Another 1114 m2 (12,000 sf) of channel glass—reaching 3 to 4.5-m (10 to 15-ft) heights—accents the façades of the new campus. Double-glazed walls consist of recycled-content channel glass encapsulating 38-mm (1.5-in.) thick insulation to improve the buildings’ thermal performance. The exterior walls feature a distinctive combination of channel glass and laminated colored glass insulated units held in a frame system.
“Owing to its integral structural qualities, channel glass offered the continuity of surface that we were after to create a seamless wrapping of the interior public spaces—much like a continuous winding ribbon leading you inside, starting at the base and entry point of the buildings, up through the connected social spaces lining the central atrium and culminating at the top floor,” said Kassem. “The diaphanous visual quality also added to the sense of meandering space we were seeking.”
At the ASRC building, a wide-open central stairway featuring a glass guardrail connects the floor plan and promotes partnership among laboratories. As the viewer’s angle to the glass changes, the material shifts its color, creating an iridescent aesthetic. The winding staircase required high-precision, complex glass fabrication and incorporates 19-mm (¾-in.) thick, bent, safety, triple-laminated glass curved to hug the contours of the six-level, monumental staircase.