Launch Slideshow

A Surface of Points

By using glass tubes as structureal truss members, Eric Owen Moss Architects inverts the idea of roof construction, transforming fragile glass components into load-bearing parts.

A Surface of Points

By using glass tubes as structureal truss members, Eric Owen Moss Architects inverts the idea of roof construction, transforming fragile glass components into load-bearing parts.

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    A rendering of the courtyard at Nike's Los Angeles offices demonstrates how sunlight coming through a glass atrium and through the glass tubes will illuminate the enclosed space while adding a texturizing shadow pattern to the environment.

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    With proper lighting from the interior, the proposed installation at the Smithsonian Institution Patent Office Building (which houses the National Portrait Gallery) would have created striking visual effects as the light went through each individual glass rod in the truss system. The Smithsonian competition was won by Norman Foster.

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    With proper lighting from the interior, the proposed installation at the Smithsonian Institution Patent Office Building (which houses the National Portrait Gallery) would have created striking visual effects as the light went through each individual glass rod in the truss system. The Smithsonian competition was won by Norman Foster.

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    PROGRESSION OF INSTALLATION The system devised for the Smithsonian Institution Patent Office Building would be erected in stages, beginning with a base structure of linear steel truss frames topped with service catwalks. A glass box enclosure would go up next, and the acoustics in the room would be tested to determine the undulating pattern created by tubes of different lengths. Steel cables are then hung to approximate the surface of the ceiling and to provide points of connection for the suspended rods. The tubes are then hung to form the deep cable truss system, and, finally, second-floor galleries are projected into the space to allow spectators to watch events below.

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    LAYOUT OF GLASS TUBE GRID The truss system relies on the rods being placed in a grid pattern, such as this one at Nike's Los Angeles offices on Hayden Avenue. The pattern allows the tubes to absorb the necessary compressive force, but offsetting each row also allows for a fuller visual field.

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    COMPRESSION FORCE Each tube serves as a compression member for the truss system, with compressive forces moving downward from the structural steel rafters and upward from the steel cables that thread through the rows of tubes. The weight of the truss system is supported by loadbearing CMU walls.

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    GLASS TUBE STRUT The individual glass tubes have metal reinforcement around each attachment point, including the top where the tube connects to the structural rafter, and the point where the steel cable threads through the tube.

In past projects, Eric Owen Moss has used fields of glass rods emerging from the ground as a means of organizing space and influencing pedestrian movement. These rods, when installed over a skylight, provided visual interest to the ceiling plane of subterranean spaces. Taking the concept a step further, the architect explored using the glass rods not just for their formal properties, but as structural components. The result is A Surface of Points, a system of deep cable trusses that incorporate glass tubes as compression members. The concept was proposed for the Smithsonian Institution Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C., and is appearing in two projects: the Nike Los Angeles offices at 3505 Hayden Avenue and 8511 Warner Drive, also in Los Angeles.

The system involves a base of steel truss frames within a boxlike enclosure. Steel cables are hung between the truss frames, approximating the surface plane of the ceiling. The cylinders, formed from ½-inch-thick laminated glass, are installed and threaded on the cables, forming the compression members of the deep cable trusses.

Depending on whether a skylight or an opaque ceiling is installed above the truss system, natural or artificial light can be constantly refracted through the glass rods. The tubes also have acoustical properties, which can be adapted by varying the length of the tubes in accordance with the natural acoustics of the room. Sound travels and diffuses in the spaces between and within the tubes, or can be reflected by the use of a plug in the bottom of the tube.

“I thought it was really interesting to invert the idea of a truss and make things that are fragile and brittle into things that are load-bearing and spanning,” says Chris Genik. “The notion of a glass truss, in its capacity to be an acoustical environment and a light environment, reaches a higher plane,” he adds. “I think it's a really extraordinary project and a vision of how to coerce structure into something which is also producing something for the building as a shell, a kind of container.”

  • Eric Owen Moss
    Eric Owen Moss

PROJECT A Surface of Points

ARCHITECT Eric Owen Moss Architects, Culver City, Calif.—Eric Owen Moss, Dolan Daggett, Eric McNevin, Kyoung Kim, Grit Leipert, Jose Herrasti, Tom Raymont, Scott Nakao, Andrew Wolff, Fausto Nunes, Vanessa Jauregui, Herbert Ng, Ren Huang (project team)

CONSULTANTS Arup-NY—Neil McClelland (Smithsonian); Englekirk Structural Engineers—Bill Wallace (3505 Hayden Avenue Glass Courtyard)

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