Customization for the Masses

For the Toren residential tower in Brooklyn, N.Y., designers at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill wanted to avoid a dull gridlike appearance for the curtainwall and to deemphasize the tower’s verticality. They did this by slicing and jogging bands of material for a varied effect, pushing clear vision glass toward the edges.

The design team located a manufacturer in South America that could translate its elevations into several panel types, which were then configured into some 200 unitized glass-and-aluminum panel units, most 10 feet tall. Many different combinations of the units were installed in nearly every floor.

Perkins Will’s Engineering V building at the University of Waterloo embraces the grid for its curtainwall, unlike Toren, but gives it the illusion of depth: A white ceramic frit is silk-screened onto the glass in dot patterns of different densities, to create the illusion that the exterior is studded with shallow pyramids.

For the U.S. Land Port of Entry in Massena, N.Y., Smith-Miller Hawkinson had to meet stringent blast-resistance requirements.

The designers came up with an unexpected solution: polycarbonate panels, which cost less than ballistic-rated insulating glass units, have a high insulating value, and harvest daylight for the federal facility.

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