Glass in the 20th Century Architecture: Preservation and Restoration

Franz Graf and Francesca Albani, editors, Il vetro nell’architettura del XX secolo: conservazione e restauro: Glass in the 20th Century Architecture: Preservation and Restoration (Mendrisio, Switzerland: Mendrisio Academy Press, 2011).

In 2008 the Swiss University Conference an ambitious research project titled Critical Encyclopedia for Restoration and Reuse of 20th Century Architecture. While its primary goal was to stimulate cooperation between different institutions of higher learning, the practical results were to be a series of publications addressing four separate issues, one of which was the Material History of Construction. This portion of the research is headed by Franz Graf, one of the editors of this volume in theCritical Encyclopedia. Others are forthcoming dealing with such aspects as philosophy, theory and methodology.

Glass – maybe only with the exception of concrete – is one of the most important materials in the history of modern architecture and in its practice today. Technological changes and different cultural expectations have also made this one of the most challenging materials to deal with in the preservation and conservation of buildings in modern history. This volume presents some discussions on the aesthetic and cultural importance glass but the majority of the text is dedicated to a series of case study discussion of well know modernist buildings ranging from the Maison de Verre – not surprisingly – by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet to the curtain wall of the Pirelli Tower by Gio Ponti. The collection is impressive, the content stimulating but the case studies only concern European examples and, in a few instances, have been presented and published as papers at such conferences as those by Docomomo International. Nevertheless the collection is of great importance to anyone studying the use and restoration of glass facades of the 20th Century.  

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