Channel Glass Shines at New D.C. Museum

The Museum of the Bible features channel glass, which not only defines the museum’s entrance, but also brings daylight in and establishes a sense of privacy.

Challenge: 

Washington, D.C.’s new Museum of the Bible features a brilliant, 22.5-ft. towering channel glass wall-cladding, which defines the museum’s entrance and Arcade. The glass conveys a crystalline appearance, symbolic of the original building’s function as a cold storage warehouse. In other areas throughout the museum, translucent channel glass façade elements bring daylight in, while establishing a sense of privacy.

Influence: 

Channel glass creates virtually uninterrupted walls of glass, limitless in length and up to 23-ft. tall, with little or no need for intermediate framing. The U-shape of the glass enhances its structural properties, allowing it to achieve far greater spans than flat glass of the same thickness.

Solution: 

The entrance and arcade of the Museum of the Bible are clad in Bendheim’s low-iron Clarissimo channel glass, featuring a translucent white ceramic frit. Many of the channels are selectively fritted, providing a seamless transition from opacity to transparency. Light radiating from the highly polished Clarissimo glass surfaces bounces off the 140-ft.-long image-projecting ceiling. According to the architects, the effect magnifies the arcade and surrounding areas. The reflected light, working in tandem with the LED screen technology, helps transform the character of the space and creates an immersive experience.

“The translucent channel glass bridges the old building and the new museum,” said David Greenbaum, FAIA, SmithGroupJJR lead designer. “It creates a contrast with the brick and refers back to the ice storage function of the refrigerated warehouse.”

Bendheim’s 504 Rough Cast channel glass, installed in the company’s SF-60 frame system, enhances the exterior of the building. The light-diffusing textured glass channels create a contrast with adjacent clear insulated glass units. The design team was able to successfully integrate the two glass types with Bendheim’s assistance, by implementing elegant, minimal tie-ins. From a design standpoint, “when compared to the clear windows, the channel glass implies the human struggle to find an ethical and moral path in our daily lives,” added Greenbaum.

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