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MVRDV's spectral Glass Farm echoes traditional local architecture


February 5, 2013

MVRDV's Glass Farm (Photo: Persbureau van Eijndhoven)

MVRDV's Glass Farm (Photo: Persbureau van Eijndhoven)

Image Gallery (17 images)

When I first glimpsed the photos of MVRDV's Glass Farm, I misapprehended it. I assumed I was looking at an ordinary brick building which, in an act of willful capriciousness (you know how architects can be), had been entirely encased in a glass outer shell. The truth, it turns out, is simultaneously more logical and more imaginative. Completed January 17, Glass Farm is a spectral monument to traditional local architecture, and without a brick in sight (not a real one, at least).

Glass Farm is MVRDV's seventh proposal for a new building at the market square in Schijndel in the Netherlands. During World War II the square was badly damaged in the unsuccessful Allied counter-offensive, Operation Market Garden. Since that time the square has undergone redevelopment and refurbished, though the idea of a centerpiece to the square's rejuvenation – a new building between the church and town hall – proved controversial.

Schijndel happens to the home town of MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas. He first proposed a new building at the location in 1980. Twenty years later, the town council bought into the idea, and the conversation could move onto the issue of what should be built: no less prickly an issue, it turned out, and one which invigorated local residents.

Having had six of its ideas rejected, including one for a theater, MVRDV conceived the Glass Farm. Looking at the maximum "envelope" (the shell formed by its outer walls) allowed by the planning authority, MVRDV noticed that, though bigger, it matched the shape of the traditional farm buildings of the region.

MVRDV reasoned that if the building was to adopt the shape of a farm house, it should adopts their look too. Unfortunately, an actual farmhouse wouldn't best serve what had become the purpose of the building: a multifunctional public facility housing restaurants, shops and the like. Instead, MVRDV decided that the building should be a glass shell which somehow took on the appearance of a farm.

The answer MVRDV came up with was fritted glass. Artist Frank van der Salm photographed the surviving traditional farm buildings in the region, and from his photographs a theoretical representation of the average or ideal farm building was composed. By fritting the glass, the image of the farm building was effectively printed onto it.

Being glass, the building lets in and out a certain amount of light. Cleverly, the translucence of the glass can be altered where desired so that certain parts of the building's facade can behave more like conventional windows where extra light or a clear view out are beneficial. And because the building is glass, when lit up at night, the whole farm building appears to glow. Whether viewing from inside during the day or from outside at night, the effect is conceived to be reminiscent of stained glass.

The whole effect is heightened by the building's scale. The Glass Farm is 14 meters (46 feet) tall, making it about 1.6 times the size of the typical farm buildings it represents. MVRDV hopes this will evoke child-like nostalgia in locals as they're reminded of the farm buildings of Schijndel.

Source: MVRDV

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

These pictures make my eyes go funny!


Since James neglected to define what fritted glass is, I'll give one: "Frit is a ceramic composition that has been fused in a special fusing oven, quenched to form a glass, and granulated. Frits form an important part of the batches used in compounding enamels and ceramic glazes; the purpose of this pre-fusion is to render any soluble and/or toxic components insoluble by causing them to combine with silica and other added oxides. However not all glass that is fused, and quenched in water is frit, as this method of cooling down very hot glass is widely used in glass manufacture."

THANKS Wikipedia!


Good Paste yrag.. But it appears that the term "Fritted glass" in usage indicates printing an image on the glass.... (maybe the image is composed of frit (porous powdered coloured glass) and then fired/ sintered to harden and make it part of the pane...

This building looks as if it has separate images for the inner and outer panes of glass, obv. if the building is triple glazed, both sides of the inner pane can be decorated, while the inner and outer panes are just plain glass (ok toughened /laminated) should make it easier to not have to replace the expensive stuff when a rock hits it....

Again I know nothing more about this technique than reading about it now.... no expert by a long way....


Hmmmm....maybe this is a farm HOUSE. But it is not a FARM.


I hope vandalism won't be a problem.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
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