A Brief History On The Introduction Of Glass In Architecture

Dec 28, 2021

A Brief History On The Introduction Of Glass In Architecture

Glass was discovered by accident over 4000 years ago and became one of the most used and revered materials in architecture. However, it was around 2000 years ago that glass was first manufactured into sheets that were used in windows, doors, and other architectural features. Today, glass is used in many interesting aspects of architecture, from revolving doors to skywalks and interior partitions. This article will give a brief history of how glass has made its mark in the architecture industry.


While the exact period of glass entering into architecture is unknown, the oldest found date is in 70000 B.C. in the Neolithic period. In this period, glass was used in Egypt for decorative purposes, mainly in the glaze of stone, pottery, and beads. These were done mainly by specialised decorative glass makers. Romans in the early 16th century initiated the use of glass in windows- making its very first appearance in the architectural industry.

However, during this time, the use of glass in houses wasn’t popularized until the seventeenth century. In fact, glass was used only in small windows to allow light into a house or property. The main reason for glass being limited to small windows during this period comes from unskilled masonry, weaker building materials, and mediocre architectural technology. Furthermore, during this period, glass was also considered a relatively luxury and expensive material that was not affordable by all. This also added to the rarity or limitation in using them for architecture.


During the 17th century, the development of lead glass was a major step forward in enabling the manufacture of large glazing for windows. This technology progressed the role of glass industries in the history of architecture. This was when there was also a spike in interest in greenhouses and conservatories, which eventually led to the mass marketing and commercialization of glass. The new glazing technology also initiated and permitted the design of large and well-lit spaces in buildings, exhibition halls, railway stations and other public buildings. However, even during this time, glass was considered a luxury material and was only used for big and luxurious commercial or government projects.


The 18th century was a significant time for glass in architecture. This was largely due to the rise of the industrial revolution and the introduction of different materials into construction, like steel and iron. The technology developed for glasswork wherein glass could be blended with other materials gave the glass manufacturers of that time endless opportunities to use this adaptable material in their architectural advancements.

This was the time when architects began to experiment with things like conservatories and entire glass walls that were held together by high trussed steel arches and finger fixings. The Crystal Palace, constructed in 1851, represents the most ambitious glass architectural projects of this time. It was a project that used 300, 000 sheets of glass.

Towards the 20th century, glass became less confined to large office buildings with massive budgets. Gradually,  modern architects and interior concepts started incorporating glass into houses, properties and commercial premises.

Today glass stands out as a unique architectural material with ample opportunities to experiment and innovate. The prominence glass has attained today in the architecture industry combined with advanced architectural technology is sure to take the use of this versatile material to new heights.