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Cities and Towns

Triangle Glass is Everywhere in London!

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Architectural fashion can be easy to spot with time and I sense we’re living through the ‘triangle glass’ phase right now. Stuart Nathan of The Engineer explained to me this is actually called a diagrid (diagonal grid) and “it’s a way of distributing stress, especially in a curved structure. It also uses a lot less steel than a conventional frame because of the inherent strength of the triangle. It’s a development of the geodesic dome developed by Buckminster Fuller.”

He also pointed out that we’re much more likely to see unglazed diagrids such as the Wembley Stadium arch or the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower on the London 2012 Olympic Park or at Stansted Airport. @duncansutcliffe also recognised the diagrid form without glass on the Hornsey Gas Holder and the Southall Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha main hall.

I now can’t stop noticing the diagrids/triangle glass in London and our best example has to be the gherkin, also known by its address: 30 St Mary Axe. This was designed by Sir Norman Foster and opened in 2004.

Gherkin by pov_steve

(c) pov_steve

Did you know? There’s only one curved piece of glass in the Gherkin – the one at the top – and it was the only one they broke during construction. (Hat tip: @WalktheLinesLDN.)

The Great Court at the British Museum is another great example of triangle glass but this time in a building that anyone can visit for free. This inner courtyard is actually the largest covered public square in Europe. It’s another Foster & Partners design and opened in 2000.

British Museum by Anders_3

(c) Anders_3

Did you know? There are 3,312 panes of glass in the canopy and no two are the same.

The Cutty Sark recently reopened to visitors in Greenwich and has been raised so you can now walk right under the ship. There are exhibits down there and the cafe so it’s well worth a visit. And, of course, the roof is a triangle glass canopy.

Cutty Sark by Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter

Did you know? The Cutty Sark is the last surviving tea clipper and the glass canopy is attached along the ship’s waterline.

Another new architectural addition is the western concourse of King’s Cross station with its restored Victorian facades and 150m diagrid roof designed by John McAslan & Partners. While there, Harry Potter fans should look out for Platform 9 3/4.

King's Cross by Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter

Did you know? This diagrid is designed to cover the largest area without the need for supporting columns in the middle and the steel piles underpinning the visible lattice are driven 50m into the ground.

Another place to spot triangle glass is at Westfield London, the mega shopping mall in west London that opened in 2008.

Westfield London by Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter

Did you know? The undulating glass roof has clear and solid panels which are carefully positioned to maximise natural light as the sun moves throughout the day.

While not completely made up on triangle glass, London’s City Hall has some featured on its waterside view. It’s another Foster & Partners building and opened in 2002.

City Hall in London by pov_steve

(c) pov_steve

Did you know? The building’s bulbous egg-like shape was supposed to make it more energy efficient although reports suggest that might not be the case.

Can you think of any more triangle glass buildings in London? Do share in the ‘comments’ below.


Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site which is an online travel guide for visitors to the capital. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. You can follow her at @AboutLondon.
See more articles by Laura on the VisitBritain Super Blog

All images © Laura Porter or from the Love UK Flickr group.

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