Exploring the design of innovative building enclosure systems (or skins) in contemporary architecture and their precedents in earlier twentieth century modern architecture, this book examines the tectonics, the history and the influence of translucency as a defining characteristic in architecture. Highly illustrated throughout with drawings and full colour photographs, the book shows that translucency has been and continues to be a fertile ground for architectural experimentation.

Each chapter presents a comparative analysis of two primary buildings: a recent project, paired with a historical precedent, highlighting how architects in different eras have realized the distinctive effects of translucency. The included buildings span a variety of program types, ranging from a single-family residence, to a factory, to a synagogue. Whether it is Pierre Chareau’s glass-lens curtain wall at the Maison de Verre, Frank Lloyd Wright’s wall of stacked glass tubes at the Johnson Wax Research Tower, or Peter Zumthor’s use of acid-etched glass in a double-skin envelope at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, the included projects each offer an exemplary case study of innovations in materiality and fabrication techniques.

Today, among many contemporary architects, there is an engagement with new technologies, new material assemblies, and new priorities such as sustainability and energy-efficiency. A resurgent interest in translucency as a defining quality in buildings has been an important part of this recent dialogue and this book makes essential reading for any architect looking to incorporate aspects of translucency into their buildings.

chapter |8 pages


Transparency / Translucency / Opacity

chapter |19 pages

Solidified Light

Maison De Verre, Paris, France, 1932 Higgins Hall Insertion, New York City, USA, 2005

chapter |22 pages

Art House Cinema

Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA, 1939 Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria, 1997

chapter |20 pages


Steiff Factory Building, Giengen An Der Brenz, Germany, 1903 Laban Dance Center, Deptford, London, UK, 2003

chapter |22 pages

Compound Lens

Steuben Glass Building, New York City, USA, 1937 Maison Hermès, Tokyo, Japan, 2001

chapter |23 pages


Beinecke Rare Book Library, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, 1963 LVMH Building, Osaka, Japan, 2004

chapter |23 pages


Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, USA, 1959 Kursaal Congress Center, San Sebastián, Spain, 1999

chapter |24 pages

Fade to Black

Johnson Wax Research Tower, Racine, Wisconsin, USA, 1950 Interactivecorp Headquarters, New York City, USA, 2007