When you hear accent walls, what do you think of? Maybe it’s your grandmas tacky dining room wall paper or maybe a DIY board and batten wall gone wrong. We are here to change the way you think of accent walls and let you know how aesthetically pleasing and practical they can be, especially when it is made out of glass block. Many associate glass block and glass bricks with the outdated architectural styles from the 1980s. With modern technology and design experts, glass block is being used in renovations of industrial lofts and restaurants, vintage storefront windows, and even as dividing walls between offices.
Historic Glass Block Renovations:
Main Street Station
Architect: SMBW Architects
General Contractor: Taylor & Parrish Construction
Owner: City of Richmond Department of General Services
Main Street Station: The History
In 1901, the Main Street Station was built in the heart of Richmond, Virginia. Served by Amtrak, the historic Main Street Station served as not only a transit station but as offices and an entertainment venue as well. The station was built by a firm from Philadelphia, Wilson, Harris, and Richards in an exquisite Second Renaissance Revival Style. By the 1920s, the station had over 20 trains passing through the station each day.
Main Street Station was faced with tragic events that would cause Amtrak to move its service to the Staple Mills Road station in Henrico. In 1972, the station suffered from severe water damage when Hurricane Agnes hit Virginia causing Main Street Station to flood. The following years would only lead to more damage, the fires of 1976 and 1983 which caused significant damage to the upper floors of the station.
Following these catastrophic events, renovations of the station took place and by the early 2000s, the rail service was able to return to Main Street Station.
The Glass Block Renovation
Encasing the history of the Main Street Station was the most important aspect of this project. GBA Architectural Products + Services worked alongside Taylor & Parrish Construction and SMBW Architects to complete the preservation of the Main Street Station. Transforming this historic station into a modern venue for food markets, restaurants and cultural attractions was the upmost goal of the renovation.
In 2016, SMBW Architects created the design to be a GlassWalk™ multi-product approach to showcase the history below. This project included two different types of GBA floor systems on the second floor of the station. One system being the GlassWalk™ Structural Glass (SG) and framing elements. The Structural Glass system was used to showcase pieces of the original train tracks under the clear glass. This allows visitors to admire a small piece of the stations history while still providing a functional environment for events.
The second system that was used was our GlassWalk™ Glass Paver (GP) system. The system was used within the renovation to create a unique appearance while still allowing natural light to transcend to the lower levels of the station. GBA completed the GlassWalk™ Structural Glass and Glass Paver systems in 2017.
Main Street Station: The Final Product
The unique historical features of the Main Street Station make it an amazing place to hold many different types of events. Main Street Station is currently in the top 5 of the 15 most unique wedding venues in the world, according to brides.com. The Main Street Station website states, they will continue to showcase the uniqueness of the station and create “a transportation hub and a community gathering-place.” With plans to transform the station into a multi-modal transportation center, it will remain one of Richmond, Virginias most historic buildings.
Contact GBA Architectural Products + Services
GBA Architectural Products & Services is a North American supplier of world-class glass block materials for interior and exterior applications. For over 30 years, the company has collaborated with professional builders and homeowners with many unique structural glass products that render beautiful and economical functionality in a broad range of scenarios.
GBA glass block products have been used in office designs, exterior claddings, walkways, and stairways throughout North America to admit natural light while optimizing the use of interior space.
For more information about glass block architecture for offices or other applications, contact GBA Architectural Products & Services.
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Restoring Glass Block in Youngstown
Restoring Glass Block in Youngstown
Some of our favorite ventures are renovating projects in our local area. Being a company located in the Cleveland/Akron area, we were thrilled to be chosen for an assignment in Youngstown, Ohio, only 65 miles from our office.
Zero Lot Lines
What is a Zero Lot Line House?
A zero lot line house is a piece of residential property where the house comes up or very near to the edge of the property line. Zero lot lines typically contain one side yard, whereas traditional houses include two side yards – one on either side of the house. A variety of properties can be considered zero lot lines, including town homes, garden homes, and row houses.
Historic Glass Block Renovations: Knapp's Centre
Owner: The Eyde Company
Architect: Quinn Evans Architects
General Contractor: Granger Construction
Mason: Schiffer Mason Contractors, Inc.
Knapp's Centre: The History
So many of the buildings we drive past have a history explaining why they were built and what they came to be. Knapp’s Centre is one of those historic buildings, built in 1937 as a home for the main department store J.W. Knapp Company in Lansing, Michigan. The 190,000 square foot building was constructed using alternating bands of yellow macotta and prismatic glass block. At the time Knapp’s was built, it was known to be one of the most modern building’s in the Midwest.
Historic Glass Block Renovations: Hecht Warehouse
Architect: Antunovich Associates
General Contractor: McCullough Construction, LLC.
Owner: Douglas Development
Hecht Warehouse: The History
Hecht’s was one of Washington D.C.’s oldest and most successful large-scale, locally-owned retail store. The department store itself was located on the corner of 7th Street in an “American Gothic” building. Hecht’s offered an assortment of goods for their customers. In 1934, Hecht’s department store installed the first escalators in Washington. As Hecht’s department store continued to grow, taking over most of the block, they sought to move most of its service operations to a new Art Deco building in 1937. This new building became the central warehouse for Hecht’s department stores.
GBA Architectural Products + Services had a very exciting 2019 as we worked on many exciting architectural projects, bringing new life to buildings with the addition of glass block and structural glass. We had the privilege of working with some of the best architects and contractors in the world. All of the projects we participated in were exciting and complex challenges that left us with a rewarding feeling when completed.
Installing Glass Block in Fort Worth's Pioneer Tower
We see a wide variety of glass block projects. We’ll often have projects where we install sets of glass block windows that not only enhance the fashion of a building, but also the safety. We renovate sidewalk vault panels to install LED lighting underneath, providing pedestrians with a beautiful lighting to walk on. We’ve made structures almost entirely built from 4x8x3 Seves Vistabrik, enclosed with glass roofing. There are many different ways to use glass to enhance your facilities.
Our latest project is another example. In their ambitious efforts to transform their structure from great to gorgeous, we’re renovating the Pioneer Tower in Fort Worth, Texas, adding 15 flights of exterior glass block to be used on all four sides of the historic building. Behind it will be LED lighting, ready to light the Texas sky.
They do it big in Texas.
Composite Concrete and Cast Iron Vault Lights
Vault Lights: The Beginning
Invented in 1845 by Thaddeus Hyatt, vault lights were initially used on ship decks to provide light below without using hazardous open flame-producing instruments. These durable glass features were later mounted in concrete or cast iron panels and installed in city sidewalks to admit light into basements and spaces below.