Now Through a Glass, Brightly

The glass wall or partition (or even the humble glass scope) is a temptingly convenient metaphor for all manner of distorted perception; from early Christianity on down, aspiring literati have used this symbolism of transparency to evoke innumerable ways of seeing.

Convex, from Josiah J. Collection. Manufactured by Nathan Allan Glass Studios in consultation with Janson/Goldstein and Front Inc.

“Through a Glass, Darkly”-originally a phrase from the New Testament-has been appropriated as a driving theme of science fiction novels, futuristic television series, new-agey philosophy, rock albums, and even higher-minded stuff-from the pens of no less than Vladimir Nabokov and James Joyce. And who can forget Lewis Carroll’s wonderful bit of allegorical psychedelica, Alice in Wonderland? The image of the dividing properties of glass (with the accompanying connotations of reflectivity, transparency, and translucence) is a compelling tool for suggesting how many different ways there are to look at and be seen, and how each one of those ways is complicated by the indivisible individuality of the one doing the seeing.

Now Richmond, BC manufacturer Nathan Allan, in consultation with NYC architectural firms Janson/Goldstein and Front Inc, has thrown another wrinkle into this mix. Convex from the Josiah J. Collection takes us beyond the traditionally flat planes and 2-D viewing experience of architectural glass and into a third dimension: convexity and its accompanying multi-dimensional perspective. These marvels of glass engineering are best described as 3D glass pillows. Available in multiple thicknesses (1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4") and sheet sizes (1'0 x 1'0 to 7'0 x 12'6) and featuring geometric patterns or “cells” that bubble up from the surface of the glass like some mysterious wraith eager to explore the opposite side, they’re an impressive feature for any exterior application-fully transparent windows as well as building skin. And the options for finishes multiply as readily as John Barth’s funhouse mirrors: cells in squares, rectangles, circles, or triangles; 55 different textural patterns; fully transparent or “fire-frosted” opacity; color finishes in “lucent,” “metallic,” or “gemstone”; and full tints in green, blue, aqua, bronze, or grey. And of course, the glass is fully tempered or laminated with a polyurethane resin for safety.

Now Through a Glass, Brightly

The effect of looking through a facade of Nathan Allan’s Convex panels is rather like being inside an exquisitely crafted kaleidoscope or prism, an enviable experience that’s become an everyday reality for clients of the Holt Renfrew store in Vancouver: “Using 2 layers of intricately patterned glass allows for a ‘Hand in Glove’ fitting of 2 identical panels. The Convex shape of the glass surface creates many different lighting effects on both the exterior and interior of this beautiful retail store. ‘Fire-Frosted’ opacity panels provided an elegant facade on the building’s skin, while ‘Clear Vision’ panels create a spectacular display and phenomenal view.” The sentiment rings true: Nathan Allan’s 3D viewing bends mundane objects into a spectacular perspectival dance: sky morphs into crystalline waters perturbed by mischievous winds; the limbs and leaves of trees elongate and gyrate as if imbued with the ©lan of the many-limbed Vishnu; clouds become vaporous geometrical phantasms. This innovative product creates a new way of seeing indeed.

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