Glass Block building built for World's Fair

[Trade Journal]

Publication: National Glass Budget

Pittsburgh, PA, United States
vol. 48, no. 50, p. 3,16, col. 2-3,1-2

Century of Progress Exposition Building Built

Of Glass Bricks Manufactured by Owens-Illinois

Among the many wonderful and astonishing exhibits now being prepared for the millions who will begin pouring into Chicago to view the Century of Progress Exposition after its opening on June 1st, no single industrial display better represents the tremendous underlying spirit of enterprise virulently alive in this country than the remarkable glass-block building in course of erection by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, Toledo, Ohio.

This unique structure, built of glass blocks, represents the latest achievement of the great organization long noted as the largest manufacturer of glass containers in the world now extending its resourcefulness and research facilities into the industrial field. The crowning results of its efforts are exemplified in the large and colorful structure at the Exposition, built of the company's latest product, colored glass blocks. This handsome building, 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, surmounted by a gorgeous tower of colored glass blocks 50 feet high, marks a new era in modern architecture and presages interesting new departures from the past traditions of the building industry for the company's Exposition building is not a mere toy to delight the visiting throngs, nor a special stunt to attract attention and notoriety.


Glass-Block Building Under Erection at Chicago World's Fair
Glass-Block Building Under Erection at Chicago World's Fair


This glass-block building, the first full-sized structure of its kind ever built, is the result of years of scientific study and planning, and represents a triumphant presentation to the world of a new type of building material, practical, colorful, versatile and economical, ready for the immediate use of industry and commerce, and already attracting the serious attention of architects and builders all over the world.

Glass Block a Practical Building Unit

Two years of intensive research and experiment were required to produce the Owens-Illinois glass block. It is a strong, six-sided building block, of plain surfaces, with a hollow center. It is made by separately pressing a five-sided unit and a lid, then hermetically sealing in the lid as the sixth side, providing an air-tight cavity within each unit.

Architects Get New Decorative Effects

Any color in the entire gamut of the spectrum is applied to these blocks, giving an immense range to their decorative possibilities. The color is applied to five sides of the flint block, the outer, or weather-surface being left plain. Under certain conditions of lighting, interesting triangular shadows play through the wall cast from one unit to another by the blocks themselves. All kinds of pleasing variations in color effect result from changes in lighting conditions from without and within.

The glass-block building at the Exposition makes use of all the colors of the rainbow arranged in blended combination, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and lavenders.

Invites New Landscaping Ideas

The beauty of the building is to be enhanced by appropriately colorful landscaping effect worked out by James W. Owen, well-known landscape architect, of Bloomington, Illinois, whose "new deal" system of landscaping will be applied to the entire Home and Industrial Arts group of structures at the Exposition.

The office display room of the James W. Owen Nurseries will be located in this building. Here the visitor will find exhibits of gardening equipment and accessories, and artistic displays of new and unusual flowers and plants.

One portion of the building will be devoted to an extensive exhibit of the products of all divisions of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company not only its various lines of bottles and other glass containers, but also important creations of its industrial division, such as the new "Dustop" glass-wool air-filter, which has brought air-cleaning equipment at one stride from the realm of costly luxuries to within the reach of the homes, industries, commercial and public buildings of the entire nation.

The central information headquarters for the Home and Industrial Arts group will be located directly opposite to the main entrance to the building for the convenience of visitors who desire to get details about any of the houses or to secure photographs or floor plans. This information desk will be operated by the James W. Owen Nurseries for "A Century of Progress."

Enormous Savings and Advantages

The Owens-Illinois glass block, used in the building in which the rest of the Owens-Illinois exhibits are housed, is a unit of uniform strength that has withstood exhaustive tests entirely satisfactory to the building profession. Although not intended as a load-bearing material it is capable of sustaining heavy loads, and, with proper lateral stiffness for 4-inch thick walls, it easily meets building-code requirements.

Its hollow center gives it the further advantage of excellent insulating qualities, keeping out heat in summer, and reducing heating costs in winter.

Further, great advantages of the Owens-Illinois glass block lie in its transmission of light and uniform transfusion of light, without casting shadows, a feature of great value in many kinds of industrial and commercial buildings, and one which can be used to reduce greatly costs of construction of various types of buildings.

Presents No Technical Difficulties

The Owens-Illinois glass block is of a shape such as masons are accustomed to laying. To effect a bond between the mortar and the glass block, to prevent the mortar from dropping off the Mock, to prevent water from penetrating the wall between the block and mortar, and to eliminate the unsightliness of air pockets in the mortar, the surfaces which would normally 'be in contact with the mortar are painted in the factory with a cement paint.

It is from the variations of color applied to the surfaces of the blocks themselves or introduced into the cement paint that the wide range of color effects in the glass blocks are achieved. Light reflected from the surfaces in contact with the mortar gives the effect of tinted glass.

The translucency of the blocks, admitting light to the building, and at the same time permitting the reflected light from the colored cement coating to be diffused throughout each block, produces a varied pattern which changes continuously with the observer's perspective and with variations in lighting conditions. The effects achieved by the Owens-Illinois glass-block building of Chicago are such as offer delightful scene to all who attend the Exposition, and this exhibit is unquestionably one of those that will attract the most widespread interest of the general public, as well as invite the special study of the industrial and commercial world and the architectural and building professions.


Keywords:Hemingray : Owens-Illinois Glass Company : Glass Block
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:August 26, 2010 by: Bob Stahr;