“insulation with vision” up on JSTOR

U.S. Patent 2,235,680, “Multiple Glass Sheet Glazing Unit and Method of Making the Same.”  Issued to Haven and John Hopfield in March, 1941.

Happy to report that a key “reconnaissance paper” on the history of insulated glazing has just been published in the Association for Preservation Technology Bulletin, and is up on JSTOR. (Behind the subscriber paywall, but hit me up if you want a digital copy). “Insulation with Vision” tracks the difficult development of the technique–the glass ‘sandwich’ around an evacuated or gas-filled void that increases the insulation value of otherwise highly thermally transmissive glazing.

Abstruse? A bit, but also important. Without this technology, the glass curtain wall couldn’t have been deployed to the extent that it was in the 1950s and beyond through today. Less striking but perhaps more important in terms of scale, the picture window–a signature feature of suburban housing in the era–couldn’t have happened either.

The story’s a good one–it includes a Milwaukee trolley ride, a biscuit factory in Oakland, Cranbrook, the original John Hancock Building in Boston, and Chicago’s Keck and Keck. It’s one of a handful of deep dives into the ‘enabling technologies’ of the postwar skyscraper that are forming the setup to the new project on postwar Chicago skyscrapers…

Penguins play a role in the story of insulated glazing, too. Penguins! [Folder  11, Box no. 45, MSS-066, Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company Records, University of Toledo Libraries, Ward. M. Canaday Center Manuscript Collection].

4 thoughts on ““insulation with vision” up on JSTOR

  1. I’m just a poor CAC docent with no access to JSTOR, so I’ll take you up on your kind offer to send a digital copy.
    Thanks
    Gary Shapiro

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    • Sure thing, Gary–if you send an email to my office address (tleslie@iastate.edu) I’ll be happy to send along a .pdf…

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  2. Harris Armstrong, the innovative St. Louis modernist architect, apparently developed some early insulating glass assemblies in the 1930’s and/or 40’s. I saw a presentation (probably 20 years ago by now) by an architectural historian at Washington University (have forgotten his name) who was researching Armstrong for publication and had a treasure trove of information on him, including his work on developing insulating glass; I have always wondered what became of all that great information (I have never seen that it was published). Another item that caught my attention during his presentation was that, based on Armstrong’s early curtain wall design work, Gordon Bunshaft consulted him as SOM was starting work on Lever House; fascinating stuff.

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    • Thermopane was one of several attempts at insulated glass in the 1930s–so that checks out completely. It was a really tricky technology to master, and it wasn’t until after WWII that L-O-F finally figured out the manufacturing processes necessary to get a reliable seal. Truly interesting about Lever House, the curtain wall there isn’t nearly as simple as it looks!

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