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Storm Glass

Storm Glass, a nineteenth century weather-predicting instrument, is a sealed glass container with a mixture of distilled water and chemicals, which predicts weather with various precipitant formations within the glass.

Storm Glass

Storm Glass, a nineteenth century weather-predicting instrument, is a sealed glass container with a mixture of distilled water and chemicals, which predicts weather with various precipitant formations within the glass. Invented by Admiral Robert FitzRoy and used on Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle, these glasses create different crystalline forms that range from general transparency to small flakes to spiraling threads from top to bottom, all of which correspond to variations in local weather conditions. The storm glass operates as a perpetual index of conditions that include fog, thunderstorms, snow, frost, wind, and clear skies. In addition to being an index of the weather, each unique crystalline form has different levels of transparency, ranging from clear in clear conditions to mostly opaque in stormy conditions.

Architecture's artificial weather is by and large invisible, yet can still be explored spatially. Similarly, glass is commonly deployed in the architectural assemblage as the absence of material – it is the void against the solid in the architectural mask of the buildings enclosure. However, this work attempts to strike a balance between the material affect with the environmental interactions it simultaneously mediates and indexes. It aims to leverage one invisible condition against the other to elicit physical material properties that register and effect spatial visibilities.

The Storm Glass project attempts to forgo the architect's obsessive desire for pure transparency. Here glass is used to produce spatial effects based on modulating the magnitude and type of opacity. Currently, modulating the opacity of glass is an exercise is aimed at thermal opacity, reflecting solar energy while remaining visually transparent and conceptually invisible (a reflection of the sky or a view of it). By contrast, the glass tube modulates the visual transparency of glass to produce spatial effects that result from its shape, the local weather conditions, and interior lighting. Modulation comes from altering the form and position of the glass instead of augmenting glass with films or tints.

Additionally, part of the opportunity that comes with using glass tubes is that their shape precludes an airtight seal, which forces a rethinking of enclosure. Instead of imagining how one could create isolated interior and exterior climates separated by an absent edge, one aims to thicken glass in order to take advantage of the ability of weather, in combination with climate, to produce varying spatial effects and environmental conditions. Weather is invited inside. Considering effects of condensation, thickness, and both thermal and visual transparency, the Storm Glass project reconsiders glass as a mediating participant in the experience of weather. The storm glass project combines an environmental instrument with aesthetic effect.

Project Leads

Craig Borum

Project Team: Julie Simpson (project lead), Wiltrud Simbuerger, Sara Dean, Lizzie Yarina, Ross Hoekstra, Alex Timmer, Natasha Mauskapf, Jessica Mattson, Chris Bennett, Jason Prasad