Published: 05/24/2024

Project Term: 2010-2013

Project Website

/ Faculty Projects

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 functioning as 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. The storm glass combines an environmental instrument with aesthetic effects.

Initially a grant funded research project, storm glass was developed into an exterior glazing system for a weekend retreat for a family of four.  The design incorporates a prototype of the Storm Glass glazing system. Dynamic patterns of crystals form inside the tubes revealing changes in weather patterns. The storm glass partitions produce a visual depth and modulate interior environmental conditions by diffusing light. Overall, the system forgoes complete visual transparency in favor of visual variability. 

The inner layer of glass tubes form torqued elliptical rooms while the exterior glass surface provides a weather-tight and thermally sealed enclosure. Each of these “windows” geometrically forms the only interior divisions of space within the house which are organized around a central courtyard. Pivoting wall sections were developed to facilitate ventilation and to allow for direct visual access to the exterior. This approach allows for a simplification of construction detailing and sequencing of trades while simultaneously redefining window and wall.

Principal in Charge: Craig Borum

Design Professionals: Julie Simpson, Alex Timmer Wiltrud Simbuergrer, Sara Dean, Ross Hoekstra, Lizzie Yarina, Natasha Mauskapf, Jessica Mattson, Chris Bennet, Jason Prasad

Structural Engineering: Andy Greco (SDI Structures)


Craig Borum

/ Gallery

Detail: Storm Glass Exhibit Installation