The changing of the ugly duckling into a majestic swan is a fairytale that has been retold in many forms by Hollywood’s mythmakers. Recently, famed architect Hagy Belzberg, with the help of Pulp Studio, California Glass Bending and Starphire Ultra- Clear™ glass by Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG glass), brought the ancient fable to life in building form, transforming a bland three-story office building on Beverly Hills’ glitzy Wilshire Boulevard into the stunning glass-clad world headquarters of the Gores Group, a multi-billion-dollar global private equity firm.
The signature element of the renovation is a two-layer façade featuring carved limestone and slumped glass panels fabricated by Pulp Studio from Starphire® glass. Composed of three double-paneled, bent-glass patterns sandwiched around a dozen different custom-printed interlayers, the multi-textured surface of the 135,000-square-foot building interacts with sunlight during the day and brightly speckled LED lights at night. Combined with an undulating perforated metal canopy on the rooftop, the light and glass create a multidimensional mosaic of color and movement that shimmers against the exterior of the structure as well as the landscape that surrounds it.
Inside the building, the Starphire® glass façade works in tandem with a triple-height central atrium and skylight to flood common areas and working spaces with light. In areas where floor plates, trusses, walls and vertical shafts would otherwise be visible from the outside, Starphire® glass is made opaque with sprandrel panels. Where views and daylighting are desired, the glass’s transparency is emphasized, muted only slightly by the printed interlayer.
The façade is more than ornamental. It also plays a critical role in modulating the building’s indoor temperature and air-quality. In the summer, the façade facilitates mechanical cooling by exhausting hot air up and out of the building through a large operable skylight. In the winter, the air inside the building is warmed naturally through solar heat gain enhanced by Starphire® glass. Both strategies diminish the need for artificial heating and cooling, which generates significant energy savings.
The daylighting performance of Starphire® glass supplements energy savings by reducing demand for artificial lighting, and calls attention to interior flourishes such as the elaborately sculptured staircase and cylindrical glass elevator. “We [took] a dark, awful building and [opened] it up to light and circulation,” said Belzburg.
Pulp Studio fabricated the façade by bending Starphire® glass into matched pairs of compound shapes, then laminating them. The interlayer was printed using proprietary Kuraray technology licensed to Pulp Studio for production of SentryGlas® Expressions. The interlayers serve to reflect light during the day and capture it at night, while enabling observers to view the custom imagery undistorted by the bent shapes of the glass.
Made from a proprietary low-iron formulation introduced in 1990, Starphire® glass has visible light transmittance of 91 percent in a standard ¼-inch (6mm) monolithic lite, making it the clearest, most transparent float glass available.
Bernard Lax, chief executive officer of Pulp Studio said that his company uses Starphire® glass for about 70 percent of its production. “We always specify Starphire® glass for projects where the aesthetic is the driving force to maintain color neutrality,” he explained.