The creation of Lloyd Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented challenges both physical and political. The team at AK Architecture LLC found the perfect solution to all of them with Pittsburgh Corning Vistabrik® solid glass brick.
A multi-use public recreation facility in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, Lloyd Hall features a grand gymnasium, banquet facilities and riverside cafe. Two of its walls feature large expanses of glass brick, one of which faces the Schuylkill River.
For the city administration, vandal-resistance was key. Yet the public was expecting a structure that acknowledged the park and the river, and that would serve as an open, inviting visitor’s center.
“We needed a solution that allowed for daylight to come in on ground level but that could stand up to a lot of wear and tear and abuse,” said Lisa Armstrong, principal architect on the project. “So it’s a building that’s made out of hard-wearing permanent materials, but that looks very inviting due to the visibility through the glass brick at ground level.”
Vistabrik®, as a solid piece of glass, is impervious to weather and resistant to breaking. Plate glass, on the other hand, is too easy to vandalize.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have that length of exposed wall without using masonry,” Armstrong said. “The only solution, if we wanted to have transparency, was the glass brick.” Yet Vistabrik® takes that transparency a step further, because of how it treats light reflected from the river outside.
“The glass brick provides a really quite wonderful dappled light effect that comes off the water and is reflected on the ceiling and back onto the floor,” said Armstrong. And that’s not all. “The natural color of the glass has a slight aqua tint to it,” Armstrong explained, adding an element of beauty.
As an 8 inch square, each brick has a human scale, yet fits well into the 90 foot expanse that forms the river-facing wall. The structure is now coming up on its ten year anniversary.
“It’s held up very well,” said Armstrong, actually looking better as it gets older. And thanks to Vistabrik®, the structure’s open feel has had an unexpected effect.
“Most satisfying for us is that it became this magnet for activity that wasn’t there before,” Armstrong said, with many Philadelphians using the structure as a natural meeting place. The perfect solution indeed.