4 Ways to Create a Disappearing Wall of Glass

sinking glass wall to home build

Modern architecture is gripped with the notion of connecting the inside and the outside, internal-external living spaces, merging the inside and out. The various ways this design technique is described are almost endless.

Glass is one of the most popular ways in which architects and designers try to connect these spaces. Its see-through nature allows light to enter a space easily and draws the eye outwards which helps merge the spaces even with a thermally efficient divide between the inside and out. But as transparent as that barrier of glass is it is still present and creates a barrier to a true inside-outside space.

The way to counteract this is to create an entire disappearing wall of glass. You get that transparent yet thermally efficient barrier when the glass is closed but also truly connect the inside and out when the glass is open.

There are various ways in which you can create a disappearing glass wall. Here we explore just four of the most effective ways to connect inside and out.

 

A Descending Glass Wall

descending glass window to living room

These sinking glass facades are the next generation in architectural glass and are a must have for many of the most adventurous architectural designs ongoing at the moment.

Designed within a steel frame entire walls of glass, or door systems can be installed. At the press of a button, the entire façade sinks below the floor creating a completely open aperture.

Within the steel frame, you could install a large piece of frameless glass that disappears below the ground. Alternatively, you could install a glass door system within the wall.

sinking glass wall to back of a home

This offers a greater element of flexibility to the opening, allowing you to use the door system on a daily basis but sink the entire façade when the weather is nice enough.

For those looking to create as entire disappearing wall of glass, this is by far the most elegant and sophisticated way of doing so.

 

Downsides?sinking glass wall to home build

These automated glazing systems are a premium product and can carry a hefty price tag, especially for very large elevations. You also need somewhere for the glass wall to sit when open which will require extensive ground works. If these are not being carried out as part of a larger build this could push this architectural glazing option out of budget and out of the realm of possibility.

 

sliding doors into a pocket on an extension
Sliding pocket doors on Malbrook Road

Sliding Glass Pocket Doors

Slim framed sliding glass doors are often the first choice for architects looking to connect internal and external spaces. The slim framing offers an unobstructed view through the sliding glass wall, minimising the division between inside and out.

However, most traditional sliding door systems will require at least one static pane within the opening, meaning that you could never truly open the entire façade. Therefore: not a true disappearing wall of glass.

This has all changed now with the advent of sliding pocket doors. Couple the thin framing of a sliding door system, such as minimal windows, with the ability to slide all of the doors into a hidden pocket and you have a disappearing glass wall.

sliding pocket doors to kitchen extension
High Barn | Both sliding doors to this kitchen extension slide into the white wall on the left. When the sliding doors disappear you get a fully open aperture to the kitchen. When the panes are closed you maintain a very slim 21mm frame.

Not all sliding door systems are available as sliding pocket doors so make sure that you check with the fabricator. Our minimal windows sliding doors can be designed as pocket doors very easily. In order to achieve this glazing design you will need to have some solid wall space available large enough to house the largest sliding pane within the installation. A pocket will need to be constructed within the wall that is deep enough for each track that will be sliding in there with about 5mm of tolerance. So for a three pane pocket door you would need a gap of 185mm within the wall structure.

barn renovation with sliding pocket door Forty Farm in Vale of Glamorgan was designed with large sliding pocket doors in the open plan kitchen and dining area. Designed and installed by our Midlands regional team the single pane pocket door arrangements allowed the indoor and outdoor spaces to be fully merged when the weather permits, complete with a flush threshold detail.

 

Bi Fold Doors

slim framed bifolding door in barn conversion

A bifolding door is a very accessible and traditional way to create large walls of glass that can be swept away. When each pane is folded backwards you are able to open up to 95% of the doorway, the only structure left is the stacked doors at the side of the opening.

If a project was looking to create a disappearing wall of glass, a bifold door would probably be one of the top design choices. These systems are widely available and offer a cost effective solution for disappearing facades.

Bifolding doors can be installed with up to 7 panes sliding and folding in one direction. With pane sizes available up to 3m tall and a maximum of 1.2m wide you can create very large walls of glass that fold away.

When the bi fold door panels are closed you will be left with some large framing profiles normally around 120mm for the slimmest system. This means that when the glass wall is closed you will lose that merging of the internal and external spaces.

The slim framed bifolding door at Main Road was designed with fixed glazing overhead, creating a double height effect for the renovation in Cleeve. The South West regional division designed the bifolding doors to stack neatly to one side when the weather permits, merging the large living space with the surrounding garden space.

 

Vertical Sliding Disappearing Wall of Glass 

vertical sash windows in new build luxury home

So you can sink glass walls, slide them to the side and fold and stack them away…

Your next option is to lift the glass wall up!

The minimal windows sliding door system has been engineered to create a vertically sliding sash window that can slide vertically over fixed glazing or solid wall structures. With discrete motors you can lift entire walls of glass upwards in panes of up to 12m2 which could open an entire wall.

When the vertical sash window is closed you are left with large glass panes and very minimal horizontal framing (21mm for a double glazed system and 26mm for triple glazing). This will help to continue that link from inside to outside when the façade is shut.

This solution can be designed to suit a wide range of designs but is especially suitable for double height spaces as you can continue the glass wall up the whole elevation. The IQ headquarters team worked on Camlet Way, installing triple height vertical sash windows as part of the contemporary façade. When the two pane windows are opened the bottom pane slides over the top pane, revealing a completely open aperture that can be walked through.

A sectional lifting glass facade
A sectional lifting glass facade

An alternative solution would be a sectional lifting glass façade. When closed you have a lot more frame in view but you don’t need as much space above the glass wall to house the lifted structure. Working on the same principle as a rolling garage door, this type of disappearing wall of glass lifts up and back into the building opening the entire wall.

IQ have complied a list of the most frequently asked questions about vertical sash windows which can be found here.

 

As you can see there is a wide range of ways you can make a disappearing wall of glass. If you would like any further technical information about any of the products mentioned in this article please give the team at IQ Glass a call on 01494 722 880 or email us at hello@iqglassuk.com.

infographic - create a disappearing wall of glass

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Rebecca is Head of Marketing at the IQ Group and has worked in glazing specification for many years. She has a broad range of technical knowledge about all our glazing products and offers technical advice and guidance to architects for specification. Her easy to digest technical advice is often quoted in magazines and publications. You might also recognise her as one of the IQ Glass CPD presenters.