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Glass Brick.

    The problem which is so often the bane of an architects or builders life is how to give more light, and produce light where darkness reigns supreme. It has hitherto been the cause of vexation to many a knight of the T-square and also his clients.
    From the far-off charming little republic of Switzerland comes the answer and the material of how to solve the problem. It is a glass brick, or a blown building block, formed or molded flask shape with short neck at each end, 8 inches in length, 6 inches in width and 2¼ inches in depth, with an air chamber through the center. The edges of the brick are covered, recessed, or ribbed and grooved to receive when laid a suitable cement of plastic material of such character that after it has hardened it will constitute a suitable frame or setting to keep the entire mass, roof or wall solidly together. The forms or molds, there being two different shapes, are pleasing to the eye, the lines or ridges being clean and smooth, and of a sufficient thickness or strength to stand a pressure of 150 to 200 pounds to the square foot.
    Glass bricks are by no means new, as history speaks of their being used in the days of Rameses II. At that time, however, and indeed up to the present, glass bricks have been used at various periods, but at all times they were made in one thick mass and pressed or molded. Formerly they were made in the form of short tube sections of different diameters or sizes in cross sections, 50 that when laid up in a wall with their ends abutting, the smaller ones could be arranged in the side of the larger ones and break joints therewith, and also the larger of such tubes, sections were angular in the cross-sections, with grooves in the adjacent faces to receive a locking or binding cement. In many cases it was also necessary to frame each brick with a continuous iron clamp. With the new molded brick or block this is necessary. Bricks have also been made of clay and other analogous material such as is ordinarily used for brick tile and other things, but we believe this to be the first brick or building block of glass or other vitreous material which is capable of being blown in the form of a hollow body having practically continuous and unbroken lines, and therefore possesses many advantages which are not incident to bricks or building blocks formed of other material, or of any material when in the form of cross sections.
    The patent was introduced by Architect Gustave Falconnier, a citizen of Switzerland, and letters patent was granted in 1889, through the continents of Europe and America. At the Paris Exposition models were shown, and caused quite a stir in building circles, and in different places it has been put to a practical test. Baron Rothschild was among the first to adopt it for his conservatory and the entire roof is built of this particular brick. One of the leading chemists of France made a chart showing the heat lines, and proving the advantages derived from this particular brick was due to the air chamber, which caused a retention of the heat line at 10 to 15 per cent more than with any other form of glass.
    The material is practically indestructible, non-absorbent and therefore damp-proof, and can be manufactured as cheaply if not cheaper than ordinary concrete or brick. It is also proposed to make these blocks of various colors. And as they will be blown, it will render firing necessary. Of course, when placed in the mold in which it was blown, silica, talc, and other resisting materials will be used, and this will, no doubt, in the near future cause an innovation in the building world. Take many of our large institutions, hotels, etc., it is a source of annoyance to find ones self groping with the darkness or suffering from the yellow glare of the gaslight.
    All lines and curves are so molded as to allow of its being set top and bottom with cement, while the tubes will be joined with rubber cement, thus doing away with clamping irons.
    Taking an ordinary partition wall between two rooms, instead of using brick or studding, the course will be to frame this on the four outside lines, and set the bricks one deep with the apex center back and front, grooved lines top and bottom. This will then give a wall of 5 inch thickness, and a flood of light, and still non-transparent. In remodeling old buildings it will prove of the utmost value, as it may safely be used for inner or outer walls; and the utmost safety is assured for walls 21 to 24 feet in length and 12 to 14 feet high.
    It is the intention of the present owner, Monsieur A. Olivet, an architect, and also from Switzerland, to give us a practical test by erecting a large tower at the Worlds Fair, Chicago, and plans are now being made under his direction by W. P. Lockington, of Philadelphia, This, with the surrounding garden space, will occupy an area of 10,000 feet, and will take the form of a Chinese pagoda, or a Russian kiosk. The first floor will be used as a Swiss cafe the second will be devoted to the uses of a smoking gallery, with a gallery for the musicians, while the upper stories will be used for lookout or observation tower.
    The present holder of the patent is full of enthusiasm for the success of the new building block. Already the patent has been sold in Great Britain for $125,000, and is being quite extensively used there. The bricks ordinarily bear a greenish tint similar to common glass and are made in the half and quarter sections. For all ornamental purposes, colored glass could be used with elaborate effect. Window sills, side walls, partitions and bath rooms will all bear in the near future the mark of this light-giving material, with its valuable hygienic advantages. --W. P. Lockington in Architectural Era.

Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 25, Issue 2, Page 45, February 1893