The Opacity of Glass Rethinking Transparency in Contemporary Architecture

Document Type : Original Paper



In this paper, an exchange of letters between the philosopher Jacques Derrida and architect Peter Eisenman is used as a catalyst to discuss the material qualities of glass and its relationship with the concept of transparency in architecture. In his criticism of an architecture devoid of human qualities, Derrida uses glass, defined through Walter Benjamin’s writings, as a hard and cold material that does not allow any human attachments and transparency as an absence of aura or a sense of awe. This paper attempts to elaborate that there can be different interpretations of transparency in architecture and that the material qualities of glass can be used to construct a different understanding of architecture in the current world of mass media and information. It is also argued that a particular approach to architecture has become possible in which textual constructs veil glassy buildings resulting in a translucent architecture that exploits different media to extend its influence beyond the limitations of a particular material, site or context.