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The Colorful Dynamics of Glass


By Jill Pilaroscia

As the San Francisco skyline welcomes new silhouettes to its configuration, Colour Studio has had the opportunity to be involved in color selections for various high rises going up in the area. 

San Francisco
Photos courtesy of Jill Pilaroscia

This has presented the interesting challenge of selecting glass color in conjunction with exterior colors, materials and finishes.

Over the past years, requirements to meet Title 24 regulations and earn points toward LEED accreditation have made glazing systems critical factors in building performance and ultimately to regional building approvals.

Even in cases of high performance glass, there is still a perceivable color cast that needs to be factored into the overall color program. Selecting glass color is a multi-layered process, encompassing both function and aesthetic.

In this post, we look at the elements that impact the way glass color makes itself apparent in our constructed landscapes.

Glass in the Sky

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center: New York City

The surrounding sky is an important aspect when considering glass color. Every geographic location has its own unique sky color. It is important to select glass colors that work with the sky in the specific region.  

If the glass color is not complementary to the surrounding sky, it will drastically affect how the glass color is perceived.

Glass in Urban Settings

W Hotel

W Hotel: Barcelona, Spain

In dense urban environments, characteristics such as reflectivity and transparency will affect the way glazing system is experienced. Highly reflective glazing systems will create a mirror effect, magnifying the surrounding conditions that may clash or complement other building elements. Considering neighboring buildings is always important when making material color selections, but especially so when selecting glass color.

Clear Glass

Seagram's Building

Seagram's Building: London

Even in the case of clear glass, there will still be at least a hint of color. Hardware becomes more of a design component in these instances, and sophisticated structural hardware and fastening systems have more of a visible impact.

Apple Flagship Store

Apple flagship store: New York City

Selecting complimentary fixtures in appropriate sizes can be equally as important as paying careful attention to the coloring of the glass itself. Both will work together to create an overall aesthetic.

Colored Glass Accents

International Management Institute in Kolkata, India

International Management Institute: Kolkata, India

Colored glass can be playful yet functional way to enliven a building. This strategy can have a dynamic impact on the project as it not only impacts the exterior skin, but will filter into interior spaces as the light changes throughout the day.

Miami Airport

Miami Airport: Miami

As colorists, we can not rely solely on glass as a passive, decorative element in building composition. We must make selections for glass surfaces that enhance performance and lessen the impact of the built environment on our planet.

Objective color takes into consideration all variables, both environmental and project driven. The challenge is to find the balance.


Jill Pilaroscia

“Life in Color” is co-authored by architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia (pictured), BFA, and creative writer Allison Serrell. Pilaroscia’s firm, Colour Studio Inc., is based in San Francisco. A fully accredited member of the International Association of Color Consultants, Pilaroscia writes and lectures widely on the art and science of color.



Tagged categories: Color; Color + Design; Colour Studio Inc.; Consultants; Designers; Aesthetics; Architecture; Color selection; Color trends; Glass; Glass coatings

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