Perfectly flat glass dominates the appearance of our urban landscapes today. Designed to be almost invisible, it nevertheless lends the city its face of prestige and economic wealth. The technique to produce evenly thick glass by “floating” a batch of molten sand on top of a liquid tin bath was developed in the 1960s. Today, it has taken over almost all the flat glass production worldwide, creating an extremely uniform industry and consequential lifestyle. In a hypnotising velocity, a specific size range of relatively pure silica sand grains are transformed into a perfectly flat and smooth rib…
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Exhibition Debut

Photos by Joep Jacobs and Boudewijn Bollmann

Found Images of Ancient Shorelines

Found Images of Silica Sand

Site Visit to Pilkington Factory

Mapping Worldwide Float Glass Lines

Diagrams of Float Glass Industry Standards

Interviews with Float Glass Industry Experts

Installation Sketch

Final Films

Float

Elissa Brunato and Christoph Dichmann

Perfectly flat glass dominates the appearance of our urban landscapes today. Designed to be almost invisible, it nevertheless lends the city its face of prestige and economic wealth. The technique to produce evenly thick glass by “floating” a batch of molten sand on top of a liquid tin bath was developed in the 1960s. Today, it has taken over almost all the flat glass production worldwide, creating an extremely uniform industry and consequential lifestyle. In a hypnotising velocity, a specific size range of relatively pure silica sand grains are transformed into a perfectly flat and smooth ribbon of glass, 24/7, 365 days a year. Unstoppable for 15 years per production line, the industry keeps on extending to feed the speculative consumption of a globally growing market.

In the process of researching this global industry, Christoph Dichmann and Elissa Brunato were fascinated by the contrast between the standardised procedures of the production and the apparent lack of official guidelines around the extraction and use of the non-renewable resource sand. Float discusses the need to regulate the use of these materials, presenting interviews with experts across industries related to sand who speak about the use of glass and its wider social and geological impacts. Highlighting the complexities of a globally local system, this curated conversation seeks to explore the future dealings with float glass and its core ingredient, sand.

Credits

Sponsor: Pilkington

Interview on Glass: Tim Smith, Specialist in Refractories, Raw Materials and Glass Compositions for Float Glass and Rolled Glass, NSG Pilkington

Interview on Architecture: James O’Callaghan, Co-founder of Eckersley O’Callaghan

Interview on Environmentalism: Kiran Pereira, Founder of Sand Stories

Interview on Ecology: Dr. Aurora Torres, PhD Ecology and Research Leader SANDLINKS

Interview on Geology: Clive Mitchell, Industrial Minerals Geologist, British Geological Survey; Dr Samuel Tetsopgang, Senior Lecturer of Geology, HTTC, The University of Bamenda, Cameroon; Prof. Dr. Jens Götze, Mineralogist, TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Interview on Telematics: Pratap Hegde, CEO & ED, Rane T4U; Sangeetha Shenoy, Head Communications/L&D

Interview on Mining Industry: Ann Petitjean, Marketing Manager, Sibelco

Interview on Sustainability: Louise Gallagher, Environmental governance lead, Global Sand Observatory at UN Environmental Programme

Interview on Physical Geography: Mette Bendixen, Research Fellow at INSTAAR

Additional Material

Read an interview with Elissa Brunato and Christophe Dichmann on The Float Glass Laws of Demand and Supply Link

References

Lionel A.B. Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff, "US2911759: Manufacture of flat glass," U.S. Patent Office, November 10, 1959. Link

Lionel A.B. Pilkington, "US2968893: Manufacture of flat glass in continuous ribbon form," U.S. Patent Office, January 24, 1961. Link

Lionel A.B. Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff, "US3206292: Method and apparatus for the manufacture of flat glass," U.S. Patent Office, September 14, 1965. Link

Lionel A.B. Pilkington, "US3215516: Manufacture of flat glass," U.S. Patent Office, November 2, 1965. Link

Lionel A.B. Pilkington, "US3231354: Protective atmosphere for sheet glass casting rolls," U.S. Patent Office, January 25, 1966. Link

David Gordon Loukes and John Graham Banner, Pilkington, "US3337323: Process of manufacturing flat glass on a molten metal bath," U.S. Patent Office, August 22, 1967. Link

David Gordon Loukes, Pilkington, "US3395996: Method and apparatus for inhibiting the flow of impurities of a molten bath to the glass sheet thereon," U.S. Patent Office, August 6, 1968. Link

George A. Dickinson, Pilkington, "US4131446: Method and apparatus for manufacturing flat glass on molten metal," U.S. Patent Office, December 26, 1978. Link

Bio

Elissa Brunato and Christoph Dichmann are two critical designers based in London. Christoph graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven, BA Food Non Food, in 2017 and Elissa received her master’s in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins in 2019. Their joint practice is based in research in the areas of ecology, sustainability and the human sensorium. They explore relations between material resources and commodity life cycles, civilisation and emerging ecosystems, collective imaginary and individual perception, addressing both the notion of normality and sustainability. Their future-facing design approach is informed by cross-disciplinary facilitation, participatory research methodologies, qualitative expert interviews and quantitative data collection.

Contacts

christophdichmann.com Link

@christophdichmann Link

elissabrunato.com Link

@elissabrunato Link