Archive for February, 2000
Tim Macfarlane holds a thick book in his hand. “This has everything you need to build a building,” he says. “It tells you how to use steel, brick, timber, concrete. It has everything except for glass.” The book of standards he’s holding, found on every engineer’s shelf, explains how much weight a support material can carry. Without it, an engineer is blind, with no idea how to arrange things so a bridge, a building, or a house stays standing. With it, an engineer can build almost anything. Macfarlane dreams of the day when this book will contain one of the strongest, most versatile, most exciting materials known to man. He hopes that in the future every good engineer will be able to build with glass.
The 49-year-old Scottish structural engineer says we are just beginning to understand what glass can do. Macfarlane’s recent breakthroughs prove that architects and engineers can now create structures entirely of glass. There is no longer a need to have any other material holding a building up; he imagines suspension bridges held by glass chains, or a gigantic geodesic dome of pure glass surrounding a college campus or an entire city. “That’s just waiting to be done,” he says. “You could build all of Buckminster Fuller’s structures [out of glass].”