UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric

UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric

UNStudio has completed the renovation of a façade on the P.C. hooftstraat, an elegant shopping street in amsterdam. the avenue is home to leading international and dutch designers, flagship stores, and boutiques, including ‘crystal house’, the Hermès boutique. taking cues from nearby museums for framing dutch art, UNStudio’s design — titled ‘the looking glass’ — sets the stage for a unique and distinctive flagship store by re-imagining the display of clothes.


UNStudio’s founder and principal architect ben van berkel spoke at the 2019 world architecture festival in amsterdam. see designboom’s ongoing coverage of the event here.

UNStudio looking glass
all images by evabloem



conceived by UNStudio as a celebration of textiles, the façade comprises three curved glass panels that mimic billowing fabrics. in a fluid gesture, fashion and architecture come together to represent the craftsmanship and geometry of high-end, tailored clothing, creating harmony between aesthetics and function. the design team simultaneously wanted to stay faithful to the original design of an amsterdam town house, where a bespoke apartment will be housed above the retail at ground floor.

UNStudio looking glass



the three structural glass ‘box elements’ were assembled in a factory before being mounted on site. large laminated annealed low iron glass panels, both curved and straight, are bonded with structural silicone to the adjacent glass panels with stainless steel edge profiles in between, thus forming the glass box. each unit is then bonded to a hidden steel frame for protection and shipping purposes, before being installed as a single unit on site.

UNStudio looking glass



after installation, a rigid insulation layer is added on top of a GRC panel. brick slips are then glued on to the insulation layer. between the slips on the ground floor level, a metal strip is introduced to create slight differentiation from the rest of the brickwork and to meet urban requirements. 8mm wide silicon seams between the polished stainless steel edge profiles and the glass panels allow for any tolerances in the curved glass that might occur during the manufacturing process, while the steel profile protects the glass edges from damage and absorbs the transformation in geometries.

UNStudio looking glass

UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric

UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric

UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric

UNStudio's 'looking glass' façade in amsterdam mimics billowing fabric
section detail diagram | image © UNStudio



project info:


name: the looking glass
location: P.C. hooftstraat 138, amsterdam, the netherlands
date: 2017-2019

client: warenar real estate – warenar developed and owns ‘crystal house’, the hermes boutique
building surface: retail, ca 240 sqm, residential 130 sqm
program: retail facade, residential
status: complete


architect: UNStudio
ben van berkel, astrid piber with ger gijzen, marc salemink, sontaya bluangtook and lars van hoften, pauline caubel, paul challis, tiia vahula


advisors —
facade engineer: arup
structural engineer: brouwer en kok
executive architect for main construction: gietermans & van dijk architecten b.v.
main contractor: wessels zeist b.v.
façade contractor: octatube nederland b.v.


photography: evabloem

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