I recently shared some (poor) photos of the final result of our adventure with frosted glass. Check them out here.
How we got to the final result is a more interesting story. After all, you aren't interested in duplicating our design; you will have a different project to use frosted glass on - drinking and dining establishments, office or conference room glass walls, and many more. I saw a fascinating wall in a Rem Koolhaas building at the IIT campus in Chicago. Google 'Rem Koolhaas IIT campus' to see the context and other interesting features of the building. The photos below show a similar idea to frosted glass. I suspect that this was done with a printed translucent image sandwiched between two sheets of glass.
So the first thing that you need for a frosted glass or etched glass project is a location that calls out for "something". But the key ingredient is the artist. This could be you. Or a graphic designer. Or a 'fine art' artist. We found our artist through a fellow architect who travels in those circles. Our artist also had experience with creating images for frosted glass. This is critical because the final image that is imparted to the glass is the black and white. The black is frosted, the white is not. So an image that uses 'grays' will have to incorporate the pixel technique you see in the Koolhaas image above. A side issue that we ran into was 'digital savvy'. Our artist was 'manual analog', which ultimately worked fine, but distributing his images was challenging. And we ended up using a graphics drafter to re-create the art work in a format that could be used in the actual frosting process, a Photoshop EPS file. I don't have digital versions of the original artwork, but this image shows how our graphics drafter interpreted the artwork.
The next step is narrowing the universe of possibilities down to a concept, which could be abstract, representational, or symbolic. Our artist did a great job of telling a story with symbols.
Then you go through a process of 'Schematic Design', 'Design Development' and 'Construction Documents' steps to develop the actual image(s) that you will use. It really helps to have a strong concept that can be refined at the outset because there really are a world of possibilities. You don't want to get lost exploring all the 'what ifs'. Unless, of course, you are having so much fun that you don't care that you are working for less than minimum wage.
The next-to-last step before you have the glass produced and installed is finding the contractor who can do the work. In hindsight it was a stroke of genius that we had included an allowance for frosted glass panels in our bid documents. This gave us flexibility that really came in handy. Our first choice of contractor was a regional outfit that specialized in all kinds of unique glass and glass-like applications. Although we had plenty of time to work with them, their unresponsiveness and numerous screw-ups in producing samples finally caused us to go elsewhere. Now we were a bit desperate. It was nearly time to panic. Luckily the project's glazing contractor knew a small specialty glazier who could do the job. Not only that, but his turnaround time was just three weeks and his cost was 1/3 of what we had been planning to spend. A major victory!
By having an allowance for the frosted glass work we were able to find a solution that worked with schedule, budget and also the design intent. After several experiences, taking bids will work fine; but I sure appreciated the latitude the allowance provided.
The artistic content that is integral to frosted glass places it in a category of items that are unique to your work / design. ’Fun and unique’ is a great way to roll.