Monday, August 3, 2009

Pearl Windows

As reported by The Times Picayune September 27, 1922:

SHELL NOW USED FOR WINDOW PANE: Porto Rican Architect Visiting Here Tells of New Light Barrier

Pearl shells from the Philippines for window openings instead of glass, is one of the striking features of the modern buildings of Porto Rico, according to Anton Nechodoma, a leading architect of San Juan, Porto Rico, who is in charge of the architectural work for the American military government in Santo Domingo. Mr. Nechodoma, who arrived in New Orleans yesterday, thinks that these shells will help solve the problem of combating the ultraviolet rays, so injurious to health in the excessive light of the Antilles.

'The Porto Rican architect has two main problems to deal with,' said Mr. Nechodoma at the St. Charles Hotel. 'Structures must be built to withstand possible earthquakes, and also be protected from the strong light. As climatic conditions cause wood and metal to deteriorate rapidly, reinforced concrete is being used exclusively for structural purposes on the island. This withstands the weather and has the best chance of resisting seismic attacks.

'In ordered to protect buildings from the light, the Bhutannesse style of architecture, which originated in India, has become the accepted type throughout Porto Rico,' continued Mr. Nechodoma. 'This style is characterized by flat roofs with wide projecting eaves which cut off much light. Then to soften the light still further within doors, the Manila pearl windows are being widely used.

'These pearls have been employed for hundreds of years in the Philippines in the place of glass, and there are many residences, churches and public buildings there which have long passed the century mark, with the original shell windows still intact. The shells improve with age because their natural iridescent lustre increases under the usual process of cleaning. The risk of breakage is negligible, on account of their toughness and resiliency, and another advantage is their low cost which does not exceed that of better grades of glass.

'The shells, which are semi-transparent, are large enough to form panes four inches square. These are soldered together to form geometrical or natural designs,' Mr. Nechodoma explained.

To read more about shell (Placuna Placenta) windows, click here.

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