The Veil

Colab Architecture + Urban Design

“The Veil” is a room partition system designed by Colab Architecture + Urban Design. Comprised of fused glass components cabled together and on an aluminum track, the collaboration between the architect, Bullseye Glass Co., and Columbia Wire & Iron, was created for the group architectural exhibition Betweenness curated by Randy Gragg.

For this project, COLAB designers Lawrence Ko and Mark Engberg sought to enhance the touchability and flexibility of glass by designing a partition that is a curtain. “A curtain,” Ko said, “is a simple divider, a common appliance that fulfills a complex program of fluctuating environmental conditions and states of human desire.” For all the ethereality of their aesthetic goals, they also hoped to create a prototype for a kit that could conceivably be sold through assembly-required home furnishing stores.

COLAB explored four different curtain schemes, arriving at what Ko described as a “a saturation of the pieces’ most minimal qualities”–glass modules; modules that could be strung on wire (or in this case, steel cable) like jewelry but in two directions at once, creating glass “beads” that serve as the junctions of a steel net.

Each module comprises four layers of glass varying from clear to blue and green to reddish brown, like overlapping shades of watercolor, creating a subtly changing gradient across the entire curtain. With every 50 units requiring four hours to fabricate, the architects themselves pitched in at the factory to finish the pieces.

COLAB originally designed a 136-foot-long track for the curtain specifically to take advantage of Columbia Wire & Iron’s “BUFFO,” a computer-controlled steel-bending machine the company developed to create the curving steel-skeleton members in the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project. Though scaled back in the end, the resulting curving track allows the curtain to overlap itself, leaving the viewer to see portions of two or more layers of glass, compounding the color and achieving a subtle moiré, an effect Ko likens to the folds of a veil or the currents of water.