The Vertical Glass House by Chinese architects Atelier FCJZ is disingenuous to say the least. Its name suggests a vertical derivative of Philip Johnson’s canonical house, and in fact its architects describe it as a 90-degree rotation of the typical modernist glass house. Instead, what welcomes visitors at Shanghai’s Xuhui waterfront is a four-story concrete house without any windows. Where is all that promised glass, you might ask?
The answer is inside. The house’s textured concrete walls give it the appearance of a bunker, but the interiors are actually light-filled. The architects accomplish this through an inverted sense of space. Where one expects walls of glass, yielding a platonic prism that brazenly exposes inhabitants to the outside world, the house instead delivers a surprising twist: the 7-cm-thick floor slabs are completely transparent, endowing users with a Superman-like sense of see-through vision. The experience of looking up through all of the house’s spaces, even the most private spaces like the bathroom, is breathtakingly novel.
The original concept of the Vertical Glass House dates back over twenty years, when architect and Atelier FCJZ founder Yung Ho Chang developed the design as a competition entry. Decades later, he realized the daring house for Shanghai’s West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art in 2013. But as strange as it is, the Vertical Glass House is one of the several architectural oddities that radically explores the notion of public and private space, and often ends up turning them on their heads.