Silk-Screened Viracon Glass Adds Artistry to San Francisco Campus

City College of San Francisco’s Glass Curtainwall Features Silk-Screened High-Definition Images      Although the City College of San Francisco’s Chinatown/North Beach campus has operated from more than 30 different locations over the past 30 years, its newest – and most permanent – location stands out.

Located on Washington and Kearny streets, the 14-story building’s stunning exterior showcases three different high-resolution, evocative images, produced on Viracon glass using traditional silk-screen methods. 

According to the building’s architects, space constraints and city zoning laws prevented them from placing a sculpture in front of the building. Instead, they worked with Viracon to create a glass curtainwall that doubles as an art installation. To do so, Viracon used a traditional silk-screen process to create high-definition imagery on glass – the first application of its kind. Throughout the process, Viracon maintained the integrity of the original images, producing a remarkably detailed and beautiful façade that illustrates the spirit of the college and the surrounding community.

“Viracon was a reliable partner from start to finish on this project. They worked with us to deliver accurate samples and mock-ups to translate images to glass – making the application a real success,” says David Peck, project manager of Architectural Glass & Aluminum.

The images on the college’s glass curtainwall both resonate culturally with its Chinatown neighborhood and embody the spirit of technology and innovation characteristic of the nearby financial district. Its façade represents a Chinese landscape by Michael Kenna, a 19th-century photo of a girl from Chinatown by Arnold Genthe and a calligraphic scroll by Mak Ming Chan. Chinese proverbs overlay Genthe’s photograph, which was archived from National Geographic.

“No one had ever attempted such a high-resultion silk-screen application before,” says Scott Arford of EHDD Architecture, who served as designer for the project. “Viracon worked with us every step of the way, providing a number of mock-ups to make sure the imagery would translate well. The result is a one-of-a-kind project that summons a work of art, gives the campus an identity and shows off the glass curtainwall.”

The project team opted to produce images using a traditional silk-screen application, which involves applying ceramic frit paint to one side of the glass and firing it within a tempering furnace to create a permanent coating.

To add function to form, the low-e coating and silk-screen were applied to the #2 surface of Viracon’s insulating laminated VNE1-63 glass. This glass offers high visible light transmission as well as solar energy control, increasing the building’s thermal performance.

“Viracon is constantly pushing the envelope in architectural glass, and this project is a great example of that,” says Todd Repke, operations manager of Schilling Graphics, silk-screen supplier for the project. “We view our business with Viracon as a partnership, and that has pushed us to get better, which in the long run has enabled projects like this to be a success.”

Completed in spring of 2012, the building is LEED Gold-targeted.

About Viracon, Inc.

Viracon, the nation’s leading single-source architectural glass fabricator, is based in Owatonna, Minnesota, and has facilities in Statesboro, Georgia, St. George, Utah and Nazaré Paulista, Brazil. Viracon produces high-performance glass products, including tempered, laminated, insulating, silk-screened, digital printing, and high-performance coatings, for North American and international markets. The company is a subsidiary of Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ: APOG). Apogee, headquartered in Minneapolis, is a leader in technologies involving the design and development of value-added glass products and services.

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