The Los Angeles landmark building, the U.S. Bank Tower, had recently begun offering something new alongside a magnificent view. The Skyslide, a fully transparent 45-foot-long slide jutting out from the building over 1,000 feet up, has seen exhilarated visitors travel over the city skyline, protected by only 1¼ inches of a toughened glass tube.
Façades are not just the visible skin of a building, covering the skeleton of its structure. The façade itself can make the building’s personality, whether it’s seeking gravitas and authority — like the Royal Albert Hall — an invigorated business or cultural area — like the development of London’s Canary Wharf in the 1990s — or simply playfulness and engagement, as with the new Skyslide.
But the U.S. Bank Tower is not the first building to play with transparent façades: the Grand Canyon Skywalk allows tourists to travel along a horse-shoe glass bridge over 2,000 feet above the canyon floor below; Las Vegas, home of the glamorous frontage, sends guests at the Stratosphere Hotel on a rollercoaster over 1,000 above the Strip; the Shanghai Pearl Tower allows visitors to view the city from over 1,100 feet above the city, from an observation deck with an inch-and-a-half thick glass floor; and the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan, is made up of two 40-storey towers joined by the world’s highest glass-sided escalator.
The UK doesn’t miss out on the fun either: the Blackpool Tower has a glass-floored observation deck at 486 feet, and the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, designed to resemble a billowing sail, has a transparent deck over 300 feet above the sea.
What all these buildings have in common is an understanding that any building is not only bricks, mortar and steel: every building also exists as an object to be viewed, to be used — and even to be played with.