The evolution of the curtain wall

Curtain walls are something that modern day buildings or properties tend to incorporate more and more these days (even if at first glance they’re not obvious), but what a lot of people don’t know is that they’re not exactly new. Whilst their design is often contemporary and the materials and techniques used in their construction are now cutting edge, the concept has actually been around since before the modern world can remember.

The Medieval Era

In the Medieval Era, curtain walls surrounded the interior of the castle and were used to protect the structure as a whole and the crucial people and objects contained within. The curtain walls were usually connected by towers to add better defence and strength. Although modern curtain walls are produced and constructed with aluminium, at this time many different materials were used. Initially, wood or even earth mounds and existing geographical features were utilised, and later on stone, steel or bricks were often chosen for their strength and rigidity.

Mid 20th Century

In the mid 20th century, curtain walls no longer had to sustain dead loads and so they could be made much lighter using glass. This was the era which saw skyscrapers gaining popularity (the Empire State Building in New York was completed in 1930) – and their rise in prevalence was helped by new construction techniques which made use of lighter materials and a more sophisticated structuring model. By the 1930s aluminium had become readily available and less expensive, so brick and steel were no longer used as widely and were steadily replaced as newer, more modern architecture became popular.

Modern day

Today we have ready access to aluminium and different building materials in addition to a growing number of sophisticated alloys and new developments which promise to revolutionise the way we construct buildings and manufacture cars, aircraft and other machinery. These ‘mega metals’ have a wide range of beneficial properties and their versatile yet strong nature makes them a real asset in the world of architecture, design and construction. In recent years, we’ve been able to continually improve the way we design and build curtain walls. They can be retro-fitted to existing buildings to increase efficiency or improve overall appearance or incorporated in the early stages as part of the fundamental design of a property. Not only are curtain walls beneficial to the workplace or property for structural and aesthetic reasons, they are also environmentally friendly – and with new materials constantly in development, the curtain walls of tomorrow may be unrecognisable.

For more information on curtain walling and how it could be of benefit to your property, project or business, please get in touch with us today.