Art Moderne and Glass Bricks

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By Jonathan H

Pabco Roofing Manufacturing Company’s railroad-facing facade has glass bricks. It looks like original construction, which means these glass blocks pre-dated Art Deco and Art Moderne, an indication that their first use was in industrial architecture.

Pabco Roofing Satellite ImageGlass blocks (also known as glass bricks) can be found in almost every city that existed in the 1930s to the present day. These bricks began as a purely functional, industrial application in factories and warehouses, but grew in popularity in commercial and residential strucutres with the rise of art deco and art moderne.

Perhaps the earliest use of these bricks was instituted by the American Luxfer Prism company, around 1897, of which Frank Lloyd Wright played an integral role in the design of some of their bricks. Wright designed the company’s headquarters by proposing a street-level facade made entirely of glass brick, around its whole perimeter!


I enclose you gas bills of 1896, and the corresponding ones for 1897, covering the period which the Prisms have been in my store. They speak more with force than I can. I am confident that I shall not find it necessary to use gas or artificial light during the day at any time the coming season. Heretofore, I have had two to four gas jets burning all day in the back of my store, and now we will use none.
Chicago, September 2, 1897

Later, Art Moderne became characterized by large curving structures with rectangular glass brick windows. Much of the exterior is built to resemble a maritime theme, and buildings are made to look like large ships. Frank Lloyd Wright utilized glass bricks in many of his residential structures during this time (maybe as a reflection of his past experience with American Luxfer).

Wright's Glass Prism Patent

One comment on “Art Moderne and Glass Bricks

  1. Ian Macky on said:

    Luxfer has nothing to do with glass bricks. They didn’t make glass bricks, nor did FLW design any. Luxfer made PRISM TILES,
    (and vault lights, skylight tiles, etc)– like those shown in the McCarthy storefront transom photo, and FLW *did* design 41
    patterns/decorations for them. Glass bricks/blocks and prism tiles are two very different things.

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