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Pure Precision: Glass Curtains at the Garden

Photos by Bruce Forster

Often mistaken for a sliding door system, the new glass windows in the Cultural Village are based on a so-called curtain wall technology called the Vitrocsa Invisible Wall.

As part of architect Kengo Kuma’s precise design plan, the Garden worked with Vitrocsa USA, to install the uniquely elegant curtain wall system.

“Given its proximity to nature, Portland is unlike any place in the world,” said Kuma-san. “This new Cultural Village serves as a connector of the stunning Oregon landscape, Japanese arts, and a subtle gradation to architecture.”

He said when the windows are open, Garden guests will feel like they are outside even when they are inside the buildings, and that was the point. “We always can feel nature, just next to us. In Japanese gardens, we try to repeat that kind of proximity to nature.”

The pure precision of the Vitrocsa glass curtains were the only option in this case for Kuma-san.

The company’s website describes the system’s precision as:  “Extremely specialized.” It takes about a 16 week lead time for one piece of glass. The rollers [they are on] are about eight hundred to one thousand pounds each for just one of the doors. The rollers have to be set perfectly. If they are off, they will not move,” said Josh Faulkner, Cultural Crossing Project Superintendent with Hoffman Construction. You will see the sliding Vitrocsa glass curtains on the first floor of the Garden House, the Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center, and the Umami Café.

The Garden also took several steps in the design process to consider bird safety issues including minimizing direct lines of sight through spaces (from one side to the other) and adding wood and bamboo screens at the perimeter. All of the panes of the Schnitzer Learning Center are covered by a layer of wooden screens, the upper level floors facing the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation Courtyard also have screens backing the glass. Kuma-san and his team also intentionally provided sudare bamboo screening at the perimeter of the Umami Café. “In the summertime when the entire wall panels open up and that’s your entire wall – it is going to be incredible,” added Faulkner.