Steel-Framed Windows Leap Forward Into Modern Designs

Steel-Framed Windows Leap Forward Into Modern Designs

The Industrial Revolution gave us many new substances and technologies, from the elevator to the idea of a curtain wall construction. Not the least of these was the introduction of sheets of glass set in metal frames.

Introduced on a huge scale at the Crystal Palace, which housed the Great Exhibition in 1851, sheets of plate glass held in place by a metal frame quickly found their way into architectural design. Then, with stronger and lighter steel replacing cast iron, windows manufactured by the likes of Henry Hope & Sons found their way into homes. By the 1930s, architects like Frank Lloyd Wright popularized steel-framed windows.

But beginning in the 1960s these windows became less and less popular. Contributing to their passing was the absence of thermal efficiency of their original windows. Made of one sheet of glass and a thin steel framework, these windows were great conductors of cold from outside to inside.

But that is all changed. With better materials, finishes and designs, these windows are getting a resurgence.


Perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright’s most celebrated design, Fallingwater owes much of its visual success to the design liberty given by the steel-framed windows.

Winn Wittman Architecture

Since the 1930s advancements made to the metal framework’s endings have given new life to these window systems. Virtually unlimited color options enable designers to create inspired window partitions.

Studio William Hefner

A hallmark of these glazing systems is the minimum amount of framing material needed for structural integrity. Wood frames for glass doors must be substantially bigger, including a great deal of visual weight to the door. Steel frames can be quite light and thin due to the potency of this material.

Studio William Hefner

The thinness of these steel frames permits them to develop into mere two dimensional grids, almost painterly in effect. The view outside becomes flattened, not as some modern paintings, like those of Mondrian.

House + House Architects

Instead of a huge beam or header behind the door, all that is needed is a pencil line of steel.

Tracery Interiors

Like in some of the great 19th- and – early-20th-century factories, warehouses and other industrial buildings, these steel-framed glazing systems can impart a industrial aesthetic when utilized from floor to ceiling and corner to corner.

Thorsen Construction

When these systems have their roots in the industrial era and do have that industrial aesthetic, they are sometimes used with a traditional-style house. In fact, like a yin and yang strategy, these steel-framed glazing systems can accentuate a conventional interior.

Abramson Teiger Architects

These systems are naturally suited to open corners, where sheets of glass are formed to create open corner windows. Thin lines of steel supply a minimum quantity of frame, creating only a mere screen between inside and outside.

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