Why not a glass fireplace flue? Wouldnt that look cool? High temperature glass exists that could withstand fireplace flue temperatures, so what if your new, high-end, modern home had a nice, custom fireplace with a see-thru flue? I dont mean see-thru, I mean transparent. This is possible, and apparently its been done.
Bertrand Goldberg, the mighty Chicago architect, designer of the iconic Marina City, designed a fireplace that had a glass flue in one of his early residences way back in 1941, so not only has it been done but it was done over 70 years ago. The idea challenges the basic properties of fireplace design, but advancements in materials and the sheer properties of glass make this concept not just doable but also a possibly efficient design. Think about it; a fireplace inside the house so the flue stays warm, a double-layer cylinder of glass where air insulates the inner glass and keeps flue temperatures high, inside the double glass you could push air so condensation doesnt build up and you could see the circular motion of the smoke and heat rise within the flue. You would see it take off, sputter, heat up, cool down, but you will also see it soot up. Maintenance would be an issue for sure.
Lets take this one step further. Lets create all of the internal components of the fireplace, hearth to ceiling, including the smoke chamber and curved breast all out of high-temperature glass. Lets create the interior walls of the fireplace, where the firebrick goes, out of glass as well as the exterior shell, facing, out of glass. Air is a great insulator, so lets keep the inside hollow and circulate calculated amounts of air through the assembly, lets use warm air. We could keep the inside of the hollow, constructed fireplace structure clean and keep temperatures at a minimum by circulating the air with the help of a testing lab. It might be best to burn a gas log set of some kind to avoid extreme temperature changes. Im sure glass doesnt appreciate the shock value of wood-burning very well, but think about the possibilities. You could have a completely transparent fireplace and see all the inner workings of a fireplace from the floor to the ceiling.
Yes, building code violations are hurdles with the transparent fireplace design, but simply getting a glass flue on a masonry fireplace approved and past a local jurisdiction may be very possible with the right testing if you do your homework. With the right client, the right budget and the right design, Goldbergs glass fireplace flue could absolutely be replicated if not improved on. Any takers?
by Dane Batty