FROM GLASS TO PLEXIGLASS
Between 1880 and 1910, a new artistic movement flourished throughout Europe and the United States, involving architecture and the applied arts, a style of ornamental art that spread throughout each country with particular physiognomies. Art Nouveau, Art Nouveau (floral style) in Italy.
Although the Art Nouveau style is the last classical way of conceiving the outward appearance of buildings, it is also a fundamental moment of transition to modern architecture in that, starting with technological innovations and design methods, the new materials used (iron and concrete) are also treated in a completely new way.
The Art Nouveau style finds one of its greatest expressions in the creation of windows and doors, both in terms of the design of the frames and the decoration of the sash surfaces. The triumph of glazed windows and interior doors with refined decorations and infinite colour variations is typical of this style. These beautiful designs, obtained using the leaded glass technique, create interesting plays of coloured reflections. Stylised floral elements, obtained by using a glass of different colors, are the most recurring aspects in this type of window and door, creating suggestive effects in the diffusion of light.
The stairs of the Ex-Siva building are an example of this style. But chemistry makes it possible to replace coloured glass with other materials that are always transparent and above all more resistant. One example above all is plexiglass, a plastic material of which the interactive installations located here are made.
Bakelite, the first thermosetting resin of synthetic origin first synthesised in 1907 by chemist Leo Baekeland, was patented.
Fritz Klatte defines the production process of PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
Jacques Edwin Brandenberger invented Cellophane, the first flexible, transparent, and waterproof material.
PMMA is being developed in Germany, Great Britain, and Spain.
Otto Rohm produced the first plexiglass in Germany.
Nylon (polyamide) was born, a revolutionary material that would see its applications in textiles, from women’s stockings to parachutes.
The first acrylic sheet was created by ICI Acrylics, today one of the world’s largest producers of PMMA sheets; it was called Perspex (from the lative ‘I see through’), and was initially used for fighter aircraft canopies also used in World War II.
The first plastic contact lens was made by Heinrich Wohlk.
PET, polyethene terephthalate, is patented. This synthetic fibre is widely used in the production of fabrics such as fleece.
Giulio Natta discovered isotactic polypropylene, the crowning achievement of his studies on ethylene polymerisation catalysts that earned him the 1963 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with the German Karl Ziegler. Polypropylene would be produced industrially from 1957 under the brand name ‘Moplen’, revolutionising homes all over the world but above all entering the Italian mythology of the ‘economic boom’.
Polymethyl methacrylate (abbreviated PMMA), known as plexiglass, is a plastic material formed from polymers of methyl methacrylate and is a thermoplastic polymer. As a rule, it is very transparent, more so than glass, and is unbreakable depending on its ‘mixture’.
Due to these characteristics, it is used in the manufacture of safety glass and similar items.