Walking down Bishopsgate Street in London, Henk Wassink singles out all of the nearby towers where AGC INTERPANE Glas have applied their signature coated glass. There's 70 Mary Axe, nicknamed the 'Can of Ham' for its curved exterior; 52 Lime Street, or 'The Scalpal'; and 22 Bishopsgate, still rising above the City of London. In fact, it's probably easier to list the projects AGC INTERPANE hasn't been involved in.
"Can you see the top, here?" says Wassink, pointing to the rising facade of 22 Bishopsgate. You can see a perfect flat glass surface, without distortion, in a closed cavity facade produced by Gartner, Permasteelisa.
This, according to Wassink, is precisely what distinguishes AGC INTERPANE from its competition in the coatings marketplace: its absolute dedication to quality. Founded in 1971, the company has always prided itself on its ability to develop its own coatings (low-emissivity and high performance solarcontrol) on its own production line. This differentiates AGC INTERPANE's and neutral ipasol coatings from the competition. And it has the flexibility to coat custom-sized glass to obtain optimal visual quality.
What's more, AGC INTERPANE has always been open to innovation, a stance aided by its flat business structure. "We're very flexible in changing coating layer build-up at short notice," explains Wassink. "That's because the people who built our coating line also operate it, maintain it, and conduct research and development on it as well."
Nowhere is that flexibility on greater display than when a client requests AGC INTERPANE's 'coating on demand' service, which allows architects to create custom coatings themselves to test new looks, shapes and ideas. "We can play with different layer thicknesses and coating specs to create different perspectives, test the look of new colours as well as the performances of the coating according to different lighting and thermal conditions," says Wassink. "We can show this on our digital rendering of the building in question and, once they agree on a certain coating, then production starts. By the afternoon, we've produced a sample."
Indeed, the service has had an outsize influence on the appearance of London's skyline. "The coating used on the external skin of The Shard was, in fact, an early version of 'coating on demand'," Wassink recalls. "The architects from the Renzo Piano practice said, 'We want to use a low iron glass with a neutral silver reflective coating of the highest quality'." The problem was that no product could meet these requirements. At AGC INTERPANE, the full team was involved in the challenge. In a 'twinkle', they created ipasol bright white - one of the company's most popular coatings. The formulation has appeared on the lower ten floors of the Freedom Tower in New York City, the Louis Vuitton Foundation project in Paris and on the as-yet incomplete 22 Bishopsgate.
"We've used AGC INTERPANE's products quite a lot in our buildings," says Wayne McKiernan, a partner at PLP and one of the architects behind 22 Bishopsgate. "They're a big outfit, don't get me wrong, but it's also because of the early work they're prepared to do, and the relationships that build on them showing us their new technologies."
McKiernan and Wassink are currently in the early stages of discussions about incorporating Halio switchable glass - a type of glazing that responds to climactic conditions - into future projects at PLP. "AGC INTERPANE have been taking on those ideas and really using their research budget to try and find ways to make these things work," says McKiernan. Indeed, the enthusiasm Wassink has for the new in coatings is infectious.
"In the future we're going to have more connected glass, more intelligent glass, which reacts to our needs," he says. "We're going to have new technology in the glass itself and that, I think, will be a very interesting next step."