Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ has
glass floors instead of windows


Glass floors allow residents to look down from a dining table into a toilet inside this windowless concrete house in Shanghai by Chinese firm Atelier FCJZ (+ slideshow).

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

Yung Ho Chang of Atelier FCJZ originally designed the Vertical Glass House as an urban housing prototype for a competition in 1991. Twenty-two years later, the studio was able to realise the project as part of the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

The building now functions as a guesthouse for visiting artists and architects. Closely based on the original design, the four-storey house has a glass roof and glass floors between each level, meaning that residents can look all the way up from the basement to the sky.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

According to project architect Lu Bai, the house is a 90-degree rotation of the typical glass houses completed during the Modernist period, placing more of an emphasis on spirituality and materials.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

"With enclosed walls and transparent floors as well as roof, the house opens to the sky and the earth, positions the inhabitant right in the middle, and creates a place for meditation," he explained.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

A single steel column extends up through the exact centre of the building. Together with a series of criss-crossing joists, it dissects the floors into quarters that each accommodate different activities.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

On each floor, one of these quarters is taken up by a steel staircase that spirals down to the basement from a double-height second floor.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

The house's austere concrete walls were cast against wooden formwork, which was left rough on the outside and sanded on the inside to give a contrast in texture between the facade and the interior walls.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

Each glass floor slots into a pair of narrow horizontal openings in the walls and the architects have added lighting along these junctions to create stripes of light on the building's facades after dark.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

The overall footprint of the house is just 40 square metres.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ

Here's a project description from Atelier FCJZ:

Vertical Glass House

Vertical Glass House was designed by Yung Ho Chang as an entry to the annual Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition organised by the Japan Architect magazine in 1991. Chang received an Honorable Mention award for the project. Twenty-two years later in 2013, the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art in Shanghai decided to build it as one of its permanent pavilions.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Basement plan

Vertical Glass House is a urban housing prototype and discusses the notion of transparency in verticality while serving as a critic of Modernist transparency in horizontality or a glass house that always opens to landscape and provides no privacy. While turning the classic glass house 90 degrees, Vertical Glass House is on one hand spiritual: with enclosed walls and transparent floors as well as roof, the house opens to the sky and the earth, positions the inhabitant right in the middle, and creates a place for meditation. On the other hand, Vertical Glass House is material: vertical transparency visually connects all the utilities, ductworks, furniture pieces on different levels, as well as the staircase, into a system of domesticity and provides another reading of the modern theory of "architecture as living machine".

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Ground floor plan

The structure erected in Shanghai in 2013 was closely based on the 22-years old design scheme by Chang and developed by the Atelier FCJZ. With a footprint of less than 40 square meters, the four-storey residence is enclosed with solid concrete walls leaving little visual connection to its immediate surrounding. The walls were cast in rough wooden formwork on the exterior and smooth boards on the interior to give a contrast in texture in surface from the inside out. Within the concrete enclosure, a singular steel post is at the centre with steel beams divide the space in quarters and frame each domestic activity along with the concrete walls.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
First floor plan

All the floor slabs for the Vertical Glass House, which consists of 7cm thick composite tempered glass slabs, cantilevers beyond the concrete shell through the horizontal slivers on the facade. The perimeter of each glass slab is lit from within the house; therefore, light transmits through the glass at night to give a sense of mystic for the pedestrians passing by. All the furniture were designed specifically for the rooms inside the Vertical Glass House to be true to the original design concept and keep a cohere appearance with its structures and stairs. Air conditioning was added to the house.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Cross section

The Vertical Glass House will be operated by the West Bund Biennale as a one-room guest house for visiting artists and architects while serving as an architectural exhibition.

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Original drawings

Office: Atelier FCJZ
Principal Architect: Yung Ho Chang
Project Architect: Lu Bai
Project Team: Li Xiang Ting, Cai Feng

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Original drawings

Location: Xuhui District Longteng Road, Shanghai, China
Client: West Bund
Building Area: 170 m2 Structural
Type: Housing/Exhibition

Vertical Glass House by Atelier FCJZ
Original drawings


  • calle wirsch

    One more example for useless architecture – just to have a ‘new’ idea. Perhaps good to use as a learning exercise for building services engineers.

    • amva

      Ah, like you had the idea. Must have balls to do it…

  • Munchman

    Okay, before everyone starts talking about how gross it is to have a toilet with glass floor and ceiling or the pragmatics of the whole thing, this is kind of f***ing awesome.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Sorry, you just can’t ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

      • Naimit

        Especially when that gorilla is taking a commensurably large dump. That’s just hard to miss.

  • Clarice

    Looks like somewhere one would keep Hannibal Lecter.

  • Breadcrumbtrail

    Wow, extreme!

  • Michele Pappagallo

    Perhaps way too extreme. But the program clearly talks about lighting and transparency into an “almost blind box”. Interesting and inspiring.

  • H-J

    Beautiful work. Would love to try and live there. Reminds me of Lebbeus Woods’ drawings that ended up in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.

  • spadestick

    Such lovely views of a waterfront, all wasted. At least have a vantage, a look out or something towards the water. Why, even a periscope would’ve completed it. Now it just seems appropriate for an underground bunker typology study, could be anywhere in the world except a hot tropical climate. Try hard fail.

  • Seb H

    Let’s see who actually gives a sh**!

  • Chris MacDonald

    Really interesting concept and yes I don’t much fancy someone watching me from beneath whilst I’m on the toilet. But if you look past that, it’s a wonderful, wonderful idea. Would love to spend a whole 24 hours in there to see how the light changes over the course of the day/night.

    • Concerned Citizen

      You can’t ignore the toilet issue, though.

      • Chris MacDonald

        I can and will. I am a huge advocate of getting things like that nailed down in a design, but if you were to make that floor opaque it would definitely ruin the scheme. Perhaps there are other solutions, like moving it to the ground floor?

        There’s something really ballsy about saying “yes, you’re going to take a s*** with the possibility of people stood beneath you, but who cares; look at the building you’re in!”

        I dunno, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about it, I love it.

  • kenny

    Excellent, a building where you can watch someone defecating while eating dinner.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Pity the fools who are condemned to this abominable place.

  • Romain_M

    This would make a nice set for a reality TV show (“big brother”, or the “eye”?). Some-one call the Kardashians!

    • Naimit

      Seal the Kardashians in a windowless box having first forgotten to install any cameras, microphones or telephones? Wow, excellent idea! Finally, someone has hit upon a Kardashian realty show with genuinely broad appeal.

    • Romain_M

      Hey Dezeen ! Thank you for the newsletter nod :)

  • Naimit

    If this home had been located ANYWHERE other than on a waterfront with literally nothing obstructing the view, I’d find it interesting. If this had been built underground, or in an incredibly dense urban environment, again, there is much I’d find lovely.

    However, as it stands this building is yet another wildly expensive f*** you to everyone (and that’s nearly everybody) who couldn’t afford such prime real estate, and then an additional f*** you to even those people who could pay for that view, because ha! These people can afford that view and then entomb themselves in an above ground underground, luxury bomb shelter.

    Somebody wake me up when architecture opts out of the ever escalating, narcissistic cold war the very rich are waging on the rest of the planet and begins to at least pay some attention to the actual needs of the actual people who most need the services architects can provide.

  • freeyourmind

    What I see is a beautiful, inspiring and exciting place for couples. I’d love to live there with my girlfriend for a while. Some people just cannot see the spicy side of architecture and life.

  • c’monnn

    Prison, sweet prison.

  • James

    Imagine your in-laws visiting! You wouldn’t know where to rest your eyes.

  • mmrenner

    I think this falls into the category of “just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” You can’t ignore the quality of the human experience in a space when you’re designing, it’s what makes architecture what it is.

  • Smack

    Oh my god did you even read it?

    It’s a house run by the local biennale association as artist housing. You need to calm down.

    • Naimit

      I did read it! (I moved my lips, but I’d like to think that for some people this still counts.)

      Just a few months ago, I recall reading here on Dezeen about a prison-esque housing development in Britain intended for university students. That a
      notoriously terrible prison down the same road featured less inhumane housing schemes attracted some attention. Needless to say, all was resolved once it was pointed out that university students count as only half a human being, obviating any of the usual concerns about personal welfare.

      Thinking of this, I now understand how a vertical, above ground casket lining qualifies as quality housing. It’s obvious when one considers that the only inmates confined here will be those subhuman cockroaches, the artists. How fortunate artists never want to look outside: the sunlight would crisp them, the fresh air choke.

      Besides, everyone who has ever taken art history classes will tell you that the enduring greats drew their inspiration not from the beauty and dazzling ingenuity of nature, but instead from watching from below while someone strained through a bowel movement. Now that I think about it, I realise what a beneficence these architects have granted.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Thank you for not living close to me.

  • Yeongok Lim

    Nice place for heliotherapy but psychotherapy.

  • Jacqui

    It’s not the toilet that disturbs me, but the bath. A glass floor outside of a tub? A huge slipping hazard, imagine what could happen if your whole body comes crashing down onto a pane of glass. And even if you get yourself suitably dry enough to stay vertical, you’re still going to track footprints, smudges, water stains, etc. I see these glass floors looking scratched and cloudy within a few weeks.
    It’s a beautiful concept, but fails in certain functional environments.

  • YM

    It’s an architecture about architecture itself and possible experience, not about any client or functions in daily life. Please hit the point if you want to criticise.

  • Naimit

    Please pardon me if I’ve misunderstood, but isn’t your above statement a fine summation of probably the harshest criticism one could level at this project? That it has nothing to do with the actual end users but is instead “architecture about architecture”?

  • aelena74

    Love this house. Need one like this myself, although I would put some more windows.

  • Michael The Geek 

    I’m moving in.

  • AQ

    Nice picture of architecture. This is a picture of architecture and many of you just read it as a building.

  • rahul

    It basically states in the article how this is project is an intellectual exercise. I guess it’s hard for some people to, even for a moment, step outside the bounds of the typical project delivery workflow that the profession ceaselessly demands for just two seconds.

  • Moffat

    Hand me the stones. Put more glass on the sides and fill it up with water, welcome to human underwater living. Useless bunker architecture but nice try on making prison solitary confinement more interesting. Especially with the toilet.

  • Jornik

    One cannot just ignore the literature. It is a house that doesn’t “care” about the material outside world. It is an idea that successfully became architecture. If you think about it, it is really magnificent. Judge it for what it is and not for what you are. Just imagine if we fuse spiritual and material thinking in the architecture of dense cities. That would be progressive.

  • Bob Bao

    Where do they put the lights?

  • borcsa

    I think this is a very interesting design. This is a guest house for artist’s and architects. One room, most probably one person would be staying in it. What does it matter than that you can see the toilet from the other room if you the only one staying there temporarily?
    Also, I would guess people would actually only stay there to sleep, like in a hotel, so I think it is an exciting experience about space and the view doesn’t really matter at this point.

    My only problem with it would be the air-con instead of proper fresh air ventilation. But I think I can overlook that :)

  • Dave Carcamano

    Cool concept for Zombieland.

  • Gary Walmsley

    That’s not a home – it’s a hellish prison!

    Horrible. Once the owner dies, or comes to his senses, that place will be torn down. No one in their right mind would buy that (expensive) hellhole.