If you’ve walked by the Museum on Biltmore and peeked in to check out our progress, you may have noticed you’re peering past what appears to be a series of dots or flecks. This easy-on-the-eyes design element is called a frit pattern.
The frit pattern—a prominent architectural feature of the Museum’s façade—was designed with randomness in mind. Two UNC Charlotte architecture students wrote an algorithm to generate this completely random pattern. It is an intentional nod to the work of Black Mountain College artists such as John Cage, who introduced chance and randomness into the composition of their works. In works like 10 Stones 2, Cage left the orientation and position of forms entirely up to chance. Cage is also known for letting randomness guide his musical compositions.
Our frit pattern is unique in its randomness. But frit patterns also serve an applicable, architectural purpose. It isn’t used on all of the glass in the atrium, only the western side. This is because the Museum receives most of its direct sun from the west, and the pattern helps control the sunlight. Furthermore, the pattern is denser near the top of the façade. This is also practical; the top is unlikely to receive much shade, so it needs more cover from direct sun.
Remember the view from the sidewalk? Did you notice there was no glare? All courtesy of the frit pattern, which cuts down the squint factor for folks looking into the Museum from outside. The Windgate Foundation Atrium is intended to be an open and inviting place, after all. It would feel less inviting if glare prevented you from seeing inside on sunny days. Thanks to the frit pattern, you can see inside at any time of day, in any weather!
In the end, though, I hope you can see the Museum in both sunshine and in rain. If you come when it’s raining, check out a portion of glass that doesn’t have the frit pattern. Does the splattered collection of raindrops resemble the frit pattern to you? Does one seem more or less random than the other? Regardless of your answers, I’d argue that the Museum is one of the best storm-watching places in Asheville. When it opens, come check it out!
~ Contributed by Carl Sukow, summer communications intern and student at Davidson College.