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New decorative glass made with DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ converts a downtown Athens café into an oasis for Olympic crowds

Athens-based architects Ioannou, Sotiropoulos, van Gilder (ISV) won the assignment to convert a heavy, 1970's restaurant into an inviting, modern café in time to serve 2004 Summer Olympics crowds. Their solution features innovative use of decorative glass made with DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ interlayers, to both attract and delight café patrons.

The café, called simply "Food + Coffee", is optimally situated at the crossing between Kifisia Avenue and Serron Street, approximately one kilometre south of the main Olympic stadium in Athens.

Decorative glass interior and exterior façades made with translucent DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ printed interlayers help café guests escape a busy urban setting and linger under a romantic evening sky. The customized Athens sunset scene is embedded in glass along the entire south and east façades of the café, attracting passers-by while softly filtering daylight to create a more comfortable interior.

"A beacon at night, from the outside"

In the evenings, the decorative façades are illuminated, transforming them into a beacon that has helped the café successfully attract crowds since its March 2004 opening.

Partner at ISV architects, Anargyros Mougiakos said: "Our goal was to make the renovated café a beacon or exterior sign for the Athens night crowd by the attractiveness of its illuminated façade using DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expessions™.

"The functional challenge in remaking the façades was to design the café in a much more attractive and contemporary way, taking account of the temperature extremes of the climate (up to +40 degrees C during the day and down to –5 degrees C at night) and the fact that Athens experiences frequent earthquakes. This means that the glass façades have to adhere to strict seismic regulations requiring laminated safety glass. The size of the façade glass panels is 4.5 m x 8 m – an overall surface of 110 m2. The floor-to-ceiling façades are 6 m high. The glass is made up of 5 mm + 5 mm annealed glass + 1.52 mm of PVB incorporating DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ decorative artwork."

"A soft light inside that blocks out heat and glare"

Architect Mougiakos continued: "We wanted to achieve a contemporary design that would filter the light through to the inside of the café in a beautiful way. The café-owner wanted "lots of light" inside the café, but filtered and soft - not in a harsh or glaring sense. We had to protect the design via the laminated glass so that the bright colours of the "sunset" would last for years and years. And of course we had to block out the mid-day Athens heat as well as cutting out as much noise as we could from the chaotic mid-day traffic. DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ decorative laminated glass achieves all of these functional requirements excellently.

"Athens sunset design" regulated by computer-controlled timer

"Aesthetically, we wanted to reproduce the Athens sunset at its best. In doing this we consciously replaced the natural light of the day in the interior of the café with "artificial" lighting made possible due to the design of the façade. Because we used computer programming to control the way the façade changes during the day, the clouds move across the sky thanks to the software program and the intensity of the diffused light is different from morning to afternoon to evening. There is a 120 cm gap within the double glazed façade therefore it was easy to position the lighting within it. The lights are regulated by a computer-controlled timer.

"Cost-effective and easy to preview" say architects

"We were able to achieve a much more aesthetically-pleasing and cost-effective result using DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ technology than with silk screening. We were able to preview the results exactly (not at all possible with silk screening) and adjust the "sunset" colours to the exact hue we wanted. We used 3D Studio software to relay the design ideas and the picture mapping with DuPont, by e-mail. DuPont sent us samples to approve, which worked out great, and also provided sufficient data regarding its product to satisfy EU legislations regarding external glazing.

Quality and resolution "excellent"

"We are really pleased with the results. The quality and resolution of the images are excellent. In fact, we were, quite frankly, astonished by the image reproduction quality DuPont could provide with this technology. The fabrication process also proved to be problem-free. This is exactly the technology we would select for the future when we want to use colours in glass in environments where there are lots of people around."

Restauranteur Gianni Likas and café owner Thanos Betmazas said: "The glass façades are beautiful. You can't say why exactly, just as you can't define with words why a particular woman is beautiful. But it's great and it works."

"An oasis from the heat and dust of downtown Athens"

Co-owner Olga Exarcu said: "As an artist myself, I love the design. It's like a painting. Inside Food + Coffee you feel like you're in an oasis from the heat and dust of downtown Athens; the clouds give the promise of refreshing, cool rain. The café interior would make an ideal Hollywood film set. We are really pleased: the aesthetic effect the design team achieved is certainly a "first" in Athens in terms of aesthetic appeal and the decorative glass gives a great feeling of ambience inside the café."

First in Greece

The laminator for this project was Yalodomi-Mavropulos AEBE of Lavrion, Greece. Marketing representative Georgio Nicolis said: "The lamination process was easy once the architects had finalized the design with DuPont. We had to ensure that the lamination took place in a "clean environment". DuPont provided excellent sales and technical support for this, the first application of DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ decorative laminated glass in Greece. We selected a translucent white background for the design because we believed that the sunset design would be best exhibited against this background option."

Nicolis continued: "The café"s name, Food + Coffee, was stuck onto the façade using adhesive plastic lettering at the end of the job because the name was only finalized at the last minute, after all the construction work had been completed. However, we could easily have included this lettering within the DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ design. The laminated glass would have protected the lettering better against the external environment so it would have lasted longer. Because we know that DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ technology includes lettering as well as design imagery, we'll do our utmost to safely embed any signage lettering inside the laminated glass in our next project.

Laminator praises "Design flexibility, speed and ease of execution"

"As experienced laminators in the Greek market we believe that DuPont™ SentryGlas® Expressions™ is an excellent and innovative new technology – just what our customers in the café, hospitality and entertainment businesses want – and that having this technology in our product portfolio will increase our business. The best points of the technology from our point of view are design flexibility and speed and ease of execution because all the parties involved can communicate and finalize the artwork up to sample stage using standard design software and e-mail. Due to the resounding success of the Food + Coffee Shop in Athens we already have new commissions using DuPont's decorative laminated glass technology - including a façade design featuring cherubs for an Athens nightclub."

Photos: ©Leo Torri