One of the great challenges for anyone trying to make it in a professional field is gaining genuine life experience. The classroom can take you only so far as there is really no substitute for doing something real. Thanks to several amazing individuals, an event named MERGE was created and students from various walks of the building product world were able to work together with professionals in the field to create a truly amazing glass installation.

One of the supporting entities was Walker Glass. Their desire to have an impact on the future of the industry is clear.

“We are honored to be involved with so many great organizations with the opportunity to give these students a path to make their mark, as well as investing in the future of installation and design” said George O’Donnell, Architectural Manager at Walker Glass.

MERGE is a design-build installation that showcases the design and construction talents of students from the Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) and Jefferson University (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) with the support of the Architectural Glass Institute (AGI).

“The MERGE installation is important to the glazing industry not just because it demonstrates what can be accomplished in a design/build setting, but for the impact programs like this have in the academic experience for future architects and builders.  Bridging the knowledge gap between what is drawn and how those drawings are ultimately built will positively impact future projects’ design, costs and schedules,” said Stephanie Staub, Marketing Director, Architectural Glass Institute.

The installation features two stunning glass walls, each representing a university that forms a pathway that shimmers in the sunlight and reflects the surroundings. Each wall is made of small square pieces of glass with different reflective qualities, providing different views of the surroundings, and operating like the eyes of many insects seeing in all directions. The overlap of the two walls has the greatest transparency. Multiple views and reflections perceived at this merge point are emblematic of the two universities bringing different disciplines together to form new views on the future of education.

“We’ve had our glass in buildings all over North America and this structure is just as eye catching as any other projects we’ve been involved with.  It was great to have a contribution to it as it really is a design masterpiece,” added O’Donnell.

MERGE began in January when AGI, FTI, and the Jefferson Architecture Program teamed to host the 2017 Architectural Glass Student Design Competition. Third-year architecture students presented design-build proposals for glass pavilions.


Third-year architecture students, apprentice glaziers, and a cadre of professionals were placed together for a hands-on project to conceptually link the campuses of Jefferson University (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), which officially combined July 1. Several building product companies supported this event and it also received Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services grants.

Projects such as MERGE engage the design and construction continuum—linking students, apprentices, and professionals to share real-world experiences and build long-term relationships that strengthen the industry.

The MERGE installation appears in front of Jefferson University’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Building in Philadelphia. The project will remain on display until the end of October.

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