On the Threshold of Discovery

When the aluminum sliding glass door made its groundbreaking debut—then ushered in the classic look of mid-century modern
On the Threshold of Discovery

Purveyors of new products often proclaim that they'll change the world—or at least part of it. Sometimes they're right.

Consider this magazine ad from Arcadia Metal Products. The year was 1953, a fateful juncture for the sliding glass door—and Arcadia's mouthpiece was none other than Joe Eichler.

"Mr. Joseph L. Eichler, nationally known builder, speaking at the recent [June '53 American Institute of Architects] convention in Seattle," ran the ad in the August issue of Progressive Architecture, "stated that the success of his developments was greatly due to the use of a competent architect team and the use of the best obtainable products such as 'Arcadia Sliding Glass Doors.'"

On the Threshold of Discovery
Eichler publicity photo from 1957 shows sliders as an integral part of the lifestyle.

Today, 60 years later, sliding glass doors are omnipresent in modern homes, so much so folks sometimes don't even see them—which can be dangerous!

But until 1953, sliding glass doors as we know them today—made of lightweight aluminum, easy to use, easy to buy in standard sizes, and affordable—were more dream than reality.

Without affordable, easy-to-operate sliders, the mid-century modern tract home would have emerged as a different creature entirely.

Architect and building scientist D. Dex Harrison suggested this in 1950, a few years before the slider became common. "With the increasing mechanization of building products," he wrote in the magazine Architectural Record, "design is more and more being dictated by the standardized products that may be available."

How the modern slider was born and bred says much about human ingenuity. But it says more, perhaps, about human desire for complete openness to the out of doors.

It's a story in which Eichler played a significant role as one of the major buyers, and thus popularizers, of sliding doors.