Sophia Kircos reports on ‘The Hard Road from Stained Glass to Architecture: Advancing the Role of Art Glass in Contemporary Architecture & Design’, held 26 28 April 2016.
The quaint town of Waldsassen, Germany came alive in the last week in April as artists, architects, conservators, students and more came together at Glashütte Lamberts for the First Transatlantic Stained Glass Symposium. Co-hosted by Glashütte Lamberts and Bendheim Ltd, the conference received over 160 people from all over the world, traveling from more than fifteen countries. Twenty-three different speakers, including the president of Glashütte Lamberts, Hans Reiner Meindl, and keynote speaker, Andrew Moor, presented on a wide variety of topics.
The conference commenced with a warm welcome by the Lamberts family, a hearty Bavarian dinner, and a local beer tasting in the factory (fig. 1). Bright and early the following morning, tours of Lamberts were given explaining how the factory, which functions twenty-four hours a day, has produced mouth-blown sheet glass using traditional techniques and methods for over 100 years. Excitement grew high as flames shot out of kilns, and teams of burly men blew large glass cylinders as if they were completing a graceful dance with the greatest of precision and ease. The highlight of the tour was watching production at the swinging pit (fig. 2), followed by a visit to the glass storeroom, where over 250 colours of glass were displayed.
Following a welcome from the Mayor of Waldsassan, the conference got down to business. The first speaker, Adrian Lucca, a colour theorist living and teaching in Brussels, described his current project creating an installation for a metro station in Montreal, Canada. The variety of colours available from Lamberts had helped Lucca to create the perfect combination of pattern and colour for his computer-generated design. The project will include fourteen stained-glass panels, created with the studio assistance of Debongnin in Belgium, and will be permanently installed in 2017.
Several other contemporary stained-glass artists presented on their work throughout the conference, including John Reyntiens, a second-generation stained-glass artist of Reyntiens Glass Studio in London; Jordi Bonet, the third-generation owner of Vitralls Bonet in Barcelona; John Kenneth Clark, a Scottish glass-painter and expert in acid etching; and Ingrid Meyvaert, stained-glass designer at Mestdagh Studio in Ghent. Reyntiens, Bonet, Clark and Meyvaert all work using traditional stained-glass methods that have been passed down for generations, using mouth-blown glass to achieve their contemporary designs. The richness and variety of their work stems from a deep understanding of the materials with which they work, and from a passion for the survival of the craft to continue into the future. The use of glass in contemporary architecture skyscrapers, façades, and integrated art designs was explored through examples displayed by architects and engineers. Manfred Mislik, production manager at Glashütte Lamberts, described the processes of glass lamination, and encouraged those attending to think outside the normal realm of how glass has been traditionally used in building applications. With advances in resins, silicones, lamination materials, and a greater knowledge and understanding of the longevity of these materials, we are no longer restricted by the size of a sheet of glass, or by the strength of lead.
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Strobl discussed several issues in stained-glass conservation and how they have evolved over the years, often learning from problems that developed following the application of what were once considered suitable solutions. He explained the evolution of the stained-glass window, and how the medium has not been given the attention it deserves in the field of fine art and conservation. There followed a presentation by Hans Reiner Miendl on mouth-blown glass that offer 100% full UV protection, a fairly new product produced by Glashütte Lamberts, and the only glass of this kind on the market. This glass has been used for the protective glazing of the Great East Window at York Minster by the York Glaziers Trust (fig. 3). This new product allows protective glazing to be created in a fashion that emulates the lead lines behind it, while also protecting the original stained glass from harmful UV rays that could damage or discolour paint or products used during the conservation of the medieval glass.
The First Ever Transatlantic Stained Glass Symposium ended with an evening of music and dancing at the Lamberts factory. Under the dim glow of the flaming kilns, friendships and connections were made as the conference was wrapped up with a joyful celebration. I think it’s safe to say that all participants retreated back to their corners of the world, full of inspiration and rejuvenated with an even deeper appreciation for the medium that brought us all together in the first place.