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FREE Admission
Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL

Open Daily 10:00 - 17:00 Call: 0191 515 5555

BOOK BY PHONE: 0191 568 9700

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Laura Johnston

The Innovative Application of the Coated Glass Surface in Architecture

Johnston, Laura (1997) The Innovative Application of the Coated Glass Surface in Architecture. PhD thesis, University of Sunderland.


The practice-led research is concerned with the changes to the material vocabulary available to the glass artist as a result of developments in technology. Many stained glass artists continue to use a one hundred-year-old vocabulary in the production of works for contemporary buildings. In this research programme, the potential of a relatively new material - dichroic glass - is explored and an appropriate aesthetic developed. Dichroic glass is selected as focus in the research due to its unique qualities of reflection and transmission of specific wavelengths of light. Thin films technology has resulted in its production and is able to transform standard float glass into a magical material with enormous aesthetic potential.

The approach to the application of the material is essentially a response as an artist to its unique qualities, but this approach is informed by a study of historical precedence and contemporary practice, which sets the context with which the research is carried out. The vital importance of light as the phenomena with which artists designing glass for architecture are primarily concerned, is revealed by this contextual study. The relationship of artist-designed glass to its architectural context is examined and in-depth case studies reveal the approaches of three contemporary artists. Personal practice is thus linked to contemporary practice and historical precedent.

Developments in glass technology are reviewed and the current and developing functions of glass in architecture are outlined. This study establishes the wider context within which the artist, designing glass for contemporary architecture, is working. A study of thin film technology places dichroic glass within its technical framework. In depth analysis of how dichroics are produced and the subsequent production of a range of samples gives valuable insight into the nature of the material.

The research uses a range of methods to address the artistic application of dichroic glass. To utilise the unique qualities of the material, forms are developed both in experimental models and in existing architectural settings. In seeking to enhance the experience of architectural space, the design of forms are developed in response to the particular lighting conditions of the chosen contexts.

The various strands of the research work together to uncover data which would assist artists and designers in their approach to the architectural application of dichroic glass. The methods explored and developed provide useful tools for other practitioners in their approach to design.


Download the full thesis here



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