Artist Sarah Hall is approaching Christ Church Cathedral’s new bell spire as a “living sculpture” that will hold in tension light, colour, sound, and movement. Entitled Welcoming Light, Hall conceives of the bell spire as a beacon, a living “light house”, that “reinforces the identity of the Cathedral as a community partner open and responsive to change.”
Working in glass, Hall’s design must submit to the rigid geometry required to hold fragile glass securely in place. The Cathedral’s rectangular bell tower, Hall observes, has an especially strong geometric frame. In contrast, Hall’s design of twisting, bending, bursting flames, seas, mountains and trees resists the rigidity of the frame, promising to pour its generous movement and energy into the world.
Hall views the Cathedral project as a unique opportunity for an urban heritage church building to make a powerful, unmistakable statement to contemporary society. The clearly contemporary bell tower says to all who see it that the Cathedral has a message for people today. The spire communicates that the Cathedral is still a “light on the hill”, a point of hope and sanctuary for the Vancouver community, and an instrument for the healing of the nations.
Much of the glass for the Cathedral’s windows will be made by Glashutte Lamberts located in Germany in northern Bavaria near the border with Czech Republic. (Follow this link to a short video of Lamberts’ artisans mouth-blowing glass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUQDeHogcnw) Hall plans to use a great deal of Lamberts Opal Antique glass because it retains its colour in all light conditions (not going dark and dull when viewed in daylight from outside.) Lamberts has samples of 5000 different colours of glass, but even so Hall expects that they will need to make a few custom colours for the Cathedral project. Lamberts Table Glass will be used in other areas to allow a degree of transparency to the bells.
In addition, Hall plans to use dichroic glass. This transparent, highly reflective glass changes colour as it is viewed from different angles. It produces a shimmering effect of movement, even on cloudy and rainy days. Kitsilano Glass located in Richmond will fabricate and lead the glass into 204 2’ x 4’ frames that will be installed onto supports on the bell spire frame. The spire is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, with the hope that the bells will ring for Christmas.
Selected after a Canada-wide competition, Hall is an internationally renowned glass artist who has designed hundreds of architectural glass projects. Hall decided to become a glass artist at age nine. She grew up in Dundas, Ontario where her father was the chair of the Building Committee at St. Mark’s United Church. Every Sunday, the committee visited other churches, and Hall went along for the ride. As a young child, she was drawn to the glass art she saw – not so much the pictures, but the other-worldly effects of light and colour.
Over the next four years, Hall will be engaged in a special research project to produce bird-friendly solar glass in Toronto. Alarmed by the nine million bird fatalities per year in Toronto through collisions with glass, Hall has teamed with Dr. Christine Shepherd at the American Bird Conservancy in New York City to try to prevent bird-glass collisions. As it stands now, birds cannot see glass, but see the trees and sky reflected in glass. The new glass will prevent bird collisions and also generate electricity for buildings.
The bell spire is one part of Christ Church Cathedral’s current capital project Raise the Roof, Ring the Bells, Feed the People! For more information about the project, please visit http://raisetheroof.thecathedral.ca/ or contact Emily Pritchard, Director of Stewardship and Capital Development at Christ Church Cathedral by telephone at 604-682-3848 ex. 21.
By Joan Seidl, Christ Church Cathedral, “Raise the Roof” Cathedral Capital Campaign PR Representative
The preceding is an excerpt, Joan's full article will be available in the March 2015 issue of TOPIC.