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R.I.P. Stained Glass?

R.I.P. Stained Glass?
[Top source photo: Kiev.Victor via Shutterstock]

Stained glass is going out the window. The ornate, elegant stained-glass window designs that for centuries have been an integral part of religious architecture don’t mesh with more modern worship spaces, which may include screen, slide shows, and video displays. As people’s preferences in religious architecture change, the industry that supplied those colorful works of window art is on the decline, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The industry trade group, the Stained Glass Association of America, now has half the members it did during its peak in the 1970s:

To attract business, some artisans are even steering clear of using the term ‘stained glass’ because it carries connotations of fusty old churches.

‘I’ll refer to it as art glass. Architectural glass. Leaded glass,’ says David Judson, a fifth-generation owner of a stained-glass studio in Los Angeles started in 1897. Like some of his peers, he is also increasingly targeting projects without religious overtones: His recent jobs include gift shops at a Shanghai amusement park and the entrance of a Hollywood boutique hotel.

For churches that still want the stained-glass look, they are finding cheaper, less permanent ways to achieve it:

Even denominational churches are finding ways to bypass pricier stained glass. Cheaper laminated windows are available. Some use framed LED lights to recreate the stained-glass look. And others are using ‘environmental projection’ to beam high-definition images onto blank walls.

If glass artisans are going to continue to make a living, they’ll have to start looking beyond the cathedral. As one architectural glass maker told the WSJ, why not start adding glass art to the glassiest buildings around–skyscrapers? Check out the fabulous stained glass on London’s Gherkin above (thanks photo editor Danny!).

Read more from the Wall Street Journal.SF