An age-old art form that reached its peak in the middle ages, stained-glass windows in British churches and monasteries can be traced back to the 7th century. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and this effect is shedding its outdated reputation as contemporary designers reimagine it for the world today. Following the likes of Milan-based Patricia Urquiola, creator of the influential Credenza cupboard, we’re seeing a widespread resurgence of artists and designers using this medium with beautiful results. Here are a few of our favourite examples.
Stained glass gets a modern update in The Fig House, a bespoke Los Angeles event venue designed and curated by Emily Henderson. Her personal style is evident throughout the space, which features plush pinks, vivid blues and warm metallics. The decor is a current take on Art Deco, with a nod to the rich history of the neighbourhood Highland Park, and the stained-glass windows are key in creating a soft atmosphere. Thanks to her combination of fresh colours and jagged shapes with clear window panes, Emily steers away from the traditionally heavy look of stained glass and offers a subtle tribute to the glamour of Hollywood.
Marjan van Aubel‘s Current Window is not only a refreshingly simple interpretation of the typical stained-glass window, but it also promotes sustainability. Composed of organically-dyed solar cells that harvest energy from the sun and convert it into electricity, the windows are able to charge small devices. As ancient stained-glass windows tell stories through their colours and images, this one creates a timely narrative around energy consumption.
with the flow
Hovering somewhere between New Age and Nouveau Riche, The Standard Spa in Miami Beach is a languid haven made even more relaxing by its artistic window. The statement piece draws on Modernist influences with its flamboyant curves and earthy colours, and looks especially playful behind the table tennis set-up that takes centre stage in the hotel’s offbeat lobby.
Led by Olson Kundig, the upgrade of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle revolves around a giant stained-glass accent wall. Comprising interwoven metal and multicoloured bands of glass, it’s nothing short of a visual spectacle. As the sun shines through the warmly tinted panels, it creates an ocean of light, bringing a sense of spirituality to the chapel’s urban core.
The Acid Modernism House in California by Doug Aitken is more of an artwork than a building, and showcases an organic modernism that’s almost hallucinatory. Coloured windowpanes and angled mirrors create a kaleidoscopic effect, and the fiery tones lend an element of cosiness to the otherwise sparse room. With the aim of not being too avant-garde, the house is designed to be a simple yet striking living environment, open to change.
Designed by William Lamson, the Solarium functions as both an isolated hillside sanctuary and an experimental greenhouse. The windows are filtered by caramelised sugar baked into the panes, resulting in unique amber shades that mimic the sugars created by plants through photosynthesis. Viewed from afar, it appears as a jewel-like object perched alone in the wilderness, and from within it’s like being inside an orange flame, as the sun’s varying angles create unusual plays of light.