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The rich history of stained glass in Sydney’s architecture

August 4, 2020

The rich history of using stained glass in Sydney’s architecture is evident in a recent project delivered by Calderflower that captures the historical progression of stained glass through the last 120 years.

Located in North Turramurra, the property owned by Southern Cross Care has buildings which have all featured stained glass, stretching from the Victorian period through to more modern styles. The timeline of the progressive development of this beautiful site is unique, in that all additions have occurred during periods of peak popularity of stained glass, and it had been incorporated into all buildings as a standout feature.

Calderflower sought to honour the stained-glass tradition across the site and bring it into the design of the new residential aged care facility through a unique artwork.

Artist Susan O’Doherty was commissioned by Calderflower to produce an artwork utilising the modernist stained-glass panels from the now demolished Nazareth House Aged Care Facility. The panels were used to create a striking artwork now on display in the dining room of the newly completed facility. The stained-glass artwork forms a unique connection between the three buildings presently on the North Turramurra site, which all use the element of stained glass as a way of expressing the period and function of architecture that they represent.

The historic Huon Park House, which has been refurbished as part of the building works carried out by Calderflower Architecture, features original stained glass doors and windows from the late 1800’s. These reflect the popular Victorian architecture of the time and highlight the strong economy and prosperity of the period within Sydney, when the stained glass industry was booming.

In contrast to the intricate detail of the Victorian period stained glass, the chapel features a more contemporary style of stained glass. These geometric shapes reflect the modernist architecture of the time, composed of clean lines and high contrast colours. The chapel was constructed during the 1960’s when the stained-glass industry was regaining popularity within Sydney.

In the chapel the typical religious motifs associated with stained glass have been given a contemporary spin by specialised craftsman. High level panels direct rays of coloured light into the space. The panels include crucifixes and religious symbols that highlight the function of the space.

 

The now demolished Nazareth House had also featured this contemporary take on stained glass, with a long wall punctured by individual bold coloured glass window ‘boxes’. It was these pieces, salvaged during the demolition of Nazareth House, that have been repurposed by Susan to create the new artwork.

“The windows in the light boxes within these artworks were the original leadlight set into the west facing ramped corridors of Nazareth House, built in 1964. Afternoon sun would beam and reflect through the coloured glass. These Mid Century hand made windows are unique for their high quality. Each pane was individually blown resulting in bespoke imperfections – undulations and air bubbles and also darker and richer colours than normally seen in windows of the period. “ – Susan O’Doherty.

Susan’s artwork offers a playful take on the stained glass windows in the form of a backlit art piece that now takes pride of place in the dining area of the new residential care home. This extraordinary art piece brings excitement and vibrancy to the space while observing the history of the site and the older buildings that remain alongside the new.

The colours of the glass and the surrounding painting are vibrant and of high contrast supporting the degenerating vision of many of the ageing residents that call North Turramurra home. At the same time these colours are soft enough to promote comfort and a sense of familiarity to the residents who would recognise stained glass building elements. The incorporation of a light box behind the stained glass further emphasises these emotions as it replicates the natural light that would typically flow though and create playful patterns from stained glass windows.

It seems fitting that an aged care facility is the location to preserve and provide a historical snapshot of stained glass windows within Sydney. Like the residents, the life story of stained glass within this North Turramurra site is one of beauty, and Calderflower are thankful to have been offered the opportunity to continue the story for future generations.

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