Client: Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation
Location: Chicago, IL, United States
Completion date: 2008
Artwork budget: $250,000
Kessler Studios, Inc.
Sr. Francis Clare Radke
Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation
Perkins and Will
Size: 18′ tall x 89′ wide. This stained glass design speaks of St. Clare’s life journey and St. Francis’ role in that journey. Located in the 54-story Clare At The Water Tower retirement skyscraper, this chapel offers privacy and meditation, along with commanding views of downtown Chicago.
The artwork needed to serve both a liturgical and non-religious community as the room, though mostly used as a chapel, occasionally serves as a meeting space. The client asked that the city view, mostly blocked around the altar area, be open at the far end to allow those attending meetings to have a clear sight-line of the surrounding buildings.
The liturgical purpose of the window was the primary design challenge. The client wanted a sequential depiction of the life of St. Clare and her mentor, St. Francis of Assisi. As the design moves to the right, energetic lines speak of Francis entering Clare's life. Their shared journey leads the eye to circular forms presented against golden flames, symbolic of a dinner they shared in the forest (an event so powerfully spiritual that nearby villagers perceived the forest to be on fire). The fellowship of two people passionately devoted to God, created a moment of completeness, a sense of "coming home", thus the circular motif.
The design process involved many different disciplines. There were the future residents of the retirement portion of the building, the owners (who were a religious order), the construction company, architect, glazing contractor, and-- maybe most importantly-- the Glaziers Union of Chicago. Given that the windows were on the 19th floor of a skyscraper, they needed the approval of a structural engineer, and City of Chicago Building Department. Many meetings were needed to work our way through the technical details before any fun design work could be done! Eventually all the various stakeholders were satisfied, and Cindy concentrated on creating a lasting and beautiful piece of art glass.
As a design-build company, Kessler Studios is used to handling their windows during the installation phase of a project. Given that Chicago had a strong union tradition, we contacted the local rep over a year in advance, and found an acceptable solution that allowed us to work alongside the tradesmen. The installation went smoothly, capping off a long collaborative process.
The glass used in most of the window was custom blown for us by the Lamberts Glass Company in Germany. The glass has a unique, thin layer of white on the back, which helps accentuate the shading character of mouth-blown sheets. This opak glass layer insures that the colors retain their vibrancy, even on cloudy days. Because the window is on the 19th floor, many of the surrounding tall apartment buildings have a wonderful view of the window in the evening.