Client: St. Ann's Catholic Church
Location: Midland, TX, United States
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $69,300
Jim Rhotenberry, AIA & Andy Chandler, AIA
Rhotenberry Wellen Architects, Midland, TX
Architectural Stained Glass, Inc.
The stained glass windows in this new chapel provide a bright, airy counterpoint to the soaring architectural space. They also add a sense of quietude and separation from a busy city four-lane street less than twenty-five feet away.
"Creation" serves as backdrop to the chapel's primary focal point at the altar. This corner window is responsive to differing qualities of light illuminating its North- and West-facing sides. Emphasis on darker, saturated color in the west (left) half filters afternoon sun and projects rich color into the chapel. Lighter colors dominate the upper sections of the north (right) side, allowing glimpses to sky and landscape. Darker color in the lower sections of both sides creates visual separation between the worship space and city scape. White and amber opals add interest in all lighting conditions, night or day.
The Garden Window, located above retracting glass doors serves as a diaphanous connection between the interior and exterior. Wafting high above eye-level, these windows do not have a strong, distracting focal point. Rather the tints of transparent glass and filmy opal glass refract light and views to the bell tower, trees and landscaped columbarium garden.
The narrow, floor-to-ceiling window in the memorial chapel is actually an extension of ripples radiating from the Creation window. As in the other windows, prisms project unexpected color throughout the chapel.
The pastor and liturgical art committee did a great job of conveying the wide range of expectations among their fellow parishioners. The architects primarily wanted to see color and light used in a way that retained a sense of spatial flow while creating separation from traffic. It is hard to maintain a sense of the sacred with a four-lane city street only feet away. The solution was a carefully considered glass palette and abstract symbolism. In a transparent medium such as stained glass, non-literal imagery in the picture plane allows viewers to participate in (or complete) the creative process by finding their own, three-dimensional meaning in the stained glass. As mentioned above, more saturated color and heavily textured glasses baffle views to the streetscape. Exterior insulated-glass-units separated from the interior glazing of stained glass provides the needed acoustic separation.
When developing the glass palette, it was important to accommodate the chapel's 24/7 availability. During daytime a wide range of transparent glasses add rich color and provide separation from the city while allowing views to sky and trees. Mouthblown opal glasses remain visible from outside during daytime and liven the windows at night when viewed from the inside. The result is a dynamically shifting experience that varies with the passing of hours, days and seasons. Finally, the design’s flowing, rounded shapes and arcs were carefully placed so that a sense of “circularity” survives the design's “folding” around the corner.