Client: St. Mary's Church
Location: Greifswald, Germany
Completion date: 2021
Art Glass Fabrication
Architekten Johannsen und Partner mbB
Rediscovered, restored and reinvented – a 13th century chapel is now a place of contemplation and contemporary art. This is the story of Lady chapel at St. Mary’s in Greifswald. For decades used as a storage room, the chapel’s beauty was rediscovered during the restauration of the church. The congregation decided to restore the space and to secure the valuable medieval wall paintings. A CfA was published for the design of the door and windows, which was won by British artist Peter Sutton. He received the challenging task to harmonize the existing historic art with his own contemporary approach, creating an atmosphere where visitors would feel welcome. For his design, Peter chose largely to refrain from figurative and liturgical representations. It was his aim to use color and form in relation to space, in a way that would inspire contemplation and (divine) connection. On a technical level, Peter used various materials and collaborated with different fabricators despite the additional constraints of a global pandemic: The team at Derix Glasstudios assisted with the fabrication of the windows, a father-son duo from Greifswald manufactured the impressive oak door, and Peter’s sister painted and gilded the door, and carved the handles, key and plates, which were cast in bronze.
Upon entering the Lady chapel, Peter wanted visitors to experience feelings of calm, wonder and elevation. It was his goal to create a welcoming and intimate atmosphere within the ancient building. In his design concept, he placed specific emphasis on the physical experience of different materials and the change of shapes and colors. Thereby, he considered each one of the commissioned works in relation to one another as well as to light and movement. It was his aim to create connections as well as contrasts between the glass and the other materials, for example, transmitted color through glass and reflected light through paint, felt, wood, bronze and gold. Peter strove to find the right shapes and material for each part of the project in relation to the space and the other objects. He wanted there to be a dialogue between door, windows and floor which would encompass, entice and inspire the visitor.
Throughout the design process, Peter was assisted by the commissioned architect, Ulf Kirmis, in all technical matters; pastor Dr. Ulrika Streckenbach provided Peter with liturgical reflection. Yet, when fabrication of the windows was due to start, the Covid-pandemic made it impossible for him to travel to Germany to be actively involved in the process. This therefore required intense preparation: Peter would send sketches to the studio and there were many video calls between him and the artisans – in particular with the painter assigned to the project. After these took place, samples were prepared and evaluated. When Peter felt ready, he gave the signal to begin the fabrication process. He was not to see the finished result until months later, when he and a studio artisan installed the windows together at Lady chapel in Germany: “When the installation was complete, I saw the work as my own – that Derix had executed my designs seamlessly and also with boldness and freedom; they rightly had ownership of the production. This is how I experienced for the first time that the absence of the artist can be a beneficial and liberating state.”