Arts & Entertainment, Construction, and Higher Education

University builds $1.2M stained-glass windows

October 20, 2014
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University builds $1.2M stained-glass windows
The stained-glass windows at Cornerstone University’s Christ Chapel will be the building’s only natural-light source. Courtesy Cornerstone University

A Danish artist is shedding light on a university’s planned $15-million chapel by creating a $1.2-million set of handcrafted stained-glass windows with about 4,000 pieces of glass.

The project

Cornerstone University, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, said last month that a renowned artist has located his workshop at the university’s campus to begin construction of the four 23-foot stained-glass windows at the school’s Christ Chapel.

The funds for the windows were allocated entirely from donor contributions.

The installation of the windows should occur next spring, while the 1,475-seat chapel should be completed by next July.

Lansing-based Christman Company is the chapel’s contractor, while GMB Architecture + Engineering is the designer.

The artist

Cornerstone said that the artist, Peter Brandes — a painter, sculptor, ceramic artist and photographer — is recognized for his work in Denmark and throughout Europe.

Brandes is known for designing major art pieces for the Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark.

Dr. Joseph Stowell, president at Cornerstone University, and Brandes were introduced through a mutual friend and alum of the university.

The art

Commissioned by the university, the glass pieces were hand-blown specifically for the project under Brandes’ supervision at a facility in Lyon, France.

Brandes painted the designs on sturdy, clear glass, which he then fired in his studio in Copenhagen.

The artist and his two assistants then packed all the supplies for the windows — including the glass, scaffolding, light tables and an oven — into a 40-foot container, which was shipped by boat to the U.S.

The four windows will be installed at the peak of each of the four sides of the chapel and be the only source of sunlight to enter the chapel.

“No reflections from other light sources disturb and will not be mirrored on the inside of the windows,” Brandes said. “Any stained-glass window lives and dies from the light that comes in from the outside and then going through the windows on its way to the inner rooms of the church.”

Bill Knott, vice president of major donor relations, said the university views the windows as an important part of worship, which is the focus of activity at Christ Chapel.

“Just as music, architecture and prayer and teaching are involved in worship, these windows are dynamic additions to our worship experience,” Knott said. “We believe that beauty is an expression of God’s glory. The beautiful design of the windows is deeply embedded in the Biblical story of creation, the fall of man and redemption.” 

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