Coloured Glass: The Vibrant Storyteller Behind a Veil

Coloured glass: The storyteller behind a veil

Egyptians and Romans were the first to use colours in glass to build dramatic expressions of structural spaces. Initially, coloured glass was employed in window panes to help emphasize the grandeur of upper-class Roman homes and reinforce their status. These exquisite panes of tinted glass were crafted by artisans who heated a mixture of potash and sand up to 3000 OC, combining it with a variety of metal oxides that brought out vibrant colours in the glass.

Eventually, during the 10th century, coloured glass gained religious significance with their use in Gothic cathedrals in the form of ornamental and decorative windows. In addition to its immediate visual appeal, the large panes of stained glass narrated biblical stories of the past to believers who could not read. Regular sermons were made more intelligible with Biblical characters etched in brightly coloured glass fixated all around.

coloured glass

© William Perry on Alamy

The intricate art of stained glass gradually declined after the Renaissance period until the mid-19th century where European artists revived the decorative tradition under the period of Art Nouveau. With technological advances, the once lost art form is now being adapted for utilitarian purposes. Coloured glass is no longer used as an ornamental element to supplement spatial aesthetics. Faster produced tinted glass panels are instead used as integral components that can solely define the essence of any built environment.

saint-gobain coloured glass

Source: Contemporist

For centuries, the bright and solemn colours of glass panes have been used in prominent architectural structures to relay stories to the masses. Even today, glass lives up to its role as a storyteller, through movies and films, instilling wonder into the viewers.

Take, for instance, the film Her by Spike Jonze, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Set in Los Angeles from a utopian future, this film revolves around a lonely introverted protagonist, Theodore Twombly and his romantic confrontations with an AI virtual assistant. Theodore works as a ghost-writer at a firm that uses AI-driven systems to create handwritten personalised letters on behalf of people who aren't able to do so themselves.

colored glass

© Annapurna Pictures

Source: Pinterest

A still from the movie Her (2013). All Rights Reserved, no copyright infringement intended.

SGG Coloured Glass

©Annapurna Pictures

Source: Archdaily

A still from the movie Her (2013). All Rights Reserved, no copyright infringement intended.

Featured throughout the film, the office is a manifestation of Barrett's contemporary vision that reimagines the cultural dialogue between people and workplaces. In vivid reds and carmines, the glass panels embody a comfortable workplace where people enjoy their time at work. Translucent panels divide the office into cubicles, but also allow light and conversations to filter through, thus creating an open and inviting atmosphere.

SGG Colored Glass

©Annapurna Pictures

Source: IMDB

A still from the movie Her (2013). All Rights Reserved, no copyright infringement intended.

Enhancing the story in different roles, sometimes of a translucent facade, sometimes of an office partition, glass is the humble protagonist of the film. The endearing portrayal of a utopian future through opulent glass windows went on to earn Barrett his first Academy Award nomination. Much like the stained rose windows of Gothic cathedrals that once carried narratives of the past, Barrett's cerise glass panels chronicle Theodre’s vulnerable narrative of the distant future.

Glass Panels

©Annapurna Pictures

Source: IndieWire

A still from the movie Her (2013). All Rights Reserved, no copyright infringement intended.

As a building material, tinted glass stands out exceptionally etching narratives in a vibrant kaleidoscopic mixture. In both contemporary and traditional contexts, glass holds an emphatic ability to redefine habitual spaces. With its strong visual cues, tinted glass encourages users to positively interact with the building environment. Tinted glass lends itself to help tell stories of various art forms such as glazed articles, buildings, films and media making an idiosyncratic stance in the design industry.

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