February 21, 2008

Requiem for a Stained Glass Window

Just today, news from this AP article (and picked up by many sites like USA Today) announcing that the demolition of the Robert Sowers JFK Airport Window was started last week, ending in failure a long effort to save what was in its time believed to be the largest single stained glass window in the world.

You get a little more info at the rescue website called Save America's Window.
Curiously, I could find no other pictures than this on the web.

Sad, but not surprising, conclusion. We live in the age of planned obsolescence, or in this case, not-well-planned obsolesence. As much as the artistic and historical significance was acknowledged, the prevailing factors were space and money - too big and too costly to move as a whole. Plus, let's be honest, Robert Sowers is not exactly a household name. Well known within the world of stained glass to be sure, but not a mass market iconic name.

It's ironic that Ken VanRoenn is the one quoted in the initial AP article, since he is the first stained glass artist/architect I ever heard use the term 'economic life of a building', in a keynote address at a SGAA conference in 1992. He was making the point that stained glass studios, if they hoped to market their work in commercial, office or public buildings, would need to deal with the fact that the average economic life of a building is 35 years. I remember it sent chills down my spine, since this notion is not conducive to the traditional idea of stained glass, where the artwork is created for the ages, not the next 35 years.

I suppose there's some lesson I'm supposed to take away from this - vanity of vanities, all is vanity, etc, etc, blah, blah blah.

In any case, just do the best work you can and hope for the best.

[update feb 22, 2008 - New York Times article including pictures of workers dismantling the window. painful.]

Posted by Tom at February 21, 2008 11:39 AM