Windows For The Soul
West Angeles Cathedral Project

A Monumental Project

West Angeles Cathedral Project

The THE UNDERTAKING TO DESIGN AND FABRICATE the stained glass for this monumental project was one of Bovard Studio's greatest challenges. Not only did we have to design a stained glass heritage for this great congregation, but also we had to have it approved by the City of Los Angeles to meet their stringent earthquake codes.

Mrs. Mae Blake, an interior designer by profession, was charged with the task of decorating the new West Angeles Cathedral. There seemed to be no end to the energy that Mrs. Blake put into her responsibility that included approval of the stained glass window design. Mrs. Blake worked closely with our design team that included Sándor Fehér, Tess Bovard-Sachs, Anna McKnight and Roseveta Kantcheva. Together they discussed and exchanged many concepts, ideas and design renderings for the West Angeles stained glass that was ongoing for close to a year. Everyone involved had a strong desire to create the best legacy of art glass possible. The effort included a trip by Mrs. Blake and her husband Bishop Charles E. Blake to our studio in Fairfield, Iowa. The entire design team plus other experts from our staff, sat down to review the many design concepts and renderings at our disposal, to refine and come to a decision on a final design. After several hours of brainstorming we were tantalizingly close to a selection, but the Blake's still had reservations.

We were swiftly closing in on the launch date to begin construction of the stained glass in order to comply with the strict construction schedules. This project was special in many ways. The stained glass was more than a decorative element that could be installed in the building at a later date (as most stained glass can be). This building was in an earthquake zone and the construction of the stained glass windows had become an integral part of the curtain wall structure of the building itself in order to meet the code. Consequently the stained glass had to be completed on time or the construction of the entire building could suffer a significant delay or worse, come to a complete stop.

Desperate to solve the design impasse, I flew to Los Angeles to see if I could assist the project team to arrive at a suitable design before time ran out. Needless to say everyone involved was highly motivated to find a solution. However we were not willing to settle for less than the absolute best design to compliment the architectural integrity of the building and the inspired aspirations of the congregation.

 

Left: This design, titled 'The Holy Spirit', was selected and approved for the central panel of a 108' (32.9 m) high steeple tower that is a prominent feature at the front of the cathedral.
 
 

A collage of renderings showing various exterior views and window details of the approved design titled 'The Holy Spirit' for the West Angeles Cathedral in Los Angeles, California.
 

We spent a long day reviewing the numerous design options that were the fruit of months of intense focus by the Bovard Studio design team and Mrs. Blake. It was after dark and we were sitting with Mrs. Blake in her office at Elegant Interiors. We had dozens of attractive concepts before us but not one stood out with that special spark that we all felt was essential for this project. I suggested that we start afresh, with a box of magic markers, scissors and a glue stick to compose some impulse collages and drawings, looking for that moment of inspiration. We were not disappointed; within a short period of time a concept with an inspirational spark was divinely conveyed. The seed had been planted that would eventually grow into the 'Holy Spirit' window, with a myriad of colors that Bishop Blake identified as an emblem of diversity.

Back in our studio, Sándor spent many long hours converting and expanding our small conceptual sketch into a beautiful rendering that encompassed the entire suite of stained glass for the new West Angeles Cathedral.

We had the design and a loose concept of colors but we still had one more essential challenge for a successful stained glass project; the actual glass selection. We sent a series of glass sample sets to Mrs. Blake and we had many conversations regarding the qualities and possibilities of glass that would meet the color criteria.


Above: Bishop Charles E. Blake, Teresa Bovard-Sachs (project manager) and Ron Bovard (President of Bovard Studio) celebrate the completion of the stained glass project for West Angles Cathedral. Photo by: Ramon Mentor
 

Below: West Angles Cathedral is complete and adorned with the new stained glass windows. Photo by: Ricky Brown.
 
 
 

Above: The right side view of the completed tower windows.
 

There was another serious consideration as well. The sheer size of this project would need a massive amount of glass to fabricate. When this is added to the accelerated schedule for completion of this project, we had no choice but to limit our glass selection to glass that was currently in stock and available in large quantities. In addition we needed to partner with a glass manufacturer that could make up any unexpected shortfalls caused by any reason, including disastrous breakage in shipping. Marita Findley, an executive at one of our chief glass suppliers was instrumental in this process. She recruited the full support of several art glass manufacturers for this large-scale project.

 

Above: One of several conceptual drawings submitted for the Cathedral project.
 
 

The West Angeles Cathedral under construction in the Spring of 2000.
 

One of several conceptual illustrations that were submitted for the West Angeles Cathedral project.

 

The steeple tower alone was 10' (3.0 m) wide by 108' (32.9m) high. The clerestory horizontal band of stained glass was 8' (2.4m) high by 653' (199m) wide (more than the length of two football fields). It was obvious that we needed an immense quantity of glass and we needed it quickly.

I flew to Los Angeles once again to meet with Mrs. Blake and finalize the glass selection. We met in the offices of Elegant Interiors that sits directly across the street from the construction site of the new West Angeles Cathedral. By now the steel framework was nearing completion (see photo above left, of the structure taken by me on this very day) and time was running out.

We examined and compared the many possibilities. This project was to be viewed at night with backlighting as well as being a significant architectural daytime feature. Our task was to select glass that worked in sunlight, for the daylight view of the stained glass windows without imparting a negative color distortion that could show up when the stained glass windows were seen in artificial backlighting.

 

Opposite Page: The left side view of the completed tower windows. Photo by: Ricky Brown
 
 
 

These double doors open into the steeple tower vestibule allowing an awesome view of the stained glass panels that rise 108' (32.9m) overhead. See photo on next page (at top left) for a view looking up from inside the tower .
 
 

Translucent colored stained glass (a.k.a. cathedral glass) tends to appear as dark negative space during daylight hours, when viewed from the outside in reflected light. On the other hand opalescent glass (colored glass mixed with a white base) broadcasts its color in reflected light. If opalescent glass was used exclusively the sheer magnitude of color would overpower and dominate the exterior facade of the building. For this reason I ruled out the use of opalescent glass for the West Angeles Cathedral project. I settled on a combination of cathedral glass plus the restrained use of wispy stained glass for selected areas. Wispy stained glass is a mixture of translucent glass color with a subtle swirl (a wisp) of white and other milky opalescent colors scattered throughout the sheet of stained glass.

The impact is subtle as compared to opalescent glass where the entire sheet of stained glass has an opalescent base of white mixed with the selected translucent colors. All of this brightly colored stained glass was balanced by using broad abstract bands of black opaque glass to provide structure to the finished design of the 'Holy Spirit' stained glass window.

 
 
 

This produced the desired effect in reflected daylight that complimented the building's architecture and exhibited the essence of the windows' design and color during the day.

The final piece to this monumental puzzle was to devise a system to fabricate these panels using a process of laminating the stained glass to a base of 1/2" (13 mm) thick laminated tempered glass. This process had been in use for several decades and had already been tested for severe wind load and approved to meet the stringent codes imposed by Dade County, Florida after Hurricane Andrew. The City of Los Angeles approved our use of this combination of products to meet earthquake codes. We were ready to go and everything looked great until the architect informed us that the basic stained glass panel sizes would have to be 10 ft. (3.1 m) wide by 8 ft. (2.4 m) high. These panels were three times the size of previous panels made with these techniques.

 

Left: This is the spectacular view looking upward from inside the steeple tower. The photo on the previous page shows the steeple tower vestibule where the photographer stood to take this shot.
 
 

Above: One of several conceptual illustrations that were submitted for the West Angeles Cathedral project.

We contracted with a company to supply the lamination materials, the equipment and training for our staff. They assured us that we would not have a problem fabricating panels of this size. We paid their company expert to come to Los Angeles and get us started on the project. Over the course of 2 days we ran several tests trying in vain to coax the laminating material to completely fill the space between the stained glass and the base layer of 1/2" (13 mm) thick laminated tempered glass. Unfortunately these initial tests failed and the only solution the expert could offer was to downsize the panels to less than half the size as those we were required to fabricate. This solution was unacceptable.

We were faced with construction deadlines that carried severe penalties and liabilities for delays, so the pressure was on. My daughter Tess was the project manager and she decided, along with my son Greg and three other staff members, that a solution had to be found - and quickly! With support and suggestions from our two staff engineers, Tess and her team started a series of experiments on their own. It took some trial and error but within a few days they had developed a unique and proprietary series of techniques that resulted in the successful fabrication of the required full size panels.

It took many prayers by our friends at West Angeles along with a measure of divine intervention to realize the successful completion of West Angeles Cathedral's new stained glass heritage. Our client was thrilled with the results and we even found enough time to fabricate some additional stained glass panels for the backside of the tower above the roofline.

 

Opposite Page, Bottom: All panels for the upper windows that circle the sanctuary are complete and installed, Here our crew is installing the last few panels at the top of the tower.
 
 

Left: Greg Bovard with one of the completed panels ready for installation in the upper windows that circle the sanctuary. Note the large rack on wheels to help us move these heavy panels around.
 
 
 
 

Above: Installation of panels in the steeple tower. We used a hydraulic platform (seen in the lower left corner) and a truck-mounted crane with platform to lift and position each panel.
 

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