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Poensgen Pushes The Boundaries

Poesnsgen

Church stained glass windows do not look like this. These four enormous pillars of light are more like walls than the traditional windows we know and love.

Surrounding the altar in light, they make up 560 square metres of glass in total.

On a student trip to Germany in the 1990s, we met Jochem Poensgen, who is talking about his windows to us in this photograph.

Would you call this religious stained glass? Or is it the location that imbues it with spiritual significance?

Their light and size, combining with the kinetic effect from the three overlapping layers as I walked around the pillars certainly held me in awe.

cathedral glass

Rudolf Schwarz built the church of St Andreas in Essen-Ruttenscheid in 1957, originally with glass blocks that proved structurally unsound.

Poensgen developed this triple-glazed solution to the problem in 1993.

It has toughened glass on the outside and reeded on the inside. In between, rectangles of reeded and grey cathedral sheetglass are held in place by small pieces of lead. A construction nightmare!

Luckily for Poensgen he didn’t have to make it himself.

cathedral glass

Light is the most important function of the windows to Poensgen.

The 600 separate panels, each arranged in more than 160 configurations, certainly gave him ample opportunity to play with its transmission.

The effect from inside and outside is totally different, exploiting the two surfaces to the limit.

Helpful Resources

If you’re interested in finding out about Jochem Poensgen, he has a website which details his windows project by project. It gives you photos of the windows and the churches, which helps contextualise his work.

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stained glass made perfect course