Glass floors and ceilings, frameless glass walls, glass balustrades for staircases, decorative glass panels in front doors, glass telephone kiosks and bus shelters, shower doors, squash courts and security shields - all these are examples of external or internal architectural glass.
Little was known about the manufacture and use of glass until the 10th century when stained glass windows appeared in such buildings as St Mary's Church at Fairford in Gloucestershire and King's College, Cambridge. By the 17th century glass was being blown into cylindrical shapes, flattened, cut and put in metal frames. Crown and sheet glass was used in the 19th century, and from 1880 to the 1950s large-scale plate glass was introduced to clad steel-framed buildings. Float glass was then created and used on a huge scale to make glass curtain walls for buildings. This century's Great Court at the British Museum and the Crystal Palace of the 19th century are both examples of how window glass, a form of architectural glass, has developed and become a product of mass production.
Architectural glass is often regarded as an art form. Stained glass (an important form of architectural glass) is seen as fine art and also as a decorative art. There is a wide range of forms and specialisations of architectural glass and courses offered in the subject reflect the diversity and range of applications in buildings and landscapes - for function and for art.
Example areas of study
Many art and design courses include glass and architectural glass is included in many of these, but the two architectural glass courses listed below specialise in its study, creation and manufacture. Each has a different emphasis and you will need to check with the institutions themselves to find out exactly what you would study both as core and optional units/modules. The following list of example topic areas is intended to give you a flavour of what is involved in architectural glass courses.
- Design and process
- Visual studies
- Conservation and restoration
- Glass painting
- Leaded light glazing, repair and restoration
- Contemporary architectural glass processing
- Slumping, fusing and glass bending
- Kiln processes
- Cold forming including wheel cutting and engraving
- Glass blowing and casting
- Grinding and polishing
- Stained glass practice
- Decorative glass processes
- Historical and contextual studies
- Business studies
- Professional studies for artists and designers
Some Career possibilities
Graduates usually choose to be either self-employed as artists, designers or makers, or to join leading makers of glasswork. Some specialise in, for example, glass conservation, glass painting or craftwork. They work in a wide variety of settings, including architecture, interior design and design for manufacture. Some enter teacher training and others go on to postgraduate study and higher degrees.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements for these courses in architectural glass are listed below. They are intended as a guide and it is important to check the exact requirements with the institutions. Other courses in glass will probably have similar entry requirements:
- UCAS Tariff: 180 points
- A-level: CC
- SQA Advanced Highers: CC
- International Baccalaureate: 24 points including a relevant subject
- BTEC National Diploma: MMM in a relevant subject
- Art Foundation Diploma
- HND: relevant subject
For your application or interview, the following could be useful:
- Visits to glass studios, workshops, exhibitions in the UK and abroad and to buildings known for their glass, including churches. For example those at Moreton in Dorset, Fairford in Gloucestershire and Wells Cathedral), contemporary buildings such as the Great Court at the British Museum in London, glasshouses at Kew and the Stained Glass Museum at Ely, Cambridgeshire which is the only national museum of stained glass in the UK.
- A good portfolio is essential. This should include designs and photographs of finished pieces that you have produced as part of previous study and in your own time. You should be able to discuss each piece with confidence at your interview.
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk
Extract from Course Discover
Some elements of this article were developed from You Want to Study WHAT?! Volume II by Dianah Ellis, published by Trotman & Company Ltd, 2003