Daytime view/Photo by Martha Benedict

New glass sculpture in front of historic Judson Studios/Photo from United Environment Architecture

By Nicole Possert

A new contemporary sculptural showpiece of old, massive colored glass and new metal was recently installed in front of the historic architecture that has houses The Judson Studios, world renowned Garvanza glass studio known for creating stained, faceted and architectural glass since 1897.

The fourth-generation owner, David Judson, desired to utilize a recent acquisition of unique glass as an idea-generating showpiece on using glass in contemporary ways.  He commissioned and collaborated with United Environment Architecture of Historic Filipinotown to design, fabricate and install the new work recently at his studio in Garvanza next to Highland Park.  The result, from certain angles,  resembles a 15-foot tall, multicolored, glass tent.

The centerpiece of this work is a remarkable 1,000 pounds of thick and large glass, originally made by the legendary Ateliers Loire in Chartres, France.   The Loire glass is remarkable for its quality and very large size and strangely, sat in storage for sixty years until its owner passed away and the family found it.

Fate of a fluke phone call to Judson intervened to bring this kaleidoscope of colored glass, with its own unique history, to life.  “No one makes glass this size anymore today. When I learned of its existence with the provenance of the original invoice from Loire attached, I immediately acquired it knowing this was a unique opportunity to somehow celebrate the scale of glass and use it in a new form,” commented Judson.

Judson had the concept of a pyramidal form when he commissioned Tada Ryvola and Michael Sandstrom of United Environment Architecture to design and fabricate something amazing.  In less than two weeks, they created a three dimensional work that celebrates the glass and its range of color in both day- and night-time conditions.

“We felt given the rarity and inherent attractive properties – wide expanses of luminous color – the best approach would be to design around keeping the glass in-tact and using all of it.  While the glass is very heavy, the sculpture aims to make the glass appear as if it’s levitating off its simple steel frame,” said Tada Ryvola during a recent fundraiser for Friends Western School held at The Judson Studios where the sculpture premiered.

Anyone who wants to take a closer look at the sculpture should arrange for a tour by calling  Judson Studios or send an email to

Sculpture Highlights

  • Measurements: Tallest point on the steel structure measures 15 feet tall, while the tip of the tallest piece of glass reaches to a height of 12 feet 3 inches. The base is a triangle with its two longer sides measuring 6 foot 9 inches.
  • Mass: While the glass weighs around 1,000 pounds, the steel structure supporting it weighs just 260 pounds. The largest piece of glass by area and weight, a beautiful yellow-green color, measures 28″ x 30″, and weighs 80 pounds. The smallest, an intense purplish blue, measures 16″ x 20″ and weighs 30 pounds. All of the glass is approximately 1 inch thick.
  • Design: The design intent was to create a structure that is as minimal and efficient as possible, while giving the impression that it is rising out of the earth.  Using architectural design and form, the goal was to make the structure attractive, with a consistent rhythm between its members, while ensuring it plays a supporting role to the installation’s main feature, the Loire glass.
  • United Environment Architecture designed the fittings holding the glass up to be as minimal as possible to allow the glass to appear as if it is floating, despite its thickness and weight.
  • Rebar metal was selected for its attractive properties and its economy. The saw-tooth texture characteristic of the building material catches the light and produces a pattern that runs through the whole structure. An additional bonus was the use of a material that would look good if left in a raw state that complimented the raw state of the glass.

Rendering from United Environment Architecture

Sculpture under construction/Photo from United Environment Architecture

David Judson/Photo by Martha Benedict

Nicole Possert is an artist, writer, historic preservationist from Highland Park.

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