Related Posts with Thumbnails

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Climate Change and Stained Glass Windows

Le Mans Cathedral, full-colored windows

Tours Cathedral, full-colored windows

Cologne Cathedral, grisaille windows

Last week I was in San Francisco attending the annual convention of the American Geophysical Union.  Every day was filled with cutting-edge climate science presentations, none of which had anything to do with Arts and Crafts or William Morris---until I came across the work of graduate student Christopher Simmons!  Simmons has visited many of the great cathedrals of Europe measuring light transmission through stained glass windows.  He has documented how a shift in the color choices used in stained glass windows, the "Grisaille Revolution", paralleled a shift to wetter and cloudier climates in Europe at the end of the 13th century.  He hypothesizes that "climate changes operating in tandem with trends in aesthetic tastes likely motivated a permanent shift in architectural daylighting strategy" and with transmissivity data collected using a Extech 407026 illuminance meter and a Canon Digital Rebel XTi SLR camera, Simmons demonstrated how "grisaille" windows let in much more light, especially on cloudy days (see pics above).

As Simmons concludes, with a minimum of scientific jargon, "this has important implications for understanding thresholds between climate and architectural design, an increasingly important concern as we undergo a period of rapid climate change."

 LeMans, detail

Tours, detail

Cologne detail

Some more examples of grisailles......


Grisailles: A term that applies generally to stained glass windows that are kept predominately white.