St. Michael Healthcare Center

Texarkana, Texas

Architect and Interior Design: Watkins Hamilton Ross, Houston; Belinda Bennet, ASID

20.0' w. by 22.0' l.

Entry Doors, Transom, Sidelights, Tabernacle
various widths by 7.8' h. each

I’d previously used mirror behind stained glass to create subtle illumination. This backlit ceiling installation added a new twist: partially etched mirror that both reflects and transmits light. Originally “windowless” stained glass was an approach I used to avoid garish artificial backlighting of stained glass in situations where actual windows weren’t available. This solution came full-circle in this chapel ceiling. By framing each stained glass panel with mirror having a partially-etched silvered side, light can project down through mirror and stained glass from above.

In areas where the slivering is un-etched, light from below reflects back down through the stained glass creating depth and spatial flow. A complimentary design etched into the mirror allows brighter illumination to come through from above. The heaviest etching is concentrated over the altar (a Dove with radiating ripples) and in the dark back corner opposite the entry doors (a Rainbow). The two bright areas seem to be pushing away the darkness of a night sky with stars.

The stained glass panels are installed in a 2′ x 2′ suspended grid system. A spacer-frame separates/elevates the mirror one inch above the stained glass so that the reflections interact with the stained glass as you move beneath the ceiling. Two complementary, rheostatically-controlled light configurations can accommodate either quiet meditation or formal worship .

Materials: German mouthblown glass with etching, etched mirror, lead, solder. Installed on tempered glass.