Design by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans, 2009, installed 2010
Acid-etched Lamberts antique flash glass adhered with silicone lamination in steel frame
Diameter, 16 feet
The east window is the only 21st century addition to the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue. When the building opened in 1887, a stained-glass rose window occupied this spot, but over time, the original window’s wooden frame weakened. In the 1940s, it was replaced with practical and economical glass blocks, set into the circular space in four tablet-shaped columns.
After the restoration of the synagogue was completed in 2007, these blocks remained in stark contrast to their ornate surroundings, leaving the Museum to confront a final restoration decision. Should the glass blocks remain as a reminder of a chapter in the building’s long history? Could the original rose window be recreated when no photographs or plans had been found to indicate its original design? Or should a new design be commissioned? In 2009, the Museum’s board of directors opted for the new, and invited a group of contemporary artists to submit concepts. A design by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans was selected, fabricated by a team of artisans, and installed in the fall of
With its golden stars arrayed across a field of blue, the window’s design mirrors original paint schemes on the adjoining sanctuary walls and in the domes above. This new east window breathes new life into the sanctuary, both honoring the original design and ushering the restored building into the 21st century. The way it was made unites old and new as well. Using modern laminate technologies, more than 1,200 pieces of colored antique Lamberts glass were joined together with silicone atop aplate glass base. Not a single piece of lead holds the window together.As Deborah Gans explained, “What would have been lines of lead are now lines of light.” The panels were then installed in a heavy steel frame weighing more than 4,000 pounds. The central Star of David is in three-dimensional cast glass. The final effect is painterly, pulsating, compelling.
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