Featured Windows, November 2003
Chapel of the Holy Trinity Window, Concordia University
Building: Chapel of the Holy Trinity - Concordia University
City: Ann Arbor
Gabriel Loire had a philosophy for stained glass. It was his belief that the use of stained glass in a building was not important for what it said to the viewer but how and what it made that person feel. "(It should) be an environment, an enveloping," said Loire in a 1987 interview with Charles and Joan Pratt in Stained Glass Quarterly. "More important for the viewer today is the atmosphere (the windows) create."And that atmosphere, that enveloping, is what a person receives when first stepping into The Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Chapel was first built in 1962 as a gift of the Lutheran congregations of Michigan for the Lutheran college campus. Its intriguing shape, a triangle, set forth a precedent of uniqueness that called for windows that would be just as striking. Hence, the master craftsman and pioneer of faceted glass in the United States was chosen, Gabriel Loire. Gabriel Loire was born in 1904 in Pouance, France. He studied the art of stained glass while at the Catholic University of Angers and wrote his thesis on it at the age of twenty. In 1926, Loire worked with Charles Lorin (1874-1940) in Chartres, France. He immersed himself in learning all he could from Lorin, and even designed some stained glass of his own. By 1936, Loire aspired to have his own studio, and to break his contract with Lorin, Loire agreed not to work in stained glass for ten years. Loire spent the next decade painting, illustrating and writing books for children, and finding other outlets for his creativity. However in 1946, he returned to his true passion, stained glass. The technique that Loire specialized in, faceted glass, appeared in France in the first third of the 20th century, and Loire thought it perfect for the architecture of the times. His work really took off when, in 1950, a Frenchman and admirer opened Loire Imports in New York, contributing greatly to Loire's work being seen outside of his native France. It was around this same time that some of his most famous windows made their mark on the United States. Loire designed windows for the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford, Connecticut. The church there is in the shape of a fish and surrounds the viewer with faceted glass walls. As described in the SGAA Reference and Technical Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Stained Glass, this church paved the way for new ideas in church design, with its overwhelming colors saturating the interior. It was thought of as one of the "most powerful modern churches in the world." When Loire worked on his windows, he preferred to collaborate with the architect first, to get an idea of what was desired. Then came the color. Loire would work on a first sketch of colors and tones, drawing the details later. This tone-first process explains the emphasis that Loire placed on color in his work and how, when the viewer walks into a church of Loire windows, the color is what strikes the viewer first. A perfect example of this is the windows in The Chapel of the Holy Trinity.
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Text by Tricia Nault, MSGC intern, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan Stained Glass Census, November , 2003.