In this video update on January 20, Vesterheim President/CEO Chris Johnson and Associate Director of Development Kim Toussaint talk about the special features of the windows in the Vesterheim Commons project.
If you’ve driven by the construction, you’ve seen the large three-story window that looks out over Water St. and depending on the angle of the light, you might have noticed a frit pattern in the glass. Fritted glass can help reduce glare and cut cooling costs, and gives the exterior a distinctive look with patterns. The design inspiration for this window came from the tall limestone and shale bluffs of the Driftless region that surround Decorah. Snøhetta designers were impressed by these bluffs and chose to highlight them in the window. They used a photograph of a bluff and pixilated it to bring out the different color variations. That pixilated design was translated into the glass through a frit process of fusing different components to get variations of color and transparency. Along with the stone design, there are also swirls in the fritting that relate to the acanthus scroll, another connection to Vesterheim through folk art. Acanthus carving and painting are found in many pieces in the collection and are taught in the Folk Art School. The window looks different at different times of day depending on the light.
Placing the window was a process! It was created in three pieces, which were produced off site by WL Hall from Hopkins, Minn. The glass weighed over 2000 pounds. The contractors had to close off Water St., bring in a large crane, and use special suction cups to put the sections very carefully into position.
This impressive window is not the only one in the building. The designers wanted to take advantage of natural daylight, so they did a daylight study. They wanted to know there would be plenty of light in public gathering spaces but in other spaces, they wanted to control the daylight to protect artifacts on view from damage.
Also, the view out of the windows is beautiful, especially out of the north side toward Heritage Park and the bluffs. Some of the plantings in Heritage Park were positioned to make specific framed views. We can’t wait to show those off when the plantings are in full bloom and the building is open!