Sun shines through Tiffany Dome after restoration

June 30, 2008 4:29:36 PM PDT
In 1897, the world's largest Tiffany Glass Dome was installed in what is now the Chicago Cultural Center. It was met with rave reviews and Chicago was suddenly part of the international art scene. But the passage of time and some bad renovations damaged much of the dome's beauty, until now.

The 111-year-old dome, built in Chicago's original public library, has undergone seven months of restoration, and has returned to its original glory.

"It's just amazing looking up at all the panels, all the different plays of the light on each of the patterns, the textures and the colors in the sunlight... this it's just amazing," said Matt Nielson, deputy commissioner for the department of Cultural Affairs.

Over a century of dirt and grime had taken their toll on the 30,000 pieces of stained glass, which were cleaned and repaired at Botti Studio in Evanston.

The outer dome from 1935 was replaced as well because it was originally flawed.

Nielson describes the state the dome was in prior to renovation.

"The actual skylight was... covered with (a) concrete copper clad structure, and then was artificially back lit," said Nielson. "The natural light was lost and did not come back through."

Now, for the first time in over 70 years, when the sun shines, so does the Cultural Center's stained glass dome.

This has brought about an astonishing surprise-- no one expected the sun to create such vibrant colors.

"It is all different colors, and I think this is exactly what Tiffany had in mind for this space," said Nielson. "We're getting to see what it did look like 111 years ago."

The Tiffany Dome opens officially Wednesday with a free noon concert.


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