Dalle de verre

Diagram of Wallace K. Harrison’s Dalle de verre design
for the North Wall

North View Diagram

Diagram of Wallace K. Harrison’s Dalle de verre design
for the South Wall

South View Diagram

Dalle de verre and Wallace K. Harrison’s creative use of it in the Fish Church

Dalle de verre is the French phrase for “slab of glass.” Artists began to craft and use stained glass slabs set in concrete in Europe in the late 1920s.

One hundred and fifty-two precast concrete panels form the walls of the Fish Church. Embedded in the panels are 20,000 slabs of amber, emerald, ruby, amethyst, and sapphire glass. Wallace K. Harrison was the first architect in North America to use dalle de verre in a church’s load-bearing walls.

First-time visitors to the Fish Church walk into the nave and often catch their breath and say, “it’s like being inside of a jewel”. One-inch thick slabs of stained glass are set in the church’s North, South, and Narthex walls. Surface facets heighten the glasses’ color and jewel-like character as light passes through them.

Before starting construction of the Fish Church, Harrison needed to know whether dalle de verre could be used in concrete panels that would span the nave without supports. Working this problem out, he modeled the panels in small slabs at his Long Island home and tilted them to find the angles at which they would stand and bear weight.

Harrison translated his abstract design, the Crucifixion, into dalle de verre set in the concrete panels forming the North Wall. He translated his design, the Resurrection, into dalle de verre set in the South Wall. Gabriel Loire designed the dalle de verre Christian symbols set in the Narthex wall.

(Harrison later used dalle de verre in 1964 for the Great Hall of Science in Queens, NY. The Great Hall has 80-foot-high concrete walls filled with slabs of cobalt blue glass. The Hall is 33 miles from the Fish Church, 41 minutes by car. For photos, click on http://goo.gl/UVBxi.)

Faceting dalle de verre glass