Contemplation in 3D

St Vincent de Paul Society of NSW


Peter Campbell Design, through its sister company Glassplay, was commissioned to create a contemplative glass environment for a small chapel in the NSW Headquarters of the St Vincent de Paul Society – the 'Chapel of Peace and Prayer' is dedicated to its founder, Blessed Frederic Osanam. 

The first stage was a large fixed glass panel off an internal corridor to function primarily as a privacy screen. The Society wanted a more emotive treatment than simply a translucent panel. The brief called for the image of Osanam, and that of Sister Rosalie Rendu and St Vincent himself, to be somehow featured, along with the name of the chapel. Photographs of this piece are included. 

A second, larger piece was installed against the outer windows during 2012 and was a challenge at every level as the location, on the fourth floor of a fairly contemporary office building, was not conducive to a traditional installation. 

The brief called for a powerful expression of faith in a contemporary architectural context, and was to include traditional leaded antique glass – problematic structurally as leaded glass is heavy – it is usually encased in massive timber or masonry frames rather than floating in space. 

To meet these challenges, PCD employed hybrid techniques, combining the best of the past with the best of cutting-edge technologies and processes to meet the structural and aesthetic demands of the work. 

The interpretive/aesthetic approach is consciously thematic, taking ‘Growth’ as the primary metaphor and making direct reference to the work of St Vincent, Frederick Ozanam and Rosalie Rendu, the foundation of the Society and it’s growth across the fields, cities and towns of Europe, and then to the world. 

The main visual element, a richly coloured, stylised tree is traditionally fabricated leaded antique glass – giving the best colour and vibrancy available today. Surrounding the leaded glass, performing an important structural function, is a ‘halo’ of lasercut, electroplated steel. As structure, this provides lateral support to the leaded glass as it is fixed to the cross and the rear toughened glass. Visually it is an extention of the lines contained in the leaded glass and softens the edge of the work in the room.

The Cross, a key Christian symbol, is a pivotal element in the design as everything, literally and metaphorically, hangs on it. Whist not the main structure, it is the primary visual element around which everything. 

The carved Cross is recycled from reject timber giving it a real sense of authenticity and strength. It also hides the central mullion of the window, rendering a visually disturbing ‘double panel’ as one single.

Growing up the Cross is a lush, waterjet cut ‘Vine’ of copper, and laser cut aluminium, anodised in two shades of green. 

Over the top of the Vine tendrils are scattered Vine Leaf forms of laser cut and chemically etched stainless steel, adding detail, dimension and continuity to the overall impression of the work.

The window fuses today's industrial processes with traditional stained glass in a stunning 2.5m diameter sculptural disk that appears to 'float' in space, working in concert to make this installation a spiritual focus for the Society.

Creative Director/Designer: Peter Campbell
Technical Director/Fabricator: Rick Allen
Timber details: Oscar Prieckaerts