In July 1990 the congregational Motherhouse in San Rafael, CA was victim to a large fire. The sisters decided to build two separate buildings on the same property, one being a convent and the second one an office building featuring a large gathering space. This gathering space has since been used for liturgical gatherings (funerals, professions, Eucharistic celebrations…), community meetings and chapters, and other gatherings for people within and outside the congregation. Naturally, these diverse uses required a great deal of versatility within this space. The architects the sisters were working with at the time designed a room to accommodate 130 to 140 people.
Part of this process included the collaboration with the congregation’s liturgical consultant who developed the concept of a floor to ceiling partitioning wall, serving as a backdrop to the various events happening in the room. It was at this stage that artist Gordon Huether was recommended to join the project to design a unique glass installation for this partition. It was determined early on that the glass installation should be in unison with the contemporary architecture. Creating the spiritual sense that is conveyed through stained glass without using this traditional technique was an important factor for the new glass design.
Gordon dedicated an ample amount of time to the concept development, meeting with the sisters on multiple occasions. Photographs of the old Motherhouse, the history of religious life, what it meant to be a Dominican, what it meant to be religious women in today’s society, and of course, the hopes and expectations for this gathering space. The artist used these inspirational meetings and successfully created an art installation that beautifully captured all of the items addressed.
The final design, an installation featuring brightly colored fused glass icons, has been in place for over twenty years. The goal of the project was it to capture the uniqueness of the place, the congregation and all people using this space, incorporating past, present and future.