Dome Sweet Dome
By Margaret Lyons in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 30, 2008 4:45PM
The Chicago Cultural Center is restoring its Tiffany dome, which will finally be illuminated by natural light as intended, rather than the color-draining flourescent light that's been keeping it aglow since the 1960s.
Turns out, that was one dirty piece of glass. Restoration workers have been delicately cleaning the pieces of the dome for months.
The Evanston firm Restoric started work on the $3 million restoration project in December. It was a painstaking process that involved cleaning more than 30,000 pieces of glass by hand. First they had to remove the glass. Craftsmen strapped themselves to the dome with safety harnesses and gently lowered 243 glass panels. Then they stripped away the copper and concrete around the exterior.
The panels were then disassembled and cleaned, and about 1,800 pieces were too broken to be put back in place; luckily, the Indiana glass company that supplied some of the original pieces is still in business, and they were able to provide replacements.
Restorers discovered that some of the dome was actually inside-out, too, with textured surfaces facing outside rather than in, and say that pieces were likely flipped at some point in the 1930s, when the concrete protective dome was added.
During the restoration, there's been a replica dome in place, but since April, the hall has been closed to the public as restorers work on the cast-iron frame. What a cool story. [Trib, WBEZ, more on Louis Comfort Tiffany, photo via the Cultural Center]