Femenella & Associates, Inc. is working hand in hand with the talented architectural firm of ODA from New York City, and under the direction of Brinker/Christman in Detroit, to restore the rare and beautiful existing dome of the three story entrance Atrium of the iconic Book Tower Building, and completely reconstruct the complex, glass barrel-vaults and columns that appear to support the dome and that no longer exist; completion of the project is slated for the Spring of 2022.
The Book Tower in downtown Detroit is an historic architectural treasure, designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Louis Kamper and constructed in 1926. The entrance atrium houses one of the most unique glass installations in the world. At first glance, it appears to be a typical leaded glass dome, comprising lead came and colored glass. Further inspection yields something quite different, quite more special than anything you have seen before. Femenella & Associates President, Art Sr. said, “In my 46 years of restoring great art glass treasures from all over the world, I have never seen one quite like this; spectacular.”
The panels are fabricated from bronze bars that intersect and are bent against the wide dimension to follow the compound curves, forming an open, rigid grid. The background colored, rippled glass is cut to sight size, and dropped into the grid. The highlights of the installation, over 6,000 cast pieces of glass in 12 shapes, many weighing as much as 4 lbs., are inserted into the grid. The cast glass reflects and refracts the light into a beautiful dance, illuminating the space. In each corner of every piece of glass there are singular dollops of solder; this is all that holds the glass in place. Each panel is electroplated with copper; the copper is then patinated to simulate ancient bronze.
Femenella & Associates was tasked with restoring the upper dome and to re-create the lower sections employing a few old photographs and a design from the talented ODA team. To accomplish this, they removed and restored the upper existing panels. For the lower section, they made a ¼ scale model to indicate what the finished vaults would look like. They then built a ¼ full size model from wood. On this, the craftsmen bent steel tubing for support. 4,500 custom cast pieces of glass were ordered.