JCDA Founder, James Carpenter. Photo: ©JCDA.

James Carpenter Design Associates + Bullseye Studio

June 2, 2020

James Carpenter Design Associates

Anyone captivated by the intersection of glass and architecture will be intrigued by the work of Bullseye Studio’s latest project collaborator: James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA). The award-winning multidisciplinary design firm is based in New York City and is known for vast glass installations that make distinctive use of the performative aspects of natural light. Recent examples of JCDA projects include Phoenix Light Passage for a passenger bridge at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and Waveforms Façade for Nordstrom’s NYC flagship store.

“Phoenix Light Passage” at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Pedestrian bridge art wall designed by James Carpenter Design Associates. Rendering courtesy of JCDA.
Nordstrom’s New York City flagship store facade, “Waveforms Façade,” designed by James Carpenter Design Associates. Photo: ©Nic Lehoux.

Connecting with Bullseye Studio

“Our experience with Bullseye Studio has been remarkable, a seamless ability to collaborate and share a depth of knowledge of not just the technical aspects of executing a project but a very deep and sensitive understanding of color and color theory, and how this material, glass, with its saturation of the noble, native and rare earth metals is the touchstone for the ‘nature of color’ itself.” – James Carpenter, Founder, James Carpenter Design Associates

JCDA and Bullseye Glass Co. have ties going back to the 1970s and the community that developed around the early days of the Pilchuck Glass School. Inspired by a large-scale ecclesiastic architectural project, JCDA reached out in early 2019 about a possible collaboration. They wanted to explore how Bullseye Studio could help add the fusing and coloring potentials of kilnformed glass to their work.

Although JCDA had only undertaken a few ecclesiastic projects in the past, one of these—a window for the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, a building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes—had become formative to the firm’s identity. That project allowed JCDA to explore its founder’s unique articulation of how colored glass works, both operatively and conceptually. The idea (first formulated in Carpenter’s address Narrative Projection: Stained Glass as Cinema) holds that images in glass facilitate a projection of light over time, and that this projection imbues space with the contents of a narrative—beginning, middle, and end—all at once. Glass and light, in other words, can make the layers of a narrative and its informational content perpetually and simultaneously available. Given that this way of thinking is our native language at Bullseye Studio, we were thrilled at the opportunity to help realize JCDA’s vision for their new ecclesiastic endeavor.

A Large-Scale Architectural Project

Over the past year we’ve worked with JCDA to lay the technical and material groundwork for realizing their large-scale ecclesiastical project. Once the project is complete we will be able to share its exciting details. Until then, here is what our contribution has involved:

Establishing a palette: Early development for this initial phase involved translating JCDA’s design drawings into color matches from Bullseye Glass Company’s product line. An iterative process, JCDA would receive our translations and provide feedback, to which we would respond by layering colors and sending new sample sets. These new colors, in turn, would allow JCDA to update their design drawings to better represent the colors made possible by the fused glass.

Custom textures: Early in the design process JCDA had considered using prismatic glass to generate further dynamic interactions with light. Procuring large enough pieces of that glass, however, proved problematic. We helped solve this problem by kilnforming custom textured panels that were able to meet the project’s size requirements. These textured panels also produced softer lensing effects than prismatic glass, which the client fortuitously preferred.

Proof of concept samples: Along with color development, we were actively fine-tuning other material considerations like texture, bubble population, thickness, visual layering, color effects, and lighting interaction. All of these dimensions required prototyping and technical tuning.

In-person reviews: We hosted in-person prototype reviews with JCDA, their client, and other project stakeholders. With so much visual information to share that photographs cannot convey, the meeting provided an invaluable opportunity for all to experience the glass firsthand. Furthermore, having ready access to additional materials and samples facilitated robust design discussions. Meeting at our facilities also gave everyone an opportunity to see and understand how Bullseye’s processes—from glass manufacturing to fabrication for art and architecture—happen on a single campus and account for every possible phase of a product’s development. It starts with raw sand and finishes as a fully-realized work.

Technological adaptation: JCDA’s work has always been marked by aesthetic realization, precise engineering, and material innovation. It came as little surprise, then, when their vision’s needs surpassed the limits of our fabrication equipment. Like JCDA, however, Bullseye Studio operates according to an unrelenting pursuit of innovation and improvement. Whenever we must raise our mechanical and technological game to meet challenges posed by a client’s vision, we consider it a victory for research and development. In this case, the unique requirements of JCDA’s design required that we increase the size of our kilnforming capacity from 10′ in length to 14′. As a result, our ability to realize visionary ambitions is greater than ever. 

ANSI Testing for Safety Glazing: As with our work for Spencer Finch’s project at The Corning Museum of Glass, we subjected our kilnformed and laminated glass panel prototypes for this JCDA project to the impact testing specified in ANSI standard Z97.1-2015. This testing is for Class A, unlimited drop height and size—the most demanding safety testing available. And as with the Finch artworks, they passed. 

The Future – Volumetric Light

JCDA has long used glass to explore questions that touch foundational issues in architecture. What is interior? What is exterior? How are the two related? How is their relation experienced? What information can places convey? What kind of experiences can they foster? Intriguing answers to these questions can be found in JCDA’s conceptualization of glass’s relationship to “volumetric light.”

Study model by James Carpenter Design Associates. Photo: ©JCDA.

The volume of a space is normally defined by its physical dimensions. But glass can turn this norm inside out. Because of its dynamic interactivity with light, glass can be used as a medium for filling space with multiple, synchronous layers of information. Using its ability to interact with light through tunable properties like transparency, opacity, color, thickness, texture, lensing, and reflection, glass can define and redefine what volume means in a given space. It can cause qualities of light and image to overlap and dance together in relationship to individuals as they move toward, within, and past them. Glass-enhanced light, in other words, has the potential to redefine, not just the experiences, but the dimensions of experience spaces can offer.

“Horizon Lens” by James Carpenter Design Associates. Photo: ©Jonathan Forsythe, courtesy of JCDA.

As experts in designing through overlapping interplays of light, color, and image, JCDA quickly recognized the resource Bullseye Studio represents to designers and makers. Our custom glass fabrication empowers them to tap special experiential dimensions of a specific space. Like no other material, glass unlocks light’s volumetric and communicative powers.

With JCDA already formulating how Bullseye Studio might help carry their intrepid ideas further, we look forward to facilitating their exploration of kilnformed glass in future collaborations.

For further information about JCDA, please visit their website and see:

James Carpenter: Environmental Refractions.

James Carpenter: Environmental Refractions by Sandro Marpillero (Author), Kenneth Frampton  (Contributor), Jorg Schlaich (Contributor)

In James Carpenter: Environmental Refractions, the artist’s first monograph, author Sandro Marpillero explores the unique opportunities afforded by the transparency, reflectivity, and compressive strength of glass. With over 300 images, this book brings to light the work of an exciting designer crossing the boundaries between architecture, engineering, and fine arts.