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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Innovations in Architectural Glass

Watkinson, Cate (2011) Innovations in Architectural Glass. In: Parallels and Connections, 5-6 April 2011, National Glass Centre Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


No longer is architectural glass confined to the ecclesiastical and the domestic. Architectural glass has come of age, confirming it as a truly versatile material with many applications in the urban environment. Within this field, public art sculpture and public seating are an interesting area of recent development.

Cate Watkinson designs with glass and light together in street furniture and proposes to elaborate on a project she has recently completed involving illuminated public art seating powered by energy gathered from photovoltaic cells (solar cells) incorporated into the seat design.

Seating such as this is innovative and exciting offering new formats/menus for the cityscape and a dramatic breakthrough fulfilling city/regional agendas on many fronts, e.g. economic, town planning, social wellbeing and tourism and can be made with sustainable lighting technology and in a material such as recycled or laminated glass which has a proven track record of durability in the public realm.

In 2002 she designed and fabricated public seating for several locations in Newcastle City Centre, England. These consisted of decorative laminated glass seat backs under lit by LED lighting strips. The challenge has been to design and develop glass seating where photovoltaic cells (solar cells) are laminated into the seats themselves. These then power LED lights in the seat. In the UK there is considerable interest in improving the built environment in towns and cities. To date, Cate has created seating not only in Newcastle, but other towns in the north and south of the country.

The advantages of LED illumination in public seating include: increased public safety at night, illumination with a sustainable source by the use of solar cells, use of LED light means little or no maintenance is needed once they are installed and also increased and enhanced aesthetics of the built environment.

Not only does this lecture offer an overview of innovations in public art glass in the UK presenting case studies of the use of new technologies, this presentation will take the audience on a journey of the making of large scale public art sculpture, through some of Cate’s previous commissions. For example a 21 foot high, 11 ton glass and stainless steel sculpture for the roof of the largest shopping mall in Europe. It will describe the highs and lows of working with new technologies and show just what can be achieved with good design and determination.

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Depositing User: Cate Watkinson


Item ID: 1195
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ORCID for Cate Watkinson: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2011 11:27
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2023 04:30