Construction Team Finalizes Fabrication Process for Unique Glass and Stone Rainscreen

Project team in Minneapolis with full–size mock-up section (1 of 40 sections) of the dome made of the glass-stone-glass panels.

Executive Director of Administration Jerry Dimitriou, who supervises the construction of St. Nicholas for the Archdiocese, led a construction team on a trip to review and approve the final preparations for the church’s exterior rainscreen.

The unique and intricate design by Santiago Calatrava, as commissioned by the Archdiocese, has created distinctive and original components for the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

During the design phase, Archbishop Demetrios challenged the architect to use the theme of The Resurrection and the Light of Christ when creating the design for St. Nicholas. He also challenged him to create a church that would maintain an Orthodox design but would also be a church that would fit into the landscape of skyscrapers and glass towers that surround the new St. Nicholas Church on the 15-acre World Trade Center Campus.

Award-winning architect Santiago Calatrava designed such a church taking concepts from Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the historic church in Chora while adding modern concepts to the exterior and interior of the new St. Nicholas.

Sample of the cross-cut glass which will be part of the
glass doors and windows of St. Nicholas.

The exterior “rainscreen” is made of glass and stone panels, fused together in a unique and original process taking the Pentelic marble from Greece, the same vein of marble used to build the Parthenon some 2,450 years ago.

This unique process of fusing glass to stone has never been fabricated to this magnitude on the exterior of a building and will create unique look to the new church. During the day, St. Nicholas will look like a solid marble structure however, in the evening when the sun sets, a unique and custom designed lighting system will illuminate the 2,500 glass panels from behind the rainscreen and the Church will glow like a candle over Liberty Park and the World Trade Center Memorial.

It will become a shining beacon of light and hope overlooking the place were 2,996 people lost their lives and over 6,000 were wounded on Sept. 11, 2001, the most horrific terrorist attack on the United States in our history.

These 2,500 panels not only go through a unique process to be fabricated, they also have a unique journey to arrive on-site for installation on the new St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine.

The Pentelic Marble used in the panels is quarried from northeast of Athens, Greece where it is shipped to locations in Germany and Austria. There, the stone is “honed” down to 3mm and 1mm slices in a unique and patented process and thereafter, inspected for any imperfections or occlusions in the stone.

The stone slices are then shipped to another location in Austria where another company “fuses” two glass panels on both sides of the stone.

One clear glass panel on the interior and another etched glass panel on the exterior as to not reflect sunlight off the church during the day.

These panels are created with a unique sealing process as well as go through months of testing with extreme cold and hot temperatures to make sure they will withstand the weather fluctuations in New York City. The entire exterior of the church must also be “hardened” to blast specifications set forth by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, required for all buildings on the 15-acre World Trade Center Site.

Review of small samples of the glass-stone-glass panels
in Austria by the design team.

Once the panels are fabricated in Austria, they are loaded into special crates created uniquely for this project, to protect them on their next journey from Austria to Minneapolis.

There, yet another company mounts the individual panels onto a cartridge like system creating much larger panels for the rainscreen, where they will be ready for installation on the exterior of the Church.

Last month, our management, design and construction teams recently traveled on a week-long trip from the U.S. to Germany and Austria to review and approve the final processes and procedures and to also release the companies in Greece, Germany, Austria and the United States to begin fabrication of these 2,500 panels. The team visited six factories that all play a major role in the creation of these unique panels in Europe and visited Minneapolis, where a life size mock-up of a dome section was created to test lighting and design of the rainscreen panels in a controlled environment, with various lighting levels and weather conditions for final approval.

Now in production, the installation of this complicated rainscreen will begin rising from the base of the church to the top of the dome sometime in the fall of this year, and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is scheduled to be completed sometime in the late summer 2018 with an anticipated opening of the new church in the fall of 2018.

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