Underlining its growing pedigree in the heritage sector, Cheshire-based design consultant Mather & Co has completed the first phase of York Minster Revealed, a major five year project generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Its installation of ‘The Orb’, a 10m wide, 3m tall metallic dome that sits within York Minster’s Lady Chapel, is the centrepiece of Mather & Co’s interpretation of the East Front of the Minster. This includes the Great East Window, one of the world’s largest and most impressive medieval stained glass windows.
This window comprises some 108 individual stained glass panels, designed and painted between 1405 and 1408 and now painstakingly removed, cleaned and conserved piece by piece by the York Glaziers Trust. The panels will all be reinstalled by the summer of 2016 after which the scale and magnificence of the window will once again make it difficult for visitors to truly appreciate its detail.
Mather & Co’s challenge was to find a way to show the intricacy of the glass panels up close and without distraction and the result was The Orb, a contemporary, metallic 21st century display space for 15th century masterpieces. From 27 October, visitors will be able to walk inside The Orb, where the hard, metallic exterior gives way to a soft intimate interior studded with illuminated medieval glass. Backlit within this exclusive orb space and isolated from the background of the ongoing restoration work, the displays will comprise five newly conserved stained glass panels, four permanently on display and one which will change each month throughout the Orb’s tenancy of the space.
Flanking this centrepiece feature are various interactive exhibitions and media terminals which have been inspired by the major works taking place on the Minster’s East Front. In the All Saints Chapel, displays will explain the work of York Minster’s stonemasons; in St Stephen’s Chapel, the role of the glaziers is examined. A mixed media combination of touch screen games, audio visual, graphics and sculptures will allow visitors to appreciate and ‘virtually’ replicate the skills of these craftsmen.
The HLF funded scheme represents the largest restoration and conservation project of its kind in the UK. It is intended to reveal the architectural excellence and cultural significance of York Minster within the history of the last 2,000 years, promote it to a wider audience and enhance its profile as a modern visitor attraction.
The York Minster Revealed project has remained mindful throughout that the cathedral is not just an historic relic of the past but a living building with daily prayer, worship and ceremony. The project’s success has depended on maintaining that balance between the traditional cultural heritage of York Minster as a spiritual place of worship and the contemporary demands and public expectations that come with being one of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions.
Awarded the project in 2010, Mather & Co assembled its most experienced and talented team of heritage design professionals, with an extensive track record of interpreting historic buildings, churches and cathedrals. This team’s design scheme is intended to provide visitors with a multi-sensory, participatory and interactive experience in which they can explore York Minster’s stories in a way and at a level that best suits them.
The company’s managing director, Chris Mather explained: “Heritage Lottery Funding is vital in helping to sustain and transform our country’s cultural heritage and nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the iconic York Minster. Mather & Co has been delighted to bring its state of the art visitor attraction design and interpretation skills into this prestigious, historic arena.”
Project designer, Paul Lee has been responsible for much of the design, planning and development: “Working within York Minster’s extremely challenging spaces, our collections and stories provide the opportunity to challenge and stretch the boundaries of what can and can’t be placed within a cathedral. Typified by the first phase installation of The Orb, the final result at York Minster Revealed will be a totally unique and exciting exhibition experience for the visitor.”
Continuing to work closely with York Minster’s Dean and Chapter, Mather & Co will now carry on with the second phase of work, scheduled for completion by Spring 2013. This will involve re-display of the cathedral’s significant Undercroft, Treasury and Crypt areas and tell the stories of its archaeological remains found when the undercroft was dug out to shore up the building.
For more information telephone 01625 521128 or visit www.matherandco.com