The photographer takes the Tiffany Dome in the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall as he or she finds it. The 38-foot in diameter dome has been lit by natural light since its restoration in 2008. It is comprised of 30,000 individual pieces of Favrile glass, assembled in 243 sections held together in a cast iron frame. It is said to be the largest Tiffany dome in the world. While the glass layout was designed and manufactured by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York, the iron frame was constructed by Chicago Ornamental Iron Company The designer was Tiffany's famed chief mosaicist, Swiss-born Jacob Adolphus Holzer (1855-1938) . The chandelier hanging below the dome is one of several copper-foiled lamps placed throughout the room. It was also designed by Tiffany.
The oculus is said to include the 12 signs of the zodiac. There are more than 12 circles in the oculus. It appears that the 12 signs are punctuated with circles that contain floral designs.
The original dome dates to 1897, when the building opened as the Chicago Public Library. In 1935, the dome was enclosed from the outside with a copper and concrete roof, which eliminated the natural light. The 2008 restoration saw the removal of that roof, and the return of natural light, with supplemental artificial light that is used as needed. It also involved cleaning the glass, which had years of caked on dirt and grime, repairing somewhere around 1,700 cracked pieces of glass, and re-gilding the iron. According to Traditional Product Reports, when the restoration began, the workers discovered that "all of the art-glass panels below the oculus, approximately 90% of the dome, were flipped over in their openings with the texture of the ripple glass and chipped jewels facing up."
Underneath the dome is a quotation from British author, Joseph Addison, which reads: "Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn." Certainly a fitting inscription for what was Chicago's main public library until the mid-Seventies.
The restoration was undertaken at a cost of $2.2 million, but the City received a pretty good return on its investment. The dome is now valued at $35 million, although it is hard to put a value on this priceless architectural work.
The dome is located on the second floor of the Cultural Center. It can be accessed from wither the north or the south entrances, but the south one if the most direct. Just head up the staircase. The hall is available for private events.
For the trivia buff: Reverend Preston Bradley (1848-1933) was a member of the Chicago Public Library board of trustees.
The Tiffany Dome that Sits Above the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall