Curved glass panels on Tate Britain’s Rotunda Spiral



Ion Glass was responsible for the magnificent curved glass balustrade flanking the Rotunda Staircase at the heart of new £45million refurbishment at Tate Britain.

The new spiral staircase forms the centre piece of the development. The balustrade features decorative opaque glass infill panels made from laminated back painted glass with a sandblasted effect. The project was especially complex, with an inner and outer skin of decorative opaque glass on either side of the spiral staircase.

Each pair of panels had to fit accurately around the curve of the spiral and also to sit perfectly around each individual step. The glass is suspended between polished stainless steel uprights with a 5mm clearance between the stonework of the steps and the handrail above.

Detailed laser surveys were carried out to provide precise measurements which accounted for nuances in the metalwork as well as the differing radii of the inner and outer panels of each section.

The whole process was double-checked, taking laser measurements from all angles to ensure the radius of each curved section of glass was accurately recorded and the results transferred direct to the drawings.

Each infill at the Tate was curved, making traditional MDF templating impossible but this was such a complex installation we created templates in 5mm glass to ensure the accuracy of the final result. Any discrepancies when the glass templates were fitted on site were immediately recorded on the drawings.

The laser measurement system ensures accurate manufacture of the finished glass product and is also significantly quicker than traditional templating – on a less complex job it would be possible to proceed direct to manufacture, helping to avoid delays to the finished project.

The glass is always the last element to be fitted as the measurements can’t be taken until the other building works are complete, giving Ion a limited time frame to carry out the work – but every single panel of glass fitted perfectly.

The finished result is spectacular – the staircase is a real testament to the timeless beauty of glass in a national heritage building.

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