Rainbows Every Day!

Posted January 14th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in General, Greenhouses, Stained Glass, Steel Structures
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The Palacio de Cristal is a magnificent example of a classic conservatory; one that has inspired us at Tanglewood for design details in some of the one-of-a-kind conservatories we’ve built for our discriminating clients. But the post below portrays it in a whole new lightvery different from when Nancy and I visited it last summer.

Imagine being able to see rainbows every day and not have to necessarily deal with rain! I don’t know about you, but I get excited every time I see a rainbow; there’s something about them that takes my breath away. If I had lived in or near, or had traveled to Madrid, Spain between April 27 and July 24, 2006, I definitely would have gone to see the rainbows, without having to deal with rain, at the Palacio de Cristal.

“To Breathe – A Mirror Woman” by Korean artist Kimsooja, was commissioned by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The artist covered the floor of the Palacio with mirrors and all the glass windows of the structure with translucent diffraction film. Before I go into how the rainbows were created by the mirrors and film, let’s quickly go back to school and refresh our memories about how rainbows in nature are made.

Beams of sunlight are actually made up of different colors but our eyes cannot differentiate between those colors. When it rains, and the sun comes back out, or when it’s raining and the sun is still visible, beams of sunlight enter the raindrops and leave the raindrops at different angles. The sunlight is refracted (the direction of the light is altered) and reflected (like a mirror) off the back of the raindrop into your eyes. Wavelengths of light are refracted at different angles, and each color is formed by a different angle. Meaning, each raindrop is in a different place in the sky when the sunlight enters it, therefore, when the sunlight exits each raindrop, it is exiting at a different angle, and the colors of the rainbow are created: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.


These photographs from the show are on sale on her web site. Click the thumbnails to go to the site to view the larger versions.


The rainbows in the Palacio de Cristal were formed when the outside light filtered through the glass windows and refracted off the film. The rainbows were then reflected off the mirrored floors creating a rainbow spectrum that is seen in every part of the atrium.

We have been many places and seen many things in our decades of creating conservatories, but this is one of the most stunning conservatory environments we’ve encountered.

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