Visitors to New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Dublin, London, and Victoria, BC do not have to look far to notice a beautiful artifact underfoot. Small circles or squares of thick glass—often turned purple or yellow with time—set into iron sidewalk grates.
These are “vault lights,” also known as “bullet glass,” and although they are undoubtedly beautiful, their original purpose was not decorative. The brainchild of inventor Thaddeus Hyatt, they were developed in the mid-19th century to illuminate dark spaces below ships’ decks—without the risk posed by flame-producing torches or lanterns. It wasn’t long before burgeoning cities across Europe and North America adopted the idea of a glass block sidewalk as a way to light sidewalk vaults —below-ground storage spaces or even apartments—which often extended beyond their buildings’ footprints to the areas below sidewalks.
Vault lights were a commonly used building material from the 1860s through the 1930s, but they were widely phased out with the invention of electricity and as the materials broke down over time. However, preservation-minded groups and individuals have sought to reclaim or replace these beautiful and functional panels.
Once more, architects, designers, and property owners are adopting new iterations of vault lights with an appreciation for their nostalgic appeal as well as their contributions to sustainability and energy preservation.
Recapturing the Beauty of Vintage Vault Lights
Whether your project calls for replacing historic vault lights or installing a glass floor to create a contemporary, exciting, and light-filled space, Circle Redmont can help you utilize this architectural feature. Using the technologies we have advanced for more than 50 years, Circle Redmont has reimagined the vault light for both traditional sidewalk applications as well as stairs treads and risers, landings, bridges, decks, and even barrel vaults and skylights. Architects and designers have specified our vault lights to great effect in exterior and interior applications.
Lighter Materials Invite Use Anywhere
Reimagine the glass floor with products from Circle Redmont. We offer vault light panels in cast iron, composite, concrete, and steel. We offer a variety of ways architects and designers can incorporate this feature as glass block sidewalks, stairs, and other architectural features without prohibitive weight or complicated installation.
Though inspired by traditional sidewalk vault lights, these decorative panels can be used in many interior and exterior applications. We custom-fabricate our composite concrete and cast iron panels to meet any specifications. In addition to floor and ground applications, the panels are easily installed overhead or vertically for decorative use.