© Martin Donlin
© Martin Donlin


Holywood Arches Health Centre



Order Volume

75 m²


Todd Architects
Penoyre & Prasad LLP





Building Type


Holywood Arches Health Centre

Belfast, Great Britain

An homage to traditional remedies - Martin Donlin uses OKACOLOR to create the façade of the Holywood Arches Health Centre

The colourful glass surface which highlights the entrance to the Holywood Arches Health Centre in Belfast covers an area of approx. 75 square metres. The 15-metre high "super window" stretches across all of the top three storeys and was designed by British glass artist Martin Donlin.

This building, based on the winning design from an architectural contest, serves as a health centre and houses various doctors, therapists and support and care services. At first glance the building's exterior appears to be clearly and rationally structured, yet closer inspection reveals windows whose alignment differs slightly from storey to storey, rounded corners and a narrow strip of light along the eaves, offering a number of surprises for the observer, who could normally expect the openings to follow a strict grid. This conscious break with standard perspectives is intended to send emotional signals to the building's surroundings.

The "super window" was designed with the same approach in mind. Martin Donlin chose easily recognisable leaf and flower shapes to create the basic motif, modifying the colour and showing them in a scale larger than life, all the while being careful not to alienate visitors and patients. The motifs themselves are references to traditional remedies based on herbs and other plants.



The glass art, in which blue is the predominant colour, makes the building easily recognisable within the city landscape from quite a distance - an effect which is naturally even greater at night, when the rooms behind the window are illuminated. For this window is backed not by a stairwell, but instead by actual workspace - this made it particularly important for the building's owners to ensure that the glass surfaces admit sufficient natural light to the interior, and for the motifs to be easily seen from inside and outside.

Both the technical implementation and the fitting of each large individual piece of glass - some of which were as large as five square metres - were overseen by Glas+Räume of Paderborn. The fact that this "super window" was conceived to act as structural glazing meant that the safety and security requirements were very high. As a result, a specialist was flown in to ensure that the elaborate process necessary for gluing the windows into their frames came off without a hitch.

Donlin's design was transferred to the glass with the use of a digital printing process that is an economical way to transfer individual colour gradients, photos, graphics and any other desired motifs, even for a print run of one. This process, known as OKACOLOR, uses inorganic colours which are thus extremely resistant to UV radiation. Although the colours are not etched in, they are quite resistant to scratching. OKACOLOR can be used with float glass, insulating glass or laminated glass; with insulating glass, the coating is generally applied to position 2 on the external pane. Thanks to its compatibility with a wide variety of master patterns such as slides, printed photos and digital drafts, OKACOLOR is suitable for usage in a wide variety of situations - and has helped spur innovative approaches in areas far removed from glass art, for even more everyday materials such as stone, wood and textiles can be used to create striking optical effects with OKACOLOR.