Monday, July 5, 2010

Amazing Architecture - The St.Ignatius Chapel in Seattle

Ever wonder why churches are usually so tall and every time you get inside one - either to pray or just to see inside - you look up? That's exactly the reason make you look up without even thinking about it. The reasoning was the higher the ceiling, the closer to God you are! Once the church noticed people always look up when they entered, they started decorating the ceilings with inspirational paintings and murals, and thus we have the Sistine Chapel and Michaelangelo on his back painting it.

One of the most beautiful churches (actually one of the most beautiful buildings) I have seen in recent times, which takes a complete detour from this philosophy is the Chapel of St.Ignatius in Seattle, built by reknowned architect Stephen Holl in 1997. This church with its sweeping avant-garde minimalist style really hits my architectural sweet spot.

"Steven Holl's dramatically simple Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University is, in every sense, illuminating. This spare, striking chapel, the cornerstone of Seattle University, offers testimony to the power of architecture to awe and amaze. Washington-born Steven Holl believed that architecture need not be tied to singular meanings, one-dimensional explanations, or unilateral ideas. His is an architecture of accident, intricacy, complexity. Holl designs buildings to be read much like poetry, on many levels - form, metaphor, symbol, structure".

Holl chose "A Gathering of Different Lights" as the guiding concept for the design of the Chapel of St. Ignatius and conceived of the chapel as "seven bottles of light in a stone box," with each bottle or vessel of light corresponding to a focal aspect of Catholic worship. Light passes through each bottle in a specific area of the building to define physical and spiritual spaces with pools of clear and colored light. Filtered, colored natural light, asymmetrical geometric forms, ceilings and walls that billow, jut out, overhang, recede, and mutually interact in unexpected ways.
During the day each part of the chapel glows with colored light from two sources. Interior lighting creates a similar effect at night, which is the particular time of gatherings for mass in this university chapel,  when the light volumes are like beacons shining in all directions out across the campus.

Holls plan for the chapel won a design award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the scale model of the chapel has been selected to become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Take a look at these amazing pictures and see for yourself the power of great architecture!

South facade of the church with a long reflecting pool

The way cool belltower
West facade - wall panels stained a light ochre intended to resemble the stone used in ancient Rome

The main sanctuary centers on an altar made of Alaskan yellow cedar on a bronze base.
Soft light in the main sanctuary
Living tree in the chapel
Anointing oils over the baptismal font
The warm glow cast at night


Patricia Torres said...

Love how you change the image on top.. so I know exactly what to expect from the post :-)

This church is beautiful... I didnt think I'd say it.. .as I like old.. churches.. But this one with its mordern architecture.. is inspiring as well..

Kamini said...

Its really beautiful inside...! I too love old churches, but his one is lovely inspite of being so modern!

indian yarn said...

the bells - it looks fundamental.

And everything else too. May be in 100 years time - this will speak about the volumes of the current architecture.

i would like to live in such a place