“Architecture is the very mirror of life.You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.”
How can reflection be perceived in architecture? What elements allow a building to carry presence and a spirit? And more so, what is it in them that urges us to slow down and reflect ourselves?
These are some of the many questions I asked myself when considering Pei’s quote – the influential architect behind the Grand Louvre in Paris.
Places of worship have always been a common place for people to gather and reflect, and their built environment can tell us many things about ourselves. Two particularly beautiful spaces I have found right here in Austin are great examples of how design can have an influence on our behavior.
St. Luke Methodist was constructed in 1958 in Clarksville. The prominent A-frame structure with strong vertical lines caught my eye — not to mention the colorful infill of stained glass.
The seemingly quaint structure from the exterior gets lost due to its connections to other buildings. Once the sanctuary doors open, however, you are brought into a transformed space.
The triangular frame carries down the nave of the church, and light spills in from stained glass walls on each side of the pulpit. Low window walls meet the roof and provide soft lighting and only a partial view of the grounds beyond. The heavy wood ceiling and glulam beams close in above, providing a well balanced, intimate space.
AUSTIN SSLC CHAPEL
2203 W 35th St, Austin, TX 78703
The chapel found at Austin State Supported Living Center is a hidden gem in Austin. Designed by local architect David Graeber in 1962, the chapel served as an interfaith place of gathering for Austin State School. Surrounded by large oak trees, the colored walls of glazing are somewhat hidden upon arrival. Once under the canopy, however, the angular stained glass patterns boast an array of color that tapers vertically.
Once inside, the nave of the space leads your eye to a focus on six panes of clear glass that form a larger scaled angular shape repeated on the glazed wall. The masonry wall is broken to form a visual connection to the vegetation and trees in the garden just beyond.
The attention to detail is evident throughout the chapel. Graeber designed the light fixtures, pulpit, and altar area. Unlike the A-frame structure found at St. Luke United Methodist, the beautiful glulam beams curve skyward at the apex to expose angular steel connections. The shape of these steel connections mimics the same angular form that is found throughout the space. Light washes down the curves and provide a warm, comforting atmosphere, proving that the form, material, and light of a space can either deter or greatly attribute to ones ability to reflect within.
Other Spots to See
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