Seattle 3, St Ignatius

The morning I was due to leave Seattle after spending just over week there, I took a walk to Seattle University Campus to find The Church of St Ignatius by New York based architect Steven Holl. My journey took me through Freeway Park, designed by Lawrence Halprin‘s office under the supervision of Angela Danadjieva, the bark is a brutalist landscape mixed with greenery the purpose of which was to provide a barrier between the financial district and the busy freeway. Reading some of the press on the park it seems to have a poor history of crime, however steps have been taken to clean this reputation up and there was no sign of this the few times I passed through it, there just seemed to be a few office workers taking a break enjoying the sun.

Freeway Park Seattle

Freeway Park Seattle

I love the concrete and the massing of the sculptures, the way nature is staining the concrete green, being able to climb and jump across the structures with the water flowing below, it seemed like a real haven in the centre of the city.

The very friendly Seattleites that stopped me as I studied my by now well worn map had less of a clue than I did of how to find the Church and being a Sunday morning, probably thought I was a keen church goer rather than a lapsed catholic atheist architect who had got out of his bed for the first time to go to church on a Sunday in 20years!

I had previously only seen Steven Holl’s Sarphatistraat Offices in Amsterdam from behind a fence but have been interested in his sculptural approach to architecture and St Ignatius is an excellent example of his work.

St Ignatius, Seattle University

St Ignatius, Seattle University

The chapel was designed as the Jesuit Chapel for Seattle University and is the concept is of ‘7 bottles of light in a stone box’. To get the full effect of the full effect of the light and how it changes I would have had to stay all day. The rooflights also act as a beacon at night.There was no mass on while I was there but I had the opportunity to walk round inside and enjoy the well lit internal space.

St Ignatius Interior

St Ignatius Interior

Holl’s treatment of the internal plasterwork catches the light and enhances the sculptural form of the building and everypart of the interior is swathed in natural light although where the light is coming from is not immediately obvious.

It is hard to describe a space like this as religious spaces, when successful, create a certain atmosphere that is extremely difficult to capture in a photograph. Although off the beaten tourist track in Seattle, it is only a short and pleasant walk from the main centre and worth a trip out for anyone interested in architecture or church buildings.

door detail

door detail

For more on St Ignatius and Steven Holl go to http://bit.ly/vEpIR


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