Steven Holl is an American architect and watercolorist who currently resides in New York city, teaching at Columbia University and designing at his architecture firm, Steven Holl Architects. He is internationally recognized and has won many awards in the fields of architecture and modern art, including the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) prestigious Design Award for his work on Chapel of St. Ignatius.
“When we move through space with a twist and turn of the head, mysteries of gradually unfolding fields, of overlapping perspectives are changed with a range of light.” – Steven Holl
Chapel of St. Ignatius is located in Seattle, WA at Seattle University, a Jesuit institution. It was designed from 1994-96 and constructed from 1996-97. The abstract of the building focuses on Holl’s most prominent architectural element: light. The building was designed to represent seven bottles of light emerging from a stone box, each corresponding to a different facet of Catholic worship. The volumes or bottles of light emerge from the roof, letting in light from all different angles during the day and projecting light all over Seattle University’s campus at night. Each volume or bottle has a different tint of stained glass, filling the chapel with a spectrum of soft colors. The exterior walls and design of the chapel are rectangular and flat, conveying the stone-box feel. However, the inside of the chapel is a full of apertures, curved and arched walls, walkways and windows, conveying the volumes/bottles of light feel. A maze for light to play in. Light is the buildings ever-changing soul. Chapel of St. Ignatius brings an essence of spirituality into existence and masterfully demonstrates how light affects perception.
Chapel of St. Ignatius incorporates the two most defining elements of Holl’s career, light and texture. Light is so enlivening to Holl, partly because though a consistent element, its presence in a building is continually changing, altering how the building is perceived. Holl takes advantage of this change to add life and dynamic to his buildings.
As Kenneth Frampton describes Holl’s use of light, “walls are consistently activated by indirect colored light, bouncing off concealed apertures, cut-out of the bounding walls” (Steven Holl, 7-10). Frampton describes Holl’s interest in texture/material as the study of how the intrinsic value of material imposes a discernible presence and rhythm on the volume or space it encloses.