The Class of 59′ Chapel, Cambridge, MA
It’s amazing what architectural treasures lie right beneath your eyes, if one only ventures to look. As part of my continuing personal work on photographing places of worship, I am always on the lookout for unique and interesting architectural structures that fit the bill. A few years back it was the MIT Chapel, see my blog post here. This past spring it was The Class of 59′ Chapel on the Harvard University campus. You’d think I would have stumbled on this one earlier, but it took a wrong turn looking for a tennis court that led me to this most recent find.
The Class of 59′ Chapel is a non-denominational chapel designed in 1992 by Moshe Safdie and Associates, gifted by the Class of 1959 alumni. (engineered by Weidlinger Associates, built by Richard White Sons, Inc.)
At first sight, the chapel appears more like a sculpture then a place of worship. I was immediately struck with the minimalist simplicity. There is a pyramid-shaped greenhouse, there is a cylindrical building and they are connected. That’s it. As a photographer, I love the contrast of the greenhouse sitting up against the building. They appear to be two separate structures, but they are connected. There are ample opportunities to create abstract images by playing off the greenhouse glass and curves of the building.
Before entering the chapel, a cylindrical building clad in green patina, one must 1st pass through the enclosed multi-tiered water garden, alive with many types of flora and koi. The gardens are wonderfully peaceful, calming and filled with light. I spent quite a few minutes here absorbing the tranquil sounds, breathing in the fragrant humid air and searching the inner architecture for that perfect angle.
Once inside the chapel, a two-story stone cylinder, made up of mostly concrete, you are immediately aware of the skylights. Not only do they illuminate the interior in soft natural light, but prisms held in the skylights project magical ever-changing rainbows across an otherwise monochrome palette. They create an almost dream-like atmosphere, perfect for moments of reflection and mindfulness.
And these prism created rainbows also allowed me to create a colorful set of abstractions. Playing off the rainbows, I was able to concentrate my focus on the vivid spectrum of colors, shapes and textures, creating abstractions that capture the dreamlike qualities contained within and without the chapel.