Chapel’s Architect Wins Top Honor

2011-12-13
By Mike Thee
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Steven Holl, the mastermind behind Seattle University’s highly acclaimed chapel, has received the American Institute of Architects’ 2012 Gold Medal. The medal is one of the most prestigious awards given to architects, with its previous recipients including Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Ieoh Ming Pei and Frank Lloyd Wright.   

Built in 1997, the Chapel of St. Ignatius was immediately welcomed as Seattle University’s spiritual heart and has come to be a popular destination for visitors interested in joining the campus community in worship or simply marveling at its beauty.   

Holl designed the chapel as "seven bottles of light in a stone box,” which produces a variety of striking illuminations throughout the day. The space channels an appearance and disappearance of natural light that represents the concept of consolation and desolation, a key element of Ignatian spirituality.  

The Bremerton-born Holl received an honorary doctoral degree at Seattle University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony in 2006. His plans for chapel are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  

The chapel marks its 15th anniversary in 2012, and as part of the celebration, couples who were married there will renew their vows. The sacred space has drawn numerous accolades over the years. A 2006 New York Times article identified the chapel as one of 11 destinations visitors should include during their time in Seattle, and in 2007 the San Francisco Chronicle called it “One of Seattle’s great and least publicized architectural treasures.”  

More recently,Bloomberg News architectural James S. Russell recently hailed the chapel as “a humble and sublimely spiritual place” in his Dec. 12 column. (Visit Seattle’s best building and Seattle Sketcher for more rave reviews that have come the chapel’s way in recent years.)  For more information on Holl’s award and some of his other projects, visit AIA