Architecture bucket list: Saarinen/Bertoia chapel at MIT

In my childhood home we had four large coffee table books (from a time before such books became common). They were bound in crimson pleather, and must have had colourful dust jackets, that must have gone missing at some point. To me, they were just 'the red books'. They were photo books with themes such as 'Fantastic Buildings of the World', 'Nature's Wonders' - and that sort of thing, you get the picture. And that was just the point: they were full of the most stunning full colour pictures, from LIFE magazine and National Geographic, as far as I remember. I clearly see, that much of my curiosity, my lust for travel and interest in architecture comes from getting lost in those books, hours on end. 

The books themselves are gone now, but I regularly have a moment of "where on earth have I seen this before, I know this from somewhere....? Aaaaaah, of course. I saw a photo in The Red Books!" 

This is exactly what I thought, when I saw an image of the wonderful hanging sculpture/room installation/altar backdrop, Harry Bertoia made for Eero Saarinens small chapel at the M.I.T. campus in Massachusetts (built in 1955). In one the aforementioned red books, there was full page of this fantastic cascading sculpture, and it was a particular favorite of mine. The utter simplicity of the idea, the way this feature in the space is almost alive and magical, like a waterfall of light or snow or flower petals.....

The windowless round brick building itself, is very simple (but has lots of lovely details in the brick- and wood work). The only natural light comes from the giant skylight above the altar, which is simply a white marble cube.

Now see for yourself (and there are a few links and a bit more info after the pictures).

All images are sourced from this very well written article from archdaily.com - read the article here, if you want to know more about this small, peculiar and stunning building:

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