A place to share my many interests in Architecture, Art, Design, Travel, and Culture.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Houston Living: The Great Pumpkin!

Last week in the morning, I was driving back to my studio from a site visit in Houston's River Oaks neighborhood, when the sight of hundreds of pumpkins laying in a green field caught my eye.  Several little children played among the pumpkins:


It took me a moment to realize that the "green field" was actually the garden of Saint Luke's United Methodist Church (Westheimer Road), which has for the month of October, turned into a veritable pumpkin patch! 


Saint Luke's is one of those buildings in Houston that I just love; its noble facade transports me for a moment to another place and another time, and visions of the Saint Martin in the Fields come into my head.  Strangely, considering how much I like it, I had never stopped to visit Saint Luke's, that is until the sight of all those pumpkins made me u-turn in the middle of Westheimer road.  That day I was finally able to appreciate the serene beauty of this building, which I know share with all of you:

Saint Luke's United Methodist Church.  Houston, Texas.

Saint Luke's United Methodist Church was consecrated in December of 1951, and designed in the Georgian style by Dallas architect Mark Lemmon (who also created buildings for the Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas), its beautifully crafted classical elements bravely defied the modernist tendencies of its time:

The bell tower and pediment.

Nestled among the oaks that give this neighborhood its name, the main sanctuary of Saint Luke's follows a form that was first introduced in London in 1721 by architect James Gibbs in the Anglican Church of Saint Martin in the Fields: A classical pedimented portico crowned with a single bell tower above the main entrance to the church. 

The eastern windows of Saint Luke's main sanctuary.

The church complex contains several buildings for diverse functions, including classrooms and a theater.  During my visit the main sanctuary was closed to the public, but I was able to tour the small chapel on the eastern side of the church:

The chapel.

The exterior of the chapel is decorated with "Tower of the Winds" pilasters, broken and scrolled pediments above the doors, and a modillioned cornice, all characteristic of Georgian architecture.

The "Tower of the Winds" pilasters and scrolled pediment.

The long axis of the chapel is oriented in the east-west direction (with the entrance facing east and the choir on the west side), this allows the southern facade to be outfitted with large arched windows which flood the chapel with diaphanous light:

The interior of the chapel looking towards the choir.
The southern windows.

The interior of the chapel is very simple (as Georgian buildings go), the main decoration is provided by the Doric pilasters that separate the nave from the choir, and carved embellishments are reserved for a few special places like the organ and the doors; the beauty of the place is in its proportion, scale, volume, and use of natural light:

Doric Pilaster in the Chapel of Saint Luke's.

The main entrance seen from the interior from the interior of the chapel.

I wished I had had more time to sit in the chapel and loose myself in contemplation but alas, my drawing table called to me.  I left Saint Luke's feeling uplifted and hopeful, perhaps it was the light filtering through the windows, or the subtle curve of the vault, or the immaculate whiteness of the walls...one thing I knew, if God dwelled in buildings He would dwell in Saint Luke's.

The interior of the chapel looking towards the entrance.

Saint Luke's United Methodist Church.

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All images by NPL

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