Julia’s Chapel (2017)

A subject that compels me again and again, is architect Julia Morgan’s design of the Chapel of the Chimes columbarium, a preternatural, curiously soothing palace to the deceased. The way light casts shadows and reflections heightens the experience of introspection or ruminations that usually bring one to wander through a mausoleum, columbarium, or cemetery that is open to the public. The archival nature of the place really comes through to dramatic effect in Morgan’s design —an assemblage whose beauty recalls some Borgesian library.

Chapel of the Chimes was founded in 1909 as a crematory and columbarium in the Piedmont, in Oakland, California. The present building dates from a 1928 redevelopment based on designs by Morgan.

The Moorish- and Gothic-inspired interior is a maze of small rooms featuring ornate stonework, statues, gardens, fountains, and mosaics. The name “Chapel” refers primarily to the style of interior design, as it is not a traditional cemetery chapel building.

Julia Morgan (January 20, 1872 – February 2, 1957) was an American architect in California. She designed more than 700 edifications but is best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

Here are some photos I have taken there; a few instances where I have been drawn by the calming effects of the light.


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