MIT Chapel

Eero Saarinen, 1955

MIT’s Chapel serves all faiths at MIT. It is as exquisite and understated as it is small. The brick cylinder standing in a narrow moat is handsomely paired with Kresge Auditorium and relates to the domes of the main MIT buildings and to the brick curves of Baker House. By extending the main cylinder just a few inches away from the foundation base on low arches, the design allows the light reflected from the water in the moat to cast fascinating shifting patterns on the undulating interior brick shell. A stained-glass entryway draws one into the chapel, which is dominated by a solid marble altar sited on a circular marble pedestal. A luminous Harry Bertoia altarpiece screen shimmers with light from the skylight above. The spire and bell tower is the work of sculptor Theodore Roszak. The chapel bell was cast at the MIT Metals Processing Laboratory, and the 768 pipe organ designed by Walter Holtkamp is skillfully inserted above the entrance to the chapel chamber.

The original plan called for a service building to support the activities of the chapel and its staff. That goal has not yet been achieved.

Image: Bruce Martin