Fitzwilliam College Chapel
Cambridge CB3 0DG
MacCormac Jamieson Prichard 1990
Fitzwilliam College Chapel is
built onto the end of a rather uninspiring residential block designed by
Denys Lasdun in the 1960s. The two curved, largely plain brick walls of
the chapel make the transition to that building on the west side - by
means of an arcade that also provides the entrance to the chapel - while
opening up wide on the east side to reveal a dramatic, square glazed wall,
which forms the backdrop to the altar.
From the arcade between the two
buildings, a heavy wooden door beneath a ship-like wooden ceiling takes you a choice of staircases that follow the inside the of
the curved walls, to take you up to the chapel itself.
The interior of the chapel is a
pleasing and bright space, lit both by the magnificent window that is the
east wall, and further glazing in the roof above the staircases.
The plan of the chapel, and the
quality of the detailing and craftsmanship of the wood and the glazing,
are clearly related to MacCormac's later Ruskin
Library in Lancaster. But the atmosphere inside is totally different:
the Ruskin curved walls open only slightly, to let in pockets of light,
far from the inner sanctum where the greatest treasures are kept. In fact,
of the two it's the Ruskin Library that could be argued to have more of a
traditionally religious atmosphere. The Fitzwilliam Chapel is a modern,
light-filled space, which works well, except perhaps in mid summer when
worshippers gazing through the east window during services must confront
the semi-naked undergraduates enjoying the grass slope beyond.
Simon Glynn 2001 (updated 2010)
How to visit
Fitzwilliam College is located
on the Huntingdon Road (A1307) north west of Cambridge city center. It's
only about a mile from the center, but off the normal tourist routes. The
college web site has detailed directions
for how to get there.
The Chapel has its own web site,
which - reasonably - is targeted at members of the college rather than
architecturally-minded visitors. It does list times of services and other
events, which may be helpful one way or the other depending on the purpose
of your visit. Find the web site at www.fitz.cam.ac.uk.
To confirm whether the chapel
will be open you could call the College on +44 1223 332000.
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