Minnesota Architecture: The Bigelow Chapel

Not many people can claim to love the building they work in, but Cindi Beth Johnson can.

Johnson works at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton. In the fall of 2004 the seminary consecrated the Bigelow Chapel, designed by HGA Architects.


Photo credit: Sieger/Dolan

Here’s Johnson’s nomination:

Over the last seven years it has been a setting for the gifts of performing artists including Jearlyn Steele, Kevin Kling, Peter Mayer and Sandra Benitez. It has been a place for profound worship services led by students, faculty, and guest preachers. It has been a place for interfaith worship, weddings, memorials, and community presentations by speakers including Walter Mondale, Marcus Borg and Winona LaDuke.

It has been a respite for the weary and a place of engagement for those who come with questions about faith and meaning. The architectural space is a profound statement of God’s presence and mystery in the world made manifest in wood, stone and glass.


Photo credit: Sieger/Dolan

The HGA website has this description of the building:

Clad in textured precast stone and infused with warm interior light, the 5,300-square-foot Bigelow Chapel has become the architectural focus of the United Theological Seminary’s multi-denominational campus. The chapel sits horizontally on its site. A 42-foot-high bell tower marks the south end. A glass curtain wall defines the western façade. Inside the sanctuary, the translucent maple panels radiate warmth while the curving wood frame wraps visitors in a gentle embrace to create an intimate environment. The interior/exterior glass fins further diffuse light from the curtain wall and skylights, introducing a weightless quality.

Many thanks to Cindi Beth Johnson for her nomination. Do you have a building you’d like to nominate to the Minnesota Architecture series? Send a photo or two, along with a paragraph on why you admire it, to mcombs@mpr.org.