Discovering Great Mormon Buildings

Richmond Ward Chapel Interior

330 Carlston St
Richmond, CA
Built 1959
Architect: Douglas W Burton
Click for Map Location of Building

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8 responses

  1. That stained glass is so awesome! Wood paneling on the ceiling is kind of striking too.

    April 20, 2011 at 9:31 am

    • I agree. As soon as I went into the chapel, I was blown away. There are a lot of really nice features in this building.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:03 am

  2. seshat

    The stained glass is beautiful, but I have a question for both of you. It’s been a long time since I studied medieval architecture and the art of stained glass windows as an undergrad, but I’ve visited plenty of old cathedrals and churches, and I know that generally the point of stained glass is what it does to the inside of a structure, not how it appears on the outside. Comparing the various photos you’ve posted here, it seems obvious that the magnificent stained glass window at the front of the chapel is visible only if you go up and look directly at it, since it’s in a tower taller than the rest of the chapel–on top of which there is a small steeple with more stained glass that no one can see from the inside.

    Why? Why include something so lovely and costly in a room and then hide it from most people in the room? It would be like putting a wall in front of the rose window at the head of Chartres Cathedral. I’m not saying the window shouldn’t be there, but why not make it visible to the congregation?

    April 21, 2011 at 7:23 am

    • You can see the stained glass from probably half of the pews in the chapel if you are sitting down. Your question is a valid one, but I actually like the solution here. The entire rostrum is bathed in beautiful diffused natural light from the high glass. The light bounces off the hard surfaces of the block walls and down to the choir seats and pulpit. And to be able to see the glass, you have to move towards the front of the room. The light draws you forward. When I was there, I wanted to be closer to the front. I feel it is a great way to encourage people to sit close to the front, rather than the back filling up first, with everyone sitting as far away from the speakers as possible. On the other hand, even if you do sit in the back, the rostrum is still beautiful; a better solution for lighting the rostrum than most LDS chapels, in my opinion.

      Additionally, if the glass is put too low, you lose the bounced, diffused light – the whole glowing rostrum effect. And if the glass were directly behind the speaker, it would potentially be too bright and you wouldn’t be able to see the speaker. I believe Chartres cathedral has its main glass to the sides and in the rear, away from the central speaker, thus not in direct visual competition. This building has the nice smaller glass on its sides, as a tease, leading you toward what awaits at the front.

      Oh, and I don’t think that the tower has stained glass. It is an open decorative grillwork rather than glazing.

      April 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

      • seshat

        Cool. Thanks.

        April 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

  3. Jim W.

    This is one of two wards I attended in my teenage years in the late 1960s-early 1970s. The giant skylight design behind the pulpit may have been striking, but it was not a great design for a choir. As can be seen from this and other pictures, part of the sound of a choir would bounce around the “skylight” as opposed to being projected into the chapel. In fact, the grills for the electronic organ speakers speaking into the choir seats were added later. Originally, there were only two grills for the electronic organ speakers, one on each side of the front wall facing the chapel.

    If members of our ward found the Richmond Ward building functional, it was because a number of families came from the Berkeley Ward, 1501 Walnut Street, Berkeley, CA. The historic Berkeley Ward building deserves to be on any list of distinguished LDS architecture. Designed by a local member and built around 1935, the building is still in use and only a few changes have been made over the years.

    April 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    • Good point, Jim and thanks for the first-hand account. That may have been why this is such a unique building and why the design hasn’t been repeated that I’m aware of. I was able to visit the Berkeley ward building as well and will be posting pictures on it shortly. I agree it is an important and beautiful building.

      April 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm

  4. Suzy Gerry

    I grew up in this building, from the time I was 3 until I moved away at age 28. My father was in the bishopric at one time, and in later years my mother was the custodian there. There’s a lot of memories of the different activities that happened over the years. I could tell you a lot of stories from those days – back when Sunday School and Sacrament meeting were held at separate times, and Primary and Relief Society also met during the day, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (respectively). I remember when people who attended the El Cerrito ward held at the Berkeley chapel, combined with Richmond and started coming there – I was 7 years old, and met people who I am still friends with to this day 44 years later. It was a sad day for me when it became a branch building and the ward itself had to split out and go to a different building.

    November 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

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