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BRAVE / PRAXIS: Happy 107th Birthday Philip Johnson

In honor of Philip Johnson’s 107th birthday, I’d like to introduce one of his lesser known works that I recently came across while on a weekend trip in Dallas—The Chapel of Thanksgiving. The Chapel is located in a public/private complex called Thanks-Giving Square, and despite being relatively small in size, it manages to effortlessly standout amongst the surrounding downtown skyscrapers.

© Melvalean McLemore
Johnson designed a beautiful and simple spiraling chapel that reaches 58 feet high in white marble. The chapel juts out onto the adjacent sidewalks and anchors the park within the complex. It is borderline awkward, and definitely one of those buildings that manages to simultaneously appear odd and interesting.
The first time I saw it, I knew I had to see what was going on inside. Unfortunately, it was closed that day due to maintenance. At that point, I made it my mission to see it before the end of the weekend.

I arrived at the square on a midafternoon, Sunday. It was relatively empty as there were just a few people walking around. This was the ideal scenario, as I had no desire to experience an overcrowded space. The entrance of the chapel, involved traversing an inward and upward winding ramp that created a perception of being drawn away from the city and into the contrasting environment of the chapel.

© Melvalean McLemore
To my disappointment, the sign indicating that the chapel was closed remained. However, I decided to pull the door anyway and it opened! As soon as I entered, I was met with a small seating arrangement for a congregation of about 12 people. It was placed in front of a rectangular altar elevated by a circular platform. Beyond the altar was a private interior ramp that followed along the circular form of the room. I wanted to go up but quickly abandoned the idea after noticing a rope barrier that prohibited visitors from entering. When I looked up, I saw the highlight of the modest chapel- a marvelous 67 panel stained-glass ceiling. The space was amazing. I spent a bit of time gazing at the ceiling before documenting my experience through photography.

© Melvalean McLemore
I tried to research the building, but was only able to find a few websites about it. As far as I know, it is a non-denominational space to which all are welcome. I strongly recommend you check it out the next time you are in Downtown Dallas. It is definitely a wondrous creation by Mr. Johnson!