More Projects

Return to projects
St. Mark's Cathedral Renovations + enlarge

Photographer: Eduardo Calderón

St. Mark's Cathedral Renovations

  • Jim Olson, Design Principal
  • Stephen Yamada-Heidner, Project Manager
  • Kevin Kudo-King, Staff
  • Seattle, WA, 1997

Project Details

Never completed as planned due to the Great Depression and renovated several times since construction began in 1928, Saint Mark’s Cathedral nevertheless possesses great dignity and presence. The expansion and renovations enhance and enlarge upon the spiritual qualities inherent in the building, while improving liturgical and functional elements. A significant objective of the renovation was the visual reduction of harsh western light into the Cathedral. And, in terms of image, the Cathedral wanted to reinforce its presence by serving as a visual beacon to the city. These ideas were combined into a common solution. Collaborating with glass artist Ed Carpenter, Jim Olson developed a design that merged abstraction with the language of Christian tradition.

First, a large, 21-foot diameter window was included as part of the new west wall, designed to limit direct western light. The large window’s design is based on a Celtic cross, with the central glass area left as clear glass to create a focal point of light into the Cathedral’s interior. A steel structure just behind the large window provides structural support and repeats the Celtic cross design.

Secondly, a glass altar screen, or reredos, was installed inside of the west wall to further modulate the western light. The reredos extends 57 feet from floor to ceiling. It supports a combination of laminated and kiln-fused glass in two primary elements, a monochromatic grid of glass panels (fabricated by artist Doug Hansen), and a glass “rose,” a circular sculpture of dichroic glass (designed and fabricated by Ed Carpenter). Seen together, the reredos and large window create a three-dimensional, contemporary sculpture interpretation of a traditional “rose” window. The residual space between the reredos and the west wall was used to create a small chapel.