Kresge Chapel, Claremont School of Theology | Los Angeles Conservancy
Kresge Chapel, Claremont School of Theology
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Kresge Chapel, Claremont School of Theology

The Claremont School of Theology started as Maclay College of Theology in 1885, moved to USC in 1900, and struck out on its own in 1956. In 1957, the school moved to its current site in Claremont and established a lovely New Formalist campus. Its master plan was designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone, who also designed the best-known building on campus: Kresge Chapel.

Completed in 1973, the chapel is in the New Formalist style for which Stone was best known, but it is a different interpretation of the style than that seen in many of his other buildings. The surrounding buildings exhibit the architect's trademark tall columns and wide overhanging roofs with pierced decorations, while Kresge Chapel is stripped to the very essence of New Formalism. It is a simple vertical volume with a façade composed of other vertical features, like a fluted column made of fluted columns.

There is no overhanging roof or shady arcade around the building. It stands starkly alone on a small platform in pure white simplicity, softened somewhat by the surrounding trees and hedges. The chapel's narrow vertical windows are visible from the exterior but are not meant for exterior display; their full effect is felt on the inside, belying the simple, monumental outer façades.

The building's interior is flooded with colored light from the thin slits of stained glass, making it feel like you're under a magnificent white trellis covered with blooming vines. This building is a fantastic example of Stone's subtle genius and a demonstration of the power of New Formalism in a fairly small-scale ecclesiastical setting.