Hartford Seminary

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Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 - hARTsem DAYS: Celebrate the Arts and Spirituality at Hartford Seminary

Architecture as Art

Join an unconventional bus tour to see the Unitarian Society of Hartford, Hartford Seminary and the Charter Oak Cultural Center ? three architecturally-significant buildings used as very different sacred spaces. As an added bonus, the tour will end with a visit to Sukkah City of Hartford at Charter Oak Landing, a contemporary example of sacred space design.

The Unitarian Society of Hartford building at 50 Bloomfield Avenue, variously described as a ?spider’s web? or a ?space ship,? opened in 1964. Architect Roy Cook notes that Victor Lundy, its architect, adhered in principle to Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of “enhancing” nature. “Because of how the glass and plexiglass windows meet the concrete piers and roof,” Cook says, “the outside grass and trees and inside carpet and furniture flow in and out of the building. It is hard to tell what is inside and outside because you can see the piers and roof flow through the outside wall.”

The Hartford Seminary building at 77 Sherman Street, designed by architect Richard Meier, opened in 1981. “If any religious symbol can be said to dominate Richard Meier’s design for Hartford Seminary, it is the primordial emblem of creation: light. Whether silhouetted against a cloudless summer sky or wrapped in the haze of a New England winter, this low white building is an arrestingly luminous presence . . . Transposed to full scale, Hartford Seminary displays a harmonious ordering of calm, simple volumes, and a modulation of radiant spaces unprecedented in Meier’s work.” –Architectural Record, January 1982

Charter Oak Cultural Center is housed in Connecticut?s oldest synagogue building. Built in 1876, the eclectic, Victorian-Romanesque style building is an unusual example of the work of Hartford architect George Keller. The building was home to Congregation Beth Israel until 1936, and then to the Calvary Baptist Church until 1972. After that point, the building stood abandoned until the late 1970s, when a plan by the City of Hartford to demolish it elicited a strong response from the community. The building was restored and renovated and its original stencil work, pews and fixtures remain. It was transformed into a multi-cultural arts center in 1979.

At each stop, you will tour ? and learn about ? the building, while enjoying refreshments and conversation with those who occupy these unusual spaces as their work environments.

On leaving Charter Oak Cultural Center, you will travel to Charter Oak Landing to enjoy refreshments and music at the opening of a fascinating temporary public art exhibit, ?Sukkah City of Hartford.? Artists, architects and designers are being asked to re-imagine the booths built to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Six sukkot (booths) will be chosen and actually constructed in this beautiful spot along the Connecticut River. In these temporary structures too, art, architecture and the sacred will be interwoven in delightful and surprising ways.

Leaders of the tour will be: The Rev. Barbara Jamestone, Ph.D., pastor of the Unitarian Society of Hartford; David Barrett, director of public and institutional affairs at Hartford Seminary; and Rabbi Donna Berman, Ph.D., executive director of the Charter Oak Cultural Center.

The tour will start at the Unitarian Society of Hartford. Participants will be brought back to the society at the end of the tour, so they may leave their cars there in its parking lot.

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