by Christa Holden
While revisting the Benedictine Brewery in December of 2018 for an appreciation party of those who helped timber-raise the brewery building, my colleague Adam and I arrived a little early to allow time to visit a very unique building. The Mount Angel Library designed for the abbey in the early 1960’s by Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto. A man known and studied as one of Architecture’s great Modern Architects. Buildings, furniture, paintings and sculptures were all mediums of expression for this historical Architect and Designer.
As you approach the library from the seminary campus of the Abbey it is a seemingly simple and somewhat understated brick building. When you enter the building, you realize it is comprised of multiple levels of shelves and places to sit all bathed in natural light while mimicking the sweeping arch of skylight that cuts through the center of the roof. There is a softness to the light that is comforting to the eye. I personally find our use of artificial light to be overdone and straining to the eye and struggle all the time with the lack of natural light and misuse of artificial light especially at work in a computer dominated field. That isn’t a thought here. The space is calming and quiet and protected. This is a space of quiet study and the architecture lends itself beautifully to the task.
The building is currently undergoing needed renovations but that is an inevitable part of life. We were told the building had not had any major work done on it since the 70’s so it is overdue and needed. A building tested by time and with some TLC will continue to house the Abbey’s collections of books and art for many years to come. I highly recommend visiting and seeing for yourself and while you’re at it visit the Benedictine Brewery as it too is a testament to great Architecture.