Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pitts Theology Library, Emory University


I went to a chapel tour and a library broke out. The Pitts Theology Library at Emory University is just a couple of miles from our place. Until yesterday, I didn't know. I'm participating in Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch. Thanks to Susan! Click on any picture and select "all sizes" if you'd like to see it bigger.

Yesterday AIA Atlanta presented a lecture and tour of Paul Rudolph's Cannon Chapel on the Emory University campus. It's a well known brutalist building consecrated on September 30, 1981. It's brutalist but doesn't brutalize. It feels good inside and out. Every step presents a new view, a new light. It's odd and charming. It keeps you wondering what is around the next corner. Here is a tiny sample of delightful light in the side chapel:


I'll save the Cannon Chapel for another day. I took 80 pictures if you want more right now.

My good fortune: Tom Little mentioned that Paul Rudolph had done an uncharacteristic non-brutal interior renovation of the adjoining theology library. A brutalist does non-brutalist work.

Here is north facade of the Pitts Theology Library. It's one of Emory's oldest buildings, covered in rare pink Georgia marble. I don't know the style of placing the stones: random sizes shapes, colors, and vein orientation, an Emory trademark. It keeps my eyes happy.

From what I understand, this part of the Pitts Library used to be a chapel. That accounts for the cathedral ceiling.


Mr. Rudolph's library conversion / renovation preceded the Cannon Chapel. The pink marble is still there.

He kept the arches and windows. It's modern, rich in tone, and just right.



In the room toward the west are "older" windows with Gothic lights and elaborate, sturdy vaulting.


This window faces the Emory University quadrangle. It looks towards the Michael C. Carlos Museum.

If you are at Emory, you should do some architecture touring. There is plenty more to see.


  1. that is an amazing space. Everything a library should be. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  2. Aren't you the gentleman that loves trains. I was back in Lees Summit Mo for a familt wedding last month and I went by the train and thought about you.


  3. Wow! That was quite an experience. Absolutely beautiful!
    Thanks also for you nice comment on my blog.

  4. Emory is such a beautiful campus. I recently spent some time in their new school of medicine building which is just striking from the exterior. I could walk around there all day.

  5. Terry,
    This has struck my interest to learn more! You did a wonderful job capturing the light and shadows in your photos.

  6. What an amazing repurposing of the building..although I think knowledge is spiritual....and libraries --churches!

    Thank-you for the tour!

    And for stopping by....


  7. I can see why you took so many pictures-what a stunning building. I bet it had that wonderful smell of old books and timber!
    Thanks so much for the wonderful guided tour.
    Best wishes, Natasha.

  8. Terry -- I am afraid of heights. Please, no more pictures from catwalks 2 stories above sea level, no matter how interesting the building. I nearly fell off my computer chair from dizziness!

    Wonderful library -- with its crisp lines against the old Gothic arches and curves. Very interesting. Love the old handwork against the industrial look of the newer spaces.

    Plus, you sent me scurrying to Google, to look up "brutalism." Thanks!

  9. Great post - beautiful, beautiful windows. I am not familiar with the term 'brutalist', but I am going to look it up.

  10. I literally spent months of my life studying in this library as an undergraduate during the 1980's. It was my 'secret' spot on campus that somehow went practically unused as a study space except by theology students and, then, only sparingly. I would almost always have one of the desks and adjoining couch to use for as long as I wanted (you can see the exact place I studied in the 7th picture down). I could relax on 'my' couch during my study 'breaks', look up at the cathedraled ceiling, and think and think and ... Until now I've never considered that I could have such an emotional connection to a building other than places I've lived (and, most especially, my grandparent's house!). When I found your page I was hopeful that I could go back and visit this the next time i was in Atlanta but I now understand that there is a recently opened library that replaces this - a Google search reveals that, unfortunately, it is no where near this space, without it's soft, intimate, warmly lit, hushed - even (unsurprisingly) holy - environs, also without the soaring openness of this space's chapel underpinnings. I wonder how this space is being used now? Anyhow, thanks for this page!

    1. Brian, I had the exact same experience as you. I returned with my two daughters today to a vastly change d campus. Even before wanting to show them my freshman dorm I took them to the theology library to find the door locked and see the label of conference center!!!


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