DSPT Events

Open Space Inside-Out: the Architectural Drawings of Arnold S. Constable

Dates of Exhibit: May 2010 - July 2010
Opening Reception: Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recently, my husband Chris and I had the privilege of having Father Chris Renz walk us through his wonderful exhibit ‘Open Space Inside-Out: the Architectural Drawing of Arnold S. Constable’. Father Chris curated an inspiring display of architectural drawings and renderings of early churches and chapels that was beautifully presented and explores a huge body of Constable’s work.

As an interior designer, I especially enjoyed the unique and beautifully crafted pen and ink drawings and blue prints with color wash. This collection took me back to my college days of learning design through use of pen and ink, watercolor and occasionally oil paint. Such methods empower one to actually feel the aura of the subject. What a far cry from the CAD systems of today.

My husband and I appreciated these works not only as plans for final building construction but as works of art in themselves. It seems to us that perhaps today when we use computers so often, we lose the feeling of ‘hands on’ that craftsmen felt. We lose the inspiration that these works create as a path to spirituality. - Sandy Chandler

DSPT Constable Exhibit - Original Sketch of St Albert CollegeSummary: The craft of designing and constructing buildings explores the relationship between physical space and human need (both physical and metaphysical). Prominent in the creation of worship spaces throughout the Bay area, Arnold Constable is of particular importance to DSPT and the local community.

Intended as a didactic meditation, the exhibit includes both historical facts about Constable and his architecture and spiritual reflections. In keeping with the mission of DSPT, the exhibit opens up space for conversation, whether as a personal interior meditation or a chat with other visitors.

Arnold Sutherland Constable
(1885-1981)

by Christopher J. Renz, O.P.

Arnold Sutherland Constable was born 23 Aug 1885 in North Shields on Tyne (Northumberland), England. The son of Arthur Constable (also of North Shields), Arnold was educated in England at the University of Durham, Kings College. He served as an articled pupil to J. Walton Taylor in Newcastle (1900-1905), and at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London (1907), where he was awarded the Kings Prize in Architecture, Honors in Building Construction. Upon completion of his studies, he immigrating to the United States – via Quebec – arriving in Seattle, Washington on 8 Oct 1907 to begin work in the architectural office of another recent immigrant, Arnott Woodroofe.

Located in Tacoma, Washington, the firm of Woodroofe and Constable was short-lived. Most of their designs were craftsman or California bungalow style homes located in what is today known as the North Slope historic district of Tacoma. During that time Constable was known for his “clever perspectives and wash drawings.”[1]

While tenured with Woodroofe, Constable traveled back and forth to his native land. During one extended stay at Northumberland in the summer of 1909, according to one account, Woodroofe was quoted as saying that he “nearly fell over dead” when he received a telegram from Constable with just one word on it: “married.”[2] Arnold returned shortly thereafter with his new bride, Frances Weighell, a native of Newcastle upon Tyne.

DSPT Constable Exhibit - Photo of Blessed Sacrament Church and Priory - Seattle, 1925Upon returning to Tacoma, he continued with Woodroofe until 1913 when he transferred to the Seattle firm of Beezer Brothers (1907-1932) as their chief designer. As devout Catholics, twin brothers Louis and Michael J. Beezer, focused the energy and talent of their firm on designs for Catholic churches first in the diocese of Pittsburg, PA, and later for the Archdiocese of Seattle. Of the six Seattle churches and schools they designed, Blessed Sacrament Church (1909-1911), a ministry of the Western Dominican Province, is one of the largest. Though not employed full-time by Beezer Brothers at the time of the construction of the church, Constable did serve them as a draftsman. When the Province was ready to build a new priory at Blessed Sacrament (1922), the friars turned again to Beezer Brothers, with Constable as the chief designer.

During this time, Arnold and Frances had three children: Francis Arnold Constable (1911-1991), who eventually joined his father's Sausalito-based firm; Godfrey Hammon Constable (1913-1945), who died while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard; and Kenneth Constable (1916-1984). Arnold became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1916.

Constable left Beezer Bros. for a brief period, working as a draftsman for A. H. Albertson (1918-1919) and as a designer for John Graham and Co. (1921-1922). In 1923, Louis Beezer opened a branch office in San Francisco, taking Constable with him as the lead designer for another Western Dominican Province project, St. Dominic Church.

By 1930, Constable had formed his own architectural firm, continuing to design major buildings not only for the Dominicans friars of the Western Dominican Province, but also for two Bay area Congregations of Dominican sisters: in Mission San Jose and in San Rafael.

 


 

[1] Diane Kirby-Sahlin, “North Slope Historic Special Review District – 1996 Expansion,” Tacoma Historic Preservation Office (Tacoma, Washington, 16 Sep 1996), 3. (back to article)

[2] Ibid. (back to article)

Partial List of Major Architectural Projects

Washington

1122 North K Street, Tacoma., WA. c. 1908.

Architects: Woodroofe & Constable.
Original home of Dr. John B. McNerthney, the original design called for a ten room house at an estimated cost of $3,000. The finished project contained nine large rooms and an interior finish in slash-grain fir.

Blessed Sacrament Church, Seattle, WA. 1909-1911.

English Gothic Revival.
Architects: Beezer Brothers.
Drawings: Arnold Constable
State landmark KI00573 (WDAHP ID), 12 Jan 1984.

Blessed Sacrament Priory, Seattle, WA. 1922

Architects: Beezer Bros.
Designer: Arnold Constable, designer.

California

DSPT Constable Exhibit - High Altar of St. Dominic Church, San FranciscoSt. Dominic Church, San Francisco. 1923.

English Gothic Revival.
Architects: Beezer Bros.
Designer: Arnold Constable

St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Berkeley.

Church. 1924.
Architects: Beezer Brothers.
Drawings: Arnold Constable
School. 1936.
Convent. 1948.
Architect: Arnold S. Constable

Congregation of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Mission San Jose.

Convent. 1930
Chapel. 1950
Architect: Arnold S. Constable

College of St. Albert the Great, Oakland.

East Wing. 1934.
Chapel. 1940.
South & West Wings. 1949.
Architect: Arnold S. Constable

Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, San Rafael.

Santa Sabina Novitiate, Dominican College

Guzman Hall, Dominican College

Architect: Arnold S. Constable

St. Catherine of Siena Church, Martinez. 1940.

Architect: Arnold S. Constable

Marin Community College, Kentfield.

Administrative Center. 1946.
Fine Arts Center. 1952.
Architect: Arnold S. Constable

St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel & Priory, Kentfield. 1947-48.

Architect: Arnold S. Constable

Church of St. Raphael and Mission San Rafael, Archangel, San Rafael.

Replica of original mission. 1949.
Architect: Arnold S. Constable
Redesign of church. 1961.
Architect: Francis A. Constable

St. Patrick Church, San Francisco. c. 1929.


 

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