Thursday, October 16, 2008

Church Architecture: Crystal Cathedral

My firm does a lot of work with churches, so I try to see a lot of them. I recently visited several, both old and new, so I will be posting photos and thoughts about these projects in the next week or so.

The first is the Crystal Cathedral Congregation, located in Garden Grove, California, near Anaheim. (All photos are by me.) The Cathedral was designed by prominent architect Philip Johnson and was finished in 1980.

The front of the Cathedral, reflecting the bell tower.

The bell tower and chapel.

Interior. There were some guys working on the organ when I was there. It was pretty impressive to hear it being played.

Its a really compelling space, though I can't comment on what it would be like to attend a service there. I studied this building in school, but I was not really familiar with the other buildings on site, which I also found interesting. The original buildings were designed by Richard Neutra, who is one of the titans of Modern architecture and, according to the tour guide, was very close friends with the original church pastor.

The original Neutra building, flanked by the Cathedral and the Meier building.

Awesome Neutra bell tower. The original sanctuary is at the right. There was an event going on, so I couldn't go in, unfortunately.

The Neutra courtyard and Family Center. It is just textbook California mid-century modernism.

The most recent of the famous architect additions to the site is a visitor center and cafe building, by Richard Meier. This looks like a very classic Meier design to me.

A view of the Meier building, from the plaza.

Entrance to the cafe inside the Meier. Its so... Meier-y. (Edited to add: this is not a bad thing. Meier is a great architect and its a very dynamic space.) The stairs here, by the way, were at about 6 and 14, and were very uncomfortable to walk down.

There is also an unfortunate school building on the property which was designed by a local architect, I believe. I did not take any photos of the school, but picture every boring SoCal office complex and you get the idea.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed my trip to the Crystal Cathedral. Its not often I get to see such an interesting collection of buildings in one place.


  1. Wow, the crystal cathedral looks like something from a movie.

  2. I have always been fascinated by the SOM sanctuary. Have you seen the episode of the Simpons where Homer is tethered to a balloon of some sort while naked and he ends up with his backside sliding up the slanting portion of the Crystal Cathedral with the whole congregation watching him in horror?


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