Monday, October 20, 2008

Church Architecture: Oakland Cathedral

The new cathedral in Oakland, formally known as the Cathedral of Christ the Light (official site here; wikipedia here), was dedicated September 25. (The Catholic Voice published some great photos of the dedication here.) I didn't have the chance to go to the dedication ceremony, so my office went for a visit last week. (Photos are by my office, unless otherwise noted.)

Here is a view of the Sanctuary building from the entry. The plaza is actually the roof of a building that houses offices and a convention center. (There is also an office building on the opposite side of the plaza.) I think the plaza will be a lot better once all the plantings have had a chance to grow in, especially the ficus planted along the walls.

The baptistry at the entry.

This is the interior of the Cathedral. It was really amazing. The plan of the building is in the shape of an icthys, aka a "Jesus fish." Even more than that, the building was really evocative of a boat for me. The exterior glass wall was, I thought, almost sail-like, and the wood on the interior very much made me think of a boat wooden hull.

The image of Christ over the altar is really interesting, too. It looks like its printed, but its actually perforated metal. I'm undecided if I like it, but its an arresting site.

Here is one of the side aisles next to the altar. I thought the woodwork was very impressive.

The Cathedral was designed by Craig W. Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, aka SOM. SOM is one of the largest architecture firms in the world, with offices pretty much everywhere (including SF, NYC, London, Hong Kong, etc). So, of course, when you design that much, not all of it is going to be perfect. But unlike a lot of corporate architecture firms, SOM also does some fantastic projects. Some famous buildings they have done over the years include Chicago's Sears Tower, the Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs and, one of my favorites, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. (Photo below from Wikipedia) The exterior of the library is made out of a translucent marble, which glows with a warm, subtle light. Its an amazing place.

For the mausoleum at the Oakland Cathedral, which is directly below the sanctuary, SOM borrowed this idea for the glowing marble from the Beinecke. This a view from the entry to the musoleum area and one of the cross at the back wall. Its much cooler in person.

While there were some misses (the parish hall for example), generally it was a great church. The sanctuary was warm and inviting, as well as being visually stunning. I hope to go back soon for a service.

Find more photos, plus plans, on SOM's website here.

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