20081224

Oakland Cathedral

Another building I've been meaning to write about is the new Cathedral of Christ the Light on Lake Merritt, which opened three months ago now. Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for the New Yorker, put it on his ten best for 2008, which also includes the previously mentioned California Academy of Sciences.

I haven't yet been inside, but I find the exterior form-making and detailing wonderful. Some concerns have been expressed about the street wall facing Lake Merritt, but those are overblown. Cities can well accommodate the occasional spare street wall, and they are allowable when attached to significant cultural buildings. And here I find the base a serene mediator between the richness of the tower above and the activity on the adjacent streets, sidewalks and lake below.

I do have concerns about the effects of this building on the small churches (and thus on the neighborhoods) surrounding the new Cathedral, as outlined in this interesting article in the East Bay Express two and half years ago.

6 comments:

brooklyn avenue said...

The NY Times happened to have an article about the cathedral today. They got Susan Gluss's name wrong, but overall it's a decent little write-up. I like the building, but I don't love it. (I liked it more when it was just a wooden skeleton, looking like an upside down boat frame.)

Lorin said...

I highly recommend that you go in for a look. The interior of the worship space is just lovely, as is the columbarium below. (The support spaces left me cold.)

Check out my blog for some photos of the interior and my thoughts:
http://archthinking.blogspot.com/2008/10/church-architecture-oakland-cathedral.html

Eric said...

I went to take a look at the Cathedral yesterday, and the inside is gorgeous. The wooden louvers diffuse the light and give the interior a much softer feel than one would expect from the outside. There is some really nice straight grained Douglas fir woodwork in the front of the church (the altar? Sorry, I don't get to church often).

I'm still undecided on the exterior - I like it, but don't know how much yet. It's beautiful at night, but during the day it can be too sterile. From the raised plaza it is fine, but from the street it can be cold, with the large concrete walls and glass and steel. I think a darker green glass might have helped. But I'm not sure. I might love it once I get used to it.

Max said...

There are baby vines attached to street walls, which I hope are intended to grow and cover the wall entirely. Otherwise, the concerns about the walls are pretty valid. A little too brutalist for me.

The other thing I find a bit off-putting is the enormous shroud-of-turin-like projection on the Grand Avenue window. An enormous image of Jesus projected into the night. While it's classier than most suburban sprawl neon church signs, it's still overdone in the same spirit.

Navigator said...

I've been inside the Cathedral a few times. The natural light is wonderful. Frankly, the Mausoleum downstairs is where much of the money was spent. It's awe inspiring.

Also, the acoustics in that building are amazing. The pipe organ is said to be one of the largest in the World with its 5200 pipes and along with a very good choir, provide parishioners with an incredible acoustical experience.

The plaza is also a very nice public space. I would have preferred a little less concrete and a bit more vegetation. However, the courtyard setting with the benches, the small gardens, along with the wonderful views of Lake Merritt and the surrounding neighborhoods, give the plaza a nice communal feel.

Another interesting fact about this great new addition to the Oakland skyline is the engineering which is incorporated into the building. The entire Christ the Light Cathedral is built on a movable foundation based on individual isolators which will allow the entire building to move during an earthquake. If you walk around the base of the Cathedral in the plaza, you'll see the movable panels which allow the building to move independently of the concrete plaza in case of an earthquake.

Irving said...

5200 pipes do not make it the largest organ in the world - NOT EVEN CLOSE. Also, with pipe organs one must specify the venue in which they are installed to make some sense out of it.