Imagine a woven wooden basket that’s 120 feet high, broad at the base and curving gently inward as it rises.
Now imagine that basket wrapped in opaque glass. In daylight the glass is a veil, shrouding what’s within; but at night, light seeps out through the basket and the veil, glowing for all to see.
No, no, no I really don’t want to imagine that it might give me nightmares.
That’s the ethereal promise of the design for Oakland’s Christ the Light Cathedral, which marked its ceremonial groundbreaking Saturday. For today’s Bay Area, it’s a uniquely adventurous work of architecture — and the only high-profile one that isn’t by a globe-trotting celebrity architect.
The design for the cathedral and its 2 1/2-acre complex alongside Lake Merritt is by Craig Hartman of the San Francisco office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Instead of traditional cathedral architecture, majestic and strong —
evoked so well in the recent Los Angeles cathedral designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo — Hartman offers a vision of warm, delicate layers that hint at the mysteries of things unseen. [Source]
So if Oakland and L.A. were having an ugly cathedral contest, who would win?
Based on the aerial view Instead of cruciform we have football form and I have to admit that this design makes me call out Hail Mary!
The sensation will be one of being surrounded by blinds, not a solid wall — each plank set at an angle, with open space between each one. And the planks will serve the same purpose as blinds, letting in sunlight without the glint of direct rays.
Ah that explains it, a case of the blinds leading the blind.
So the outside looks like something from Krypton in the Superman Movie and the inside is strait out of Woody Allen’s Sleeper. It looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters exploded inside. Now I am not one to automatically equate modern with ugly and I think modern structures can be built with beauty that point us to God. In my opinion this is not an example of that, though I would defer to Erik Keilholtz on this.
I think my original opinion when the contract was first awarded still applies in that the architect said that architecture is "to inspire and ennoble the human spirit.” Possibly that might be true, but that is not the point of reference in building a church. Having our spirit ennobled sounds to much like the modern version of self-esteem and the point of worship is not to esteem ourselves but God.
A reader informed me about one of the designs that lost out by Domiane Forte, a graduate student of architecture at Notre Dame
No wonder it didn’t win – it actually looks like a church and we can’t have that you know.