The recently completed Cathedral of Christ the Light for the diocese of Oakland has attracted some interesting comments and mixed reviews – not too unlike the new construction of any new church these days.
The cathedral is an amazing composition of materials and abundant natural light. But many of the materials are hard and cold, too much concrete (inside and out) that tends to give the structure a harshness that may not be the first impression one should have of a cathedral. The lack of color or warm texture on the inside only adds to this sense of sterility.
The structure itself is a bold and soaring marker in the city, overlooking Lake Merritt – a site well suited for the cathedral. The generous outdoor space begs for some landscaping to soften the concrete bunker walls and planters, and hopefully some future artwork that would cause folks to linger and enjoy.
The building is impressed with its own architectonics, but I’m not too impressed with its liturgical friendliness – there could have been a more courageous and imaginative arrangement for the liturgical function – after all this is primarily what a Catholic church serves. Given the rather daring design of the architect — a firm known more for secular commissions than liturgical ones — I expected something more ‘cutting edge’ in 21st century liturgical architecture.
A positive note re. the interior: with all the lack of color and texture, this may be a very good example of how the gathered assembly is truly the most important expression of, and finishing touch upon the architectural canvas.
Fr. J. Philip Horrigan, D. Min, is a Liturgical Design Consultant, based in Chicago.