Cathedral of Light
by Lauri Puchall
The soaring Cathedral of Christ the Light designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has transformed an old retail and commercial district in Oakland, California, into a vital sacred and civic gathering place.
The all-new 224,000-square-foot (20,800-square-meter) complex for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland brims with amenities, including a public plaza and garden, health clinic, conference center, gift shop, and cafe, as well as clergy living quarters.
The main event, a curving cathedral of glass and bare wood, rises from an eye-shaped concrete base. From the outside, it is highly visible from the major artery of Harrison Street as it bends around Lake Merritt.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) faced the challenge of creating architecture that was both religious and civic in nature for the lakeside setting.
"The solution," explains architect Craig Hartman, FAIA, design partner in SOM's San Francisco office, "was to elevate the cathedral and the plaza and orient the entrance on the diagonal to make the most of the view (to the lake), and clear the plaza for public use."
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