May 24, 2005
Image Courtesy SOM San Francisco
After years of uncertainty, the heavens
finally aligned for the groundbreaking in May of the Cathedral
of Christ the Light in Oakland, California. Craig Hartman,
FAIA, of the San Francisco office of Skidmore Owings and Merrill
took over the $131 million project in October 2003 following
original architect Santiago Calatrava FAIAs withdrawal
over budget concerns. Further delays ensued when this site
selected by the Oakland Diocese could not be initially secured.
The program for the 100,000 square foot
Cathedral Center located on the northern edge of Lake
Merritt in downtown Oaklandincludes a main sanctuary
with a seating capacity of 1500, smaller chapels, a baptistery,
parish hall, diocese offices, conference center, rectory,
library, café and public plaza, designed by Peter Walker
and Partners. Hartman's scheme is loaded with liturgical meanings,
developed after extensive research into Catholic ritual, symbol
and architectural space. Most crucially, the basket-like building
replaces the hierarchical plan of early cathedrals in favor
of a circular arrangement of congregants around the altar,
maintaining the sense of community and inclusion dictated
by Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Additionally, the
cathedral's roof vaults form a Vesica Pisces shapethe
sacred geometry formed by the intersection of two circlessymbolically
highlighting God's descent to earth.
The budget has been a challenge in the
cathedral's development, Hartman acknowledges, requiring an
editing of design elements and an ambitious use of technology.
The cathedral's 120-foot tall main vaults are made from Douglas
fir, and encased in a ceramic frit coated glass skin. The
concrete reliquary wall at the base will be textured using
molds fabricated with computer controlled milling machines.
"The intent is to use light to ennoble modest materials,"
Hartman explains. "It's really all about making space
that is somehow emotive."