The iconic Christ Cathedral, the soaring Tower of Hope, the understated Arboretum and other landmark buildings located on the cathedral’s striking 34-acre grounds expose visitors to the works of three of the world’s greatest architects. Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra and Richard Meier designed the campus’s iconic structures, which are showcased by beautiful landscaping, Bible-themed sculptures and serene Memorial Gardens. Now undergoing major renovation by Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the cathedral interior is being transformed into a Catholic worship center and the campus is being re-sculpted.
Christ Cathedral Architectural Transformation
Christ Cathedral and its grounds are undergoing a major renovation. Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios, respectively, are redesigning the cathedral interior and re-sculpting the campus.
The famous landmark with more than 10,000 panes of glass will be restored and maintained with a new cross-shaped interior. Three entries will be reconfigured as the Bishop’s Door, Baptistry and Pilgrim’s Entry to the east, and the spaces inside each entry will be distinctive.
At the center of the cruciform will be the altar, sitting atop the predella and visible from all pews. A large platinum-leafed baldachin and carved crucifix will be suspended above the altar, with the Bishop’s Chair to the north and the ambo to the south. The mezzanine level will be reconfigured to support music in multiple configurations and the organ casework redesigned in opaque white glass and brushed stainless steel trim.
To minimize heat and light from the glass walls and ceiling while maintaining its striking beauty, Johnson Fain is designing an algorithmically complex series of quatrefoils made up of triangular metal sails in various stages of openness. By arranging open and closed “petals” on the inside surface based on the sun, natural light is modulated, glare reduced and patterns will define the interior.
Transforming the Grounds of Christ Cathedral
The Rios Clementi Hale landscape architects transforming the campus are prioritizing people over cars, promoting design excellence and preserving flexibility for future development while honoring its history, architecture and worshippers. Initial site development focuses on the area adjacent to the cathedral, creating communal gathering spaces that radiate sacred space to the surrounding community.
From the outside of the campus, the most visible of these communal spaces will be the community green at the corner of Lewis Street and Chapman Avenue. Lined by parkways, this green space opens to the community, a park-like setting for large-scale events, such as outdoor services or concerts.
The plaza surrounding the cathedral will be equipped for a wide range of liturgical and non-liturgical events. Zoned into four courtyards – the Pilgrim’s Court, Festal Court, Marian Court and Court of the Catechumens – each will be connected to the cathedral and tied together by a continuous paving pattern, as well as 12 large light elements marking stone entry thresholds.
Ringing the plaza will be a tree-lined threshold containing a mix of shrines, chapels, visitors’ services and support elements. The frame of trees and small sculptures allows visitors to walk under a tree canopy, making the transition into the cathedral’s sacred space.
Transformation of Christ Cathedral’s Campus Landmarks
The Richard Neutra-designed Arboretum, built in 1962 as the original sanctuary, has been extensively remodeled to accommodate and energy-efficient, underground air-conditioning system. Also completed were seismic strengthening, glass replacement, landscaping and other aesthetic renovations. Now a worship space for parishioners, it functions as home base until Christ Cathedral is completed.
Designed by Richard Neutra, the Tower of Hope – reaching 252 feet, including a 90-foot cross – was the county’s tallest building upon its 1961 completion. It is named for the 24-hour telephone counseling service begun by New Hope Ministries, which Catholic Charities of Orange County is continuing. The tower has undergone a $6-million renovation and seismic upgrade and houses the offices of the Cathedral Parish and Christ Cathedral Corp. EWTN Global Catholic Network moved its West Coast television news and broadcast facility there and diocese leaders use the remaining space for a radio station and other Catholic ministries.