So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christ Cathedral Orange County: renovation design changes.

It would seem that preoccupations with social, political and liturgical issues have distracted yours truly from other curious and/or interesting topics such as the renovation of the (former) Crystal Cathedral.

The renovation plans have been modified considerably for Christ Cathedral of the Diocese of Orange County, the former Crystal Cathedral of Dr. Robert H. Schuller.

Note the significantly modified design for the sanctuary.

Fig. 1 | RNS
Fig. 2a | Architects Newspapers
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As mentioned here in previous posts, the building does present significant challenges for Catholic liturgical worship. The earlier design for the sanctuary (Fig. 1), with antiphonal or choir style seating on either side of the central sanctuary, was a brave first attempt to reconfigure the building. Since cost cutting measures were introduced, combox comments have noted that said measures have also produced much less elegant designs in other areas of the Cathedral.

The new design retains the baldachin, but the design of the new predella appears clumsy (Fig. 2a), almost like a lava flow or delta erupting from the perimeter wall with little continuity and/or harmony with the dominant aesthetic. In the second rendering below (Fig. 2b), however, the predella seems to be less "glacial".

Fig. 2b | ibid.

The rectangular "see-through" reredos "behind" the altar may have some future function for draping banners, but it seems even more tacked-on to the sanctuary than it did before in the previous design with its companion formerly located opposite behind the ambo.

Fig. 3 | ibid.

Speaking of the ambo, if sight lines are a concern, those sitting to the right of the ambo will not see the altar. Furthermore, the proper relationship of the ambo to the altar is lost. Properly located, the ambo/pulpit should be located ahead of the altar so that we "approach" the Eucharist through the edifying and purifying power of the word of God. Sadly, that basic aspect of Catholic worship has been forgotten or marginalized by the arena-style ethos that all too often dominates in Catholic circles these days.

Critics could be forgiven for concluding that, given the various incongruities, the renovators appear to be struggling to come up with a coherent interior design. Word to the wise: the thrust sanctuary is a relic of a tried-and-died methodology. The cost to theological and practical coherency by forcing the predella forward like the tongue of a glacier (Fig. 2a) is that such a design merely adds to the inertia of distributing the proper focus of the Mass, i.e., on the altar, among worshippers. That is, congregants must contend with the distraction of a lateral dissipation of focus. One can imagine that communion lines will be equally awkward. Imagine, too, the army of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion marching up and down stairs to distribute Holy Communion to congregants in the balconies.

Square peg, round hole? 

It would seem that cost cutting and ideological bias are conspiring to produce a confused outcome. Is it possible that the challenge exceeds ability to adapt?

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