Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA

This is the image of Christ the Light that greets you as you enter Oakland's new cathedral.

Add ImageI was not impressed by the outside of the Cathedral. It's dwarfed by the office buildings that surround it, so you really can't get a good look at the glass exterior. The shape is supposed to suggest flames and/or the bishop's mitre, but then there are these spikes on top. I'm not sure why.
The plaza surrounding the Cathedral is cement with minimal landscaping. Hopefully the Diocese will eventually add some trees, plants, benches, maybe a fountain or two to make the plaza more appealing.

Lake Merritt is across the street, which does offer some visual relief. However, there's a very busy four-lane street between the lake and the Cathedral.

I was pleasantly surprised by the inside, though. I think the use of Douglas fir and natural light warms the otherwise cold concrete. (The Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley is almost completely concrete and resembles a large cave.) The interior reminded me of Noah's Ark, turned upside down and re-purposed as church, which kind of tickled me.

The holy water fount at the entrance is also the baptismal fount, which I thought was another nice touch. The water is recirculated to become wall fountains in the mausoleum under the Cathedral.

Thousands of tiny holes allow sunlight to come through the rear screen and project
the image on the front. Once the sun goes down, the image is still there, but is very subtle: black dots on a gray background.

Along the sides of the church are several small rooms--I'd call them chapels, but there are no altars. Each room is designed for prayer and one can light a candle. There
is a single image in each room, done in different styles. Below is my personal favorite of the group: the Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven.

Other images included an empty tomb with a white cloth and a large sculpture of the Crucifix, which I didn't care for.

Underneath the Cathedral is the Mausoleum. You can also get to the meeting rooms which are under the plaza. Under the stairwell is this mobile of fish made by a local Catholic school. The floor plan of the Cathedral is shaped like a fish, so there is a lot of fish symbology (is that a word?) going on.

I can't remember what grade/s contributed the fish. Judging by the fanciful colors, they were in the K-3 range. :)

Overall, I'm happy with the design. According to the seating chart we received for Confirmation, it's supposed to hold close to 2,000 people. But it doesn't feel that big, which is a good thing, I think.

The sound system, on the other hand, stunk. Part of the problem, is learning to adjust the system from a nearly empty Cathedral to a full one in the space of 15-20 minutes. At least, I hope that's the problem and not that the system itself is inadequate!