Oct 10, 2005

Low marks for L.A. cathedral

Slate evaluates the architectural styles of various mega-churches, including Mahony's cathedral.
Regarding the exterior:

Megachurch congregations rarely hire big-name architects. Perhaps they are afraid that the messenger will outshine the message. Not so for the Catholic Church, whose shortlist to design a new cathedral for Los Angeles included Frank Gehry and Rafael Moneo, both Pritzker Prize winners, and Thom Mayne (who would win the Pritzker a few years later). Moneo got the job and produced an abstract design that is as nontraditional as any megachurch. The heavy, pigmented concrete walls, as well as the stylized campanile, are intended to evoke the traditional adobe of early Californian mission churches. Yet the abstract forms and louvered windows make this graceless building look more like a power plant than a cathedral. Moneo's earnest minimalism is more fashionable than Lakewood Church's clunky design, but it is no more evocative of religious feeling.
And the interior:

The bright interior of Our Lady of the Angels is a modern version of a traditional church. But the wooden ceiling is a poor substitute for a fan vault, just as the alabaster panels in the windows have none of the numinous quality of stained glass. The 100-foot-tall nave, which holds 2,600 people, feels squat rather than soaring. The artworks attached to the walls, presumably intended to humanize the architecture, feel makeshift, as if the large space were originally designed for some other function and had been converted into a sanctuary. This busy and confusing interior points to the peril of trying to "update" a traditional architectural idiom. It's as hopeless as translating Shakespeare into hip-hop.
Tip to the Openbookblogger.

4 Comments:

Blogger thirsty scribe said...

Church structures like this were intended to show the secular world how modern and "updated" the Church can be. From what I can see, Slate is not a church-publication, but part of that reality we call "secular culture" that some would regard as mission territory. But the Cathedral has evidently failed to impress the publication's reviewer, whose first concern was artistic rather than religious. So I guess all the talk about changing church buildings to make the faith more palatable to modern man just doesn't work.

This line says it all: "It's as hopeless as translating Shakespeare into hip-hop."

6:41 PM  
Blogger The Dover Beachcomber said...

"... as if the large space were originally designed for some other function and had been converted into a sanctuary."

Perhaps there's an important clue there. For all their supposed iconoclasm and forward thinking, most modern architects really only have two or three safe themes that they rehash with minor variations, while receiving lavish praise for their daring.

And if they keep coloring within the fashionable lines, they can count on a Pritzker coming their way eventually.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Sock said...

Shakespeare ?

hip-hop?

It's already being done.

Instead of striving for excellence in academics and the Divine with regard to theology, the great fraud of the last half of the 20th century was to replace excellence with mediocrity and to substitute our abysmal nature with the “dignity of man.“

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I dunno. There's just something so darn appropriate about having a statue of Malibu Barbie over the main door.

http://www.olacathedral.org/zoom/images/doors_tn.jpg

11:14 AM  

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