Sep 2, 2007

What Duncan Stroik says about Oakland's new cathedral

This is it -- Oakland's new cathedral. Well, not really; it's the outline of it, back in 2005, before construction began. Completion is set for Fall 2008, said an Associated Press article about it yesterday (click on this post's title).

The AP article actually quotes a traditionalist. He is Duncan Stroik, a professor of architecture at Notre Dame who specializes in cathedrals. He says, “The concern always is that while it [a current cathedral] maybe seems very innovative at the time, that it goes out of date very quickly."

Here is another excerpt from the AP story:

"Stroik, who favors a traditionalist approach, also questioned whether the artistic goals of modernist cathedrals, often designed by architects renowned for their secular work, overshadow the spiritual.

“'It should be a work of faith, and it should express eternal verities,' he said. 'If the architect doesn't believe those things ... is it possible for him to express those things?'”

In the AP article, Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland says the cathedral's planning was done with a "liturgical consultant." He says, “The cathedral is an occasion and catalyst for the rededication of Catholics of the East Bay."

The AP story continues: "Diocese officials favored the 21st-century aesthetic to mark the cathedral's place in time and culture, and show that 'we are not an antique or a relic of yesteryear,' Vigneron said."
You can read about the Cathedral of Christ the Light at its web site, which is the source of the photo above:


Blogger Ma Beck said...

A relic of yesteryear - you know, like Notre Dame, the Sistine Chapel... stuff like that.
What a doofus.

That cathedral is going to be so out of date so fast, just like that grody dark-brown wood paneling family room from the 1970s.
Some things are timeless. Ugliness is just a monument to your bad taste, and I'll bet this will be torn down in less than 50 years, because ugliness is on its way out as an architectural aspiration.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Liam said...

I think the new Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light looks very attractive. On the cathedral's website, the bishop gives a very informative tour with good theological and liturgical insight. Certainly Q will be happy about the visibility of the tabernacle!

I look forward to visiting the cathedral when it is completed.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Pacem said...

"Like Notre Dame, the Sistine Chapel"...please consider, those styles were contemporary for their times. Sounds like 'ol Duncan has his traditional nose a bit bent out of shape.

One needs to remember that at one time 'traditional' was 'contemporary.

I've driven by the construction site and I also look forward to a visit to the completed work.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous gravey said...

Bishop Vigneron is trying to make the best of a project and design he inherited from the previous Bishop.

Financially speaking, many are waiting for the other shoe to drop. At an estimated cost of 190 million with 100 milion secured, where is the rest of the money coming from? The Diocese says the funding is from private sourses but that can be said for most of the money in the Diocese and parish coffers. The problem is that you can only squeeze the folks for so much. The Diocese has already loaned the project money and I'm sure the final cost will be even greater then the 190 million.

One comment to pacem. The problem with so much of todays contemporary design is that it ignores the past and tradition. Many modern architects are constantly reinventing the wheel. Notre Dame and the Sistine Chapel may have been considered contemporay in their time but their designs also relied on traditional elements. I do not think the same can and will be said for the Oakland Cathedral.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Pacem said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Pacem said...

Dear Gravey,

I tried not to judge that which is 'now'. Only through the eyes of history may one ascertain the longevity of a style. To quell creativity by pre-judging is not in our best interest.

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took a look at the web site and this new Cathedral looks like it was designed by Mike Brady. Instead of looking contemorary, it looks like something that would be contemporary in the 1970s. I pray that the design will stand up over time, but I doubt it. At least it looks better than the new cathedral in LA. That place is an abomination.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Anon 11:40,
I thoroughly disagree with you in your assessmnet of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and I'm glad to say, so do most people who know anything about art and architecture. But if you were expecting something that harkens back to another time and architectural style, like a Classic Revival or Gothic Revival building, I can understand your disappointment.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another disapointment for Catholics by Bishop Vigneron. A good Bishop would just put a stop to it. I'm not sure, but the LA Cathedral might still be uglier, although I absolutely cannot stand the space-age look of the proposed Oakland Cathedral.

Anon again

10:24 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Liam,

The centrality of the tabernacle is good. But we need to hope that the illustration on the web site is just a schematic, because the one there has no ornamentation.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Pacem,

Thank you for writing. Yes, the cathedrals of previous centuries were contemporary, but their designers built them to reflect eternal truths.

It is undeniable that designers of some churches in recent years, and I am not saying this about Oakland's new cathedral, intend them to reflect "the new theology" instead of traditional Catholicism.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Liam,

Too few "people who know anything about art and architecture" know enough about Catholic theology, liturgy and pastoral concerns.

If the art and architecture of a church or cathedral do not clearly reflect eternal truths and point us to God, their high quality and artsiness-trendiness are useless.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

Quintero, please put your abstract language into the concrete for me.

I see eternal truths reflected throughout the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels—the abiding presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel; the tapestries with their theme of the Communion of Saints; the Baptism of the Lord tapestry coupled with the location and prominence of the baptismal font; the centrality of the Mass with the prominence of the altar and all the floor tiles radiating out from it symbolizing that everything flows from the Eucharist; the graphic crucifix depicting the price Jesus paid for our redemption; the cruciform shape of the floor plan; the themes of Light and Journey that the architect chose to convey; the many. many images of Our Lady throughout the cathedral; the devotion to St. Vibiana and her relics; etc.

I am missing something when you say it lacks the expression of eternal truths. What exactly is missing—how are these present in other cathedrals yet absent in ours?

12:20 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Liam,

Whether the cathedral conveys Catholic truths or not, I say more traditional Catholic elements convey Catholic truths better.

I'm giving you a laundry list of things you can jump on. But in none of it am I "going against Catholic teaching."

Dump the somewhat androgynous statue that is supposed to be the Blessed Mother, for starters.

Then move on to dump all the pagan symbols off the bronze doors, such as "Raven Eating Man's Liver." What a Catholic truth that is!

Plus, the entire building should be more traditonally cruciform and should call people to worship.

Right angles convey certitude and direction. Off-kilter ones convey misdirection and confusion. Laugh at this if you want, but it is so.

A sanctuary with a Communion rail would be appropriate.

The tabernacle should be central, as well as designed and adorned regally for Christ the King.

The arrangement of the altar and the sanctuary should facilitate celebration of the Latin Mass.

I am not "going against Catholic teaching" in any of these suggestions, so do not say so.

Remember, I am saying that more traditional Catholic design conveys Catholic truths better, not necessarily solely.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

Dear Q,
You admit that the cathedral does convey Catholic truths but not to your liking...I can accept that. At least we have reduced it down to its subjectivity. I see the truths and like the cathedral; you see the truths and dislike it. There are other expresssions of truth you miss that I don't. Fair enough.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Liam,

You can call it subjectivity, but the cathedral falls short as a place of Catholic worship.

It would be hard for any cathedral or church not to convey some Catholic truths.

"Raven Eating Man's Liver" and the other pagan and non-Catholic symbols on the bronze doors, though, are not among them. Same with the off-kilter angles throughout the entire edifice.

Those things, and what is missing, such as an altar not in the round and a prominently and centrally located tabernacle, prove that much, much more could have been done to make the cathedral better reflect the Faith.

5:57 PM  
Blogger stardancer3 said...

the cathedral looks like a updated nuclear reactor. Christ said his temple is within you. he does not need a church made with human hands. and the poor people could use that 190.million. what a shame that churches follow the world with material things, and that they use the name of God to justify what they want to do.

6:15 AM  

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