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©smith-clementi 2020

Christ Catholic Cathedral
Garden Grove, CA

 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange’s acquisition of the legendary Crystal Cathedral is an opportunity to re-imagine the entire 34-acre campus as the focal point for Orange County’s Catholics and a global center for Catholic life, with Philip Johnson's iconic cathedral at its center. After a competition in 2013, Rios Clementi Hale Studios was hired to design both a campus master plan and a series of large public plazas, and Johnson Fain was hired the renovate the cathedral's interior. Both firms are working in parallel as part of the Cathedral’s rechristening as Christ Cathedral.

 

The masterplan for Christ Cathedral re-imagines the 34-acre campus that includes several iconic pieces of architecture, including Philip Johnson’s 1981 Crystal Cathedral at its center and Richard Neutra’s 1961 Arboretum and Tower of Hope. The initial design process helped to identify six guiding principles for the site that encompass the overarching goals for the entire project:

 

  • The Cathedral is the center of the campus

  • Elevate the campus to be a global center for Catholic life

  • Welcome and serve all in the local community

  • Prioritize people over cars

  • Promote design excellence for site

  • Preserve flexibility for the future

 

These principles are inclusive enough to encompass the entire design concept, but they are critical in defining a framework for a landscape design that honors the history of the site, its architecture, its worshippers, and its renewed life as a Cathedral.  

 

The liturgical space of the Cathedral is the core of both the Diocesan mission and the campus itself. A new plaza rings that sacred heart of the campus with four overlapping courtyards to welcome the entire community—Catholic & non-Catholic alike—for liturgical and non-liturgical programming. A continuous paving pattern inspired by the labyrinth paving within traditional cathedrals ties the four courts together into a single plaza at Christ Cathedral. Labyrinth was originally described by the phrase “chemin de Jerusalem” (path to Jerusalem), which also retains their connections with death and a triumphant return.

 

Around the edge of the plaza, a canopy of trees shades the perimeter and creates a transitional margin that allows for more varied uses of the space, while also separating the more profane, everyday world from the sacred space of the cathedral and the surrounding plaza.