Cathedral of Christ the Light

Cathedral of Christ the Light
Cathedral of Christ the Light
Cathedral of Christ the Light

A landmark in the city of Oakland, California, this contemporary house of worship welcomes the public with a sense of lightness and luminosity, achieved through the innovative use of modest materials.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2008
  • Design Finish Year 2005
  • Size Site Area: 2.50 acres Building Height: 136 feet Number of Stories: 1 Building Gross Area: 250,000
  • Awards
    2009, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2009, Award of Excellence: Landmark Structures, Structural Engineers Association of California 2009, Honor Award, AIA California 2003, Unbuilt Design Award, AIA San Francisco 2009, National Honor Award for Architecture, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2009, Interior Design Award, International Interior Design Association 2008, Best Building Site of the Year, Wallpaper Magazine 2008, Outstanding Architectural Design, California Construction Magazine 2008, Wood Design Awards: Honor Award, Wood Design & Building Magazine 2008, Overall Top Project, California Construction Magazine 2007, Regional Architecture Award for Use of Concrete, American Concrete Institute - Northern California and Western Nevada Chapter 2008, Ten of the World's Most Beautiful Green Buildings, treehugger.com 2009, California Wood Design Award: Landmark Category, WoodWorks 2008, Best of the Best Award, McGraw-Hill Construction 2009, Excellence in Architecture: Honor Award, AIA San Francisco 2009, Honor Award, AIA – East Bay Chapter 2009, Honor Award, International Interior Design Association - Northern California Chapter 2009, Best in Show, International Interior Design Association - Northern California Chapter 2009, Best East Bay Public or Cultural Space, San Francisco Business Times 2009, Best Community Impact - Inner East Bay, San Francisco Business Times 2009, Award of Excellence: Large Project, Landmark Structures Category, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California 2009, Annual National Award, D&AD British Design and Art Direction 2009, Wood Engineering Innovation Award, Forest Products Society 2009, Jurors' Favorite Honor Award, Structural Engineers Association Of Illinois 2009, Best of Competition, International Interior Design Association 2009, Honor Award, Society for Environmental Graphic Design 2009, Pro AV Spotlight Award (led by Shen Milsom Wilke, Inc.), Pro AV Magazine 2009, Annual National Award, American Institute of Graphic Arts 2009, Design Award for Religious Architecture: New Facilities, Faith and Form magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) 2009, Design Award for Religious Architecture: Liturgical/Interior Design, Faith and Form magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) 2009, Outstanding Project, New Buildings Under $10 million, National Council of Structural Engineers Association 2009, Award for Community or Residential Structures, Institution of Structural Engineers 2009, Architecture & Interiors Category: Gold Award, Spark Awards 2009, Outstanding Architectural Engineering Project of the Year, American Society of Civil Engineers - San Francisco Section 2009, Best of Year: Institutional Merit Award, Interior Design 2009, Annual Design Review, Architect Magazine 2015, 50 Significant Structures in 50 Years, Structural Engineers Association Of Illinois 2010, National Honor Award for Interior Architecture, American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Collaborators
    Hma Consulting Inc. IPD Shen Milsom & Wilke Gerald Ratto Photography Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture Claude R. Engle Lighting Consultants Oliver And Company, Inc. (Mausoleum Subcontractor To Webcor) Taylor Engineering, Llc C.S. Caulkins Co., Inc. Cini-Little International, Inc. - Pasadena Langan - Oakland James Carpenter Design Associates, Inc. Korve Engineering The Engineering Enterprise Persohn/Hahn Kendall Heaton Associates Auerbach Pollack And Friedlander Schoenstein & Co. - Organ Consultant Brother William Woeger - Liturgical Art Consultant Douglas Jamieson Conversion Management Associates Letourneau Pipe Organs, Ltd. - Organ Construction Rolf Jensen & Associates
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2008
  • Design Finish Year 2005
  • Size Site Area: 2.50 acres Building Height: 136 feet Number of Stories: 1 Building Gross Area: 250,000
  • Awards
    2009, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2009, Award of Excellence: Landmark Structures, Structural Engineers Association of California 2009, Honor Award, AIA California 2003, Unbuilt Design Award, AIA San Francisco 2009, National Honor Award for Architecture, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2009, Interior Design Award, International Interior Design Association 2008, Best Building Site of the Year, Wallpaper Magazine 2008, Outstanding Architectural Design, California Construction Magazine 2008, Wood Design Awards: Honor Award, Wood Design & Building Magazine 2008, Overall Top Project, California Construction Magazine 2007, Regional Architecture Award for Use of Concrete, American Concrete Institute - Northern California and Western Nevada Chapter 2008, Ten of the World's Most Beautiful Green Buildings, treehugger.com 2009, California Wood Design Award: Landmark Category, WoodWorks 2008, Best of the Best Award, McGraw-Hill Construction 2009, Excellence in Architecture: Honor Award, AIA San Francisco 2009, Honor Award, AIA – East Bay Chapter 2009, Honor Award, International Interior Design Association - Northern California Chapter 2009, Best in Show, International Interior Design Association - Northern California Chapter 2009, Best East Bay Public or Cultural Space, San Francisco Business Times 2009, Best Community Impact - Inner East Bay, San Francisco Business Times 2009, Award of Excellence: Large Project, Landmark Structures Category, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California 2009, Annual National Award, D&AD British Design and Art Direction 2009, Wood Engineering Innovation Award, Forest Products Society 2009, Jurors' Favorite Honor Award, Structural Engineers Association Of Illinois 2009, Best of Competition, International Interior Design Association 2009, Honor Award, Society for Environmental Graphic Design 2009, Pro AV Spotlight Award (led by Shen Milsom Wilke, Inc.), Pro AV Magazine 2009, Annual National Award, American Institute of Graphic Arts 2009, Design Award for Religious Architecture: New Facilities, Faith and Form magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) 2009, Design Award for Religious Architecture: Liturgical/Interior Design, Faith and Form magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) 2009, Outstanding Project, New Buildings Under $10 million, National Council of Structural Engineers Association 2009, Award for Community or Residential Structures, Institution of Structural Engineers 2009, Architecture & Interiors Category: Gold Award, Spark Awards 2009, Outstanding Architectural Engineering Project of the Year, American Society of Civil Engineers - San Francisco Section 2009, Best of Year: Institutional Merit Award, Interior Design 2009, Annual Design Review, Architect Magazine 2015, 50 Significant Structures in 50 Years, Structural Engineers Association Of Illinois 2010, National Honor Award for Interior Architecture, American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Collaborators
    Hma Consulting Inc. IPD Shen Milsom & Wilke Gerald Ratto Photography Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture Claude R. Engle Lighting Consultants Oliver And Company, Inc. (Mausoleum Subcontractor To Webcor) Taylor Engineering, Llc C.S. Caulkins Co., Inc. Cini-Little International, Inc. - Pasadena Langan - Oakland James Carpenter Design Associates, Inc. Korve Engineering The Engineering Enterprise Persohn/Hahn Kendall Heaton Associates Auerbach Pollack And Friedlander Schoenstein & Co. - Organ Consultant Brother William Woeger - Liturgical Art Consultant Douglas Jamieson Conversion Management Associates Letourneau Pipe Organs, Ltd. - Organ Construction Rolf Jensen & Associates

The Cathedral of Christ the Light resonates as a place of worship and instills a sense of solace, spiritual renewal, and respite from the secular world — a sanctuary in the broadest sense of the word. Located in downtown Oakland, and composed of a 1,350-seat sanctuary with side chapels, a baptistery, and dependencies, the cathedral honors its religious and civic obligations to both the Catholic Diocese and the city.

With a building form based on an inner wooden vessel contained within a veil of glass — both of which are anchored on an architectural concrete base — the design conveys an inclusive statement of welcome and openness, while merging Catholic traditions with contemporary aesthetic sensibilities. An extraordinary level of lightness and luminosity is achieved through the highly innovative use of modest materials and sustainable design strategies.

The cathedral is part of a larger complex woven together by gardens designed by landscape architects Peter Walker and Partners. Praising its design as well as its cultural and civic role within the city, the Oakland Planning Commission granted unanimous approval of the project in 2004. Construction began in spring 2005 and was completed in 2008.

Cathedral of Christ the Light
© Timothy Hursley
Cathedral of Christ the Light

Architecturally-scaled graphic elements highlight the play of light and the integration of Catholic symbols that are key elements of the new cathedral. It displays a highly innovative use of materials, including glue-laminated timber, architecturally exposed reinforced concrete, high-strength steel tension rods, aluminum, and glass to provide lightness and luminosity within an efficient structural form. With a building life goal of 300 years, it utilizes a base isolation system along with superstructure materials that allow the structure to resist strength and ductility demands beyond the maximum considered earthquake levels.

From the very beginning, the lightest ecological footprint was a core design objective. Through the use of renewable materials and other sustainable design strategies, the building minimizes the use of energy and natural resources. With the exception of evening activities, the cathedral is entirely lit by daylight. The structure’s concrete makes use of industrial waste fly ash, a byproduct of coal production that requires less energy to produce than cement. The reuse of this material provides a better adhesive while reducing waste. An advanced version of the ancient Roman technique of thermal inertia maintains the interior climate with mass and radiant heat. Through displacement heating, small ducts beneath the pews cool the building from the floor.

Cathedral of Christ