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  7. The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM

  • 01:00 - 12 February, 2009
The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM
The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM +35

  • Architects

  • Location

    Oakland, CA, United States
  • Architects

    Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
  • Interior Design

    Tamara Dinsmore, Chanda Capelli, Susanne LeBlanc, Carmen Carrasco, David Lou
  • Architect Of Record

    Kendall/Heaton Associates, Inc., Houston
  • Technical Coordinator

    David Diamond, AIA
  • Landscape Architect

    Peter Walker and Partners
  • Electrical Engineering

    The Engineering Enterprise
  • Mechanical Engineering

    Taylor Engineering, LLC
  • Civil Engineering

    Korve Engineering
  • General Contractor

    Webcor Builders
  • Design Start

  • Exterior Wall Systems

    Glass, Precast Concrete
  • Owner

    Catholic Diocese of Oakland
  • Projects Representatives

    Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, Provost Father Paul Minnihan, Project Director John L. McDonnell Jr.
  • Environmental Graphics

    Lonny Israel, Alan Sinclair
  • Digital Design Coordinator

    Douglas Smith, Associate AIA
  • Mausoleum Contractor

    Oliver + Co.
  • Construction And Program Management

    Conversion Management Associates, Inc. (CMA, Inc.)
  • Area

    2.5 sqm
  • Project Year


From the architect. If you haven´t heard about Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, maybe you didn´t take and Architecture History class, as they played an active role on the  International Style during the 1930s. They also developed an expertise in high rise towers and structural engineering, shaping the downtown of the most important cities in the United States - and the rest of the world. As of now SOM is one of the largest offices in the world, with on-going projects such as the Burj Dubai, actually the tallest building in the world.

But SOM is not just high rise buildings. They have developed award winning sustainable master plans, interiors, structures, and other types of buildings.

Now we present you The Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, CA, an amazing structure with a wooden/glass skin that creates an interior full of light. One of my favorite buildings of the year, already awarded with an AIA Honor Award for Architecture.

We´d like to thank SOM San Francisco for providing us all the information of this new project.

Design Team: Craig Hartman, FAIA, Design Partner / Gene Schnair, FAIA, Managing Partner / Keith Boswell, AIA, Technical Director / Raymond Kuca, AIA, Project Manager / Patrick Daly, AIA, Senior Design Architect / Eric Keune, AIA / Lisa Gayle Finster, AIA / Christopher Kimball / Jane Lee / Christina Kyrillou / Elizabeth Valadez / Denise Hall Montgomery / Mariah Neilson / Peter Jackson / Surjanto / Gary Rohrbacher / Ayumi Sugiyama / Liang Wu / Katie Motchen / Matthew Tierney / Henry Vlanin

Structural Engineering: Mark Sarkisian, PE, SE, Structural Engineering Director / Peter Lee, PE, SE, Senior Structural Engineer / Eric Long, PE, Senior Structural Engineer / Aaron Mazeika, PE, AP / William Bond / Ernest Vayl / Feliciano Racines / Jean-Pierre Michel Chakar / Lindsay Hu / Rupa Garai / Sarah Diegnan

The Cathedral of Christ the Light provides a sanctuary in the broadest sense of the word. Located in downtown Oakland, this house of worship ofers a sense of solace, spiritual renewal, and respite from the secular world.

The Cathedral employs a non-linear approach to honor the church's 2,000-year history without forcing a specifc point of view. By stripping away received iconography, the design positions symbolic meaning within contemporary culture. The approachable result remains open to the region's ever-changing multi-cultural makeup and to the future.

As its name suggests, the Cathedral draws on the tradition of light as a sacred phenomenon. Through its poetic introduction, indirect daylight ennobles modest materials-primarily wood, glass, and concrete. With the exception of evening activities, the Cathedral is lit entirely by daylight to create an extraordinary level of luminosity.

The lightest ecological footprint was always a core design objective.

Through the highly innovative use of renewable materials, the building minimizes the use of energy and natural resources.

The structure's concrete makes use of fy ash and slag, a waste byproduct of coal combustion and steel production, to reduce the amount of cement, a resource-consuming material. An advanced version of the ancient Roman technique of thermal inertia maintains the interior climate with mass and radiant heat. Douglas fr, obtained through sustainably harvesting processes, has proven to be aesthetically pleasing, economically sound, and structurally forgiving-the wood's surfaces add warmth while its elasticity allows for the bending and returning of shape during seismic activity. Through the use of advanced seismic techniques, including base isolation, the structure will withstand another 1,000-year earthquake. The Cathedral of Christ the Light, a building for the ages, will endure for centuries rather than decades.


Structural description

The main Cathedral superstructure consists of a hybrid structural system of reinforced concrete, pre-fabricated glued laminated wood timber members, high-strength structural steel rods paired with glued laminated wood compression struts, and a steel friction-pendulum seismic base isolation system. The superstructure is supported atop an eighteen-foot-high mausoleum substructure of reinforced concrete extending to a reinforced concrete mat foundation.

Omega Window

The image of Jesus is 58 feet high.

There are over 94,000 perforations that render the image.


Extra Credits

Consultants: Claude R. Engle, Lighting / Shen Milsom & Wilke, Inc., Acoustics / Brother William Woeger, Liturgical Art / Auerbach Pollack Friedlander, Theater / C.S. Caulkins Co., Inc., Building Maintenance / Schoenstein & Co., Consultant / Letourneau Pipe Organs Ltd., Construction, Organ / HMA Consulting Inc., Security / Persohn/Hahn Associates, Inc., Elevator / Rolf Jensen & Associates, Code / Treadwell & Rollo, Soils / Cini-Little International, Inc., Foodservice

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM" 12 Feb 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments

32 Comments · April 10, 2013

Peter Alcantara~ The trouble is that everyone talks about reforming others and no one thinks about reforming himself.

Arcabruja · June 22, 2012

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM | ArchDaily vía @archdaily

fatemeh · April 07, 2012

very good! thanks!

Kate Croy · March 28, 2012

Hey #LightNerd @DsnToLoveLife via @archdaily //Thought of you.

Jude Abbey · March 10, 2012

@alphonzeehaha cldnt find the link but i hope this one helps

desyanne raffin · March 09, 2012 @JacklynGoenawan @ZefanyaW

Sofitel SF Bay · February 23, 2012

Visiting San Francisco? Visit the beautiful The Cathedral of Christ the Light by SOM. #architecture #sanfrancisco

Dina Kafoury · October 23, 2011

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM | ArchDaily via @archdaily
too much for me :O

momo banurea · September 20, 2011

banget RT @afa_viananda: Eh aku ikt liat, kereeennnn!! RT @oyinsitanggang: I think so moohhRT"@momobanurea: awesome!"

momo banurea · September 20, 2011
momo banurea · September 20, 2011
Yudha Permana · January 06, 2011

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM | ArchDaily via @archdaily

mgdd · October 19, 2010

Katedra w Oakland - niesamowity projekt:

Alfredo C.F. Lin · June 23, 2010

The Cathedral of Christ the Light / SOM | ArchDaily

Brooke · February 24, 2010

I am glad I found your site on stumbleupon. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my boyfriend were just preparing to do some research about this. I am very happy to see such great info being shared freely out there.
Best Regards,
Fisher from New York city

Hermann Ruiz · February 22, 2010
east33rd · February 02, 2010

If this is too similar to Beth Sholom Synagogue, then what about every building that "evokes" a tower? Or a cube? Or ...

And why Wright? He didn't invent the Mayan temple.

Jacquiline Cooper · February 02, 2010

Thank you very much for your help, this has been a great abatement from the books,

Sabine · January 21, 2010 WOW! mooie lichtinval en perfecte detaillering.. knap staaltje architectuur!

Sabine · January 21, 2010 WOW! mooie lichtinval en perfecte detaillering.. knap staaltje architectuur!

nals · October 16, 2009

you're stretching with that one...

Érica · September 08, 2009

nossa, tô babando aqui!

Lucas Gray · April 10, 2009

I like this project a lot. It's simple and elegant yet steeped with symbolism.

I would LOVE to design a religious building. Anyone want to hire me?

MKL · April 10, 2009

SOM creates another masterpiece. Beautiful!

Tyler · February 18, 2009

I can draw only generic similarities to Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue, but good eye, OJ. The era of Wright rip offs is perhaps at a bitter sweet downward jagged slant, unlike LeCorbusier's. Ah, but the argument continues. The International Style is harder to discern "inspiration" from "intellectual theft."

martin · February 16, 2009

the floor plan looks like a fish. would it be a reference to a miracle?

Ani · February 13, 2009

If my church was like this, maybe I would go more often...

Niko · February 13, 2009

Super Structure

Niko · February 13, 2009

Superb Structure ,and excelent detail and functionality.
The shape is very attractive and fits perfectlly.

brigidigi · February 13, 2009

i like this building. you can't help but stare when you walk or drive by. it's got this presence that draws your eye to it. at night i can see it lit up from my friend's fire escape. at that point i wonder if it was intentional that the building's shape is not very complimentary to the surrounding buildings.

derek · February 12, 2009

it is, visually, a very nice building. the space even feels right once within. attend mass there, however, and you're overcome by how horrible the acoustics are. we need to hold designers more accountable than this, particularly in projects with these kinds of resources involved. the building is, in program, something of a lecture hall, or performance art space. experiencing the neglect of 50% of its functionality was really disappointing. makes for great photographs though.

Steven D. Papke · February 12, 2009

Simply stunning.


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