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  7. AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi
AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi, © Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

© Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng +22

From the architect. With the fascinating fusion of traditional Catholic faith and modern technology, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption has become a distinct landmark in the cityscape of San Francisco. Designed by architects Pietro Belluschi and Pier Luigi Nervi using what was considered the most top of the line engineering, the form of the chapel attracts visitors from all parts of the world and religious spectrum.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

Taking inspiration from the cross, the architecture of the St. Mary’s Cathedral emphasizes both the vertical and the horizontal. As the eyes are drawn upward with the sweeping of the cupola, hearts are meant to uplift towards the heavens and God.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

The artistic nature of the St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco evokes a union between heaven and earth through the balanced simplicity that becomes possible through modern engineering. The hyperbolic paraboloid creates a graceful flow upwards until it reaches 190 feet where the four corners meet in a cross. The cathedral measures 255 square feet and is crowned with a 55 foot tall golden cross at its apex.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

Pylons support the 19-story cupola at each corner of the floor plan, each constructed to withstand ten million pounds of pressure. With a circumference of 24 feet at their narrowest points, the pylons are embedded 90 feet down into the bedrock. A surprising 1680 pre-cast triangular coffers comprose the inner area of the cupola, featuring 128 different triangular sizes. These transfer all the weight of the structure down to the ground, while allowing large windows to frame views of the city of Saint Francis of Assisi. To call on memories of historic mission architecture, red brick is used on the floor in sweeping patterns.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

Drawing on more traditional roots of Catholic cathedrals, an important portion of the design and experience of St. Mary’s is the stained glass that travels up all four sides of the building. At the top plane of the structure, the four lines of glass change direction, running horizontal and creating a cross with the mosaic glass patterns.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

The colorful light that floods through the windows highlights views of the surrounding San Francisco city, which is meant to remind church attendees of their commitment to the work of the Kingdom of God on earth. More artwork in the cathedral hangs above the altar; a kinetic sculpture by Richard Lippold is suspended fifteen stories off the ground by gold wires.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng

Groundbreaking occurred in August of 1965, and two years later Apostolic Delegate Luigi Raimondi blessed the cornerstone. Construction was completed in 1970.

© Liao Yusheng
© Liao Yusheng
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Megan Sveiven. "AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi" 21 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/207439/ad-classics-the-cathedral-of-st-mary-of-the-assumption-pietro-belluschi-and-pier-luigi-nervi/>
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38 Comments

BG · July 13, 2016

There are nice things about this building, but tbh I don't find this building to be a vary successful church. When I was living in SF, I drove by this church near everyday and not once did I see anyone come out of it, go inside of it, or lounge in the courtyard. It is a vacant, stale, cold place of worship.

Jesse Ridenour · December 09, 2014

What I find most interesting about this building is the amount of discussion one can have about it. Not only was it's classification as a modern building a questionable one that I found interesting to mull over, but also its functionality as a church. I found myself in awe when walking through and experiencing the space, but not as a place of worship. The architectural design was impossible not to admire, but I would feel oddly disconnected to actually have liturgy in a place so expansive.

Natalie Tai · December 05, 2014

Present day worship spaces have evolved from the traditional spaces of worship. However, there is still romanticism of the past and its architecture which is adopted and altered to cater for the present day public, for instance the painted windows in St Mary is very minimal compared to the intricately decorated rose windows of the gothic era. Possibly, due to the fact that we now rely on the works of machines to do work we have grown accustomed to the straight forward and instant way of life, unlike the handcrafted ways of the past, this may ultimately cause us to gravitate to things that are more minimal.

Daniel Morel · June 17, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi | ArchDaily http://t.co/U8m59yX9 @archdaily

david bach · April 16, 2012

This church is nicknamed Our Lady of the Holy Maytag :-)

Jorge Peña Smith · February 29, 2012

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/O76RHEh4 #arquitectura

Iain Jaques · February 28, 2012

@photo_Iain this was the church I was trying to describe on friday.. http://t.co/uqXg6Zp4 via @archdaily

Andrew French · February 27, 2012

@photo_Iain this was the church I was trying to describe on friday.. http://t.co/uqXg6Zp4 via @archdaily

Arq Rene Bruno Perez · February 26, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi | ArchDaily http://t.co/z9J1xxSJ

Chase M. Becker · February 26, 2012

Great photographic piece on The #Catholic #Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in #SanFrancisco - http://t.co/xHKiCHN8 Via @ArchDaily

Slyr ANNA · February 26, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi… http://t.co/HTboph5K

???? · February 25, 2012

???????? http://t.co/loMZO5yp @archdaily????

AllAboutDoor&Windows · February 25, 2012

A modern take on the Catholic Cathedral: http://t.co/7IyxdrsR Have you seen such such pretty stained glass? #architecture

Qui Mineo · February 25, 2012

Architects: Pietro Belluschi and Pier Luigi Nervi
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
Project Year:... http://t.co/Z3W69o4l

Aston Roberts · February 23, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi | ArchDaily http://t.co/YNhqO7mZ

Aston Roberts · February 23, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi | ArchDaily http://t.co/YNhqO7mZ

Santi Maggio Savasta · February 23, 2012

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/mSkrQfL0 #Architecture #Architettura

Andrew Diehl · February 23, 2012

The space inside this church moved me to tears MT @ArchDaily The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption http://t.co/QAu0mKlm #architecture

André Amaral · February 23, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi > http://t.co/yjDsUU7l via @archdaily

yoshie_shun · February 23, 2012

?????????????????http://t.co/yGAsRllQ

Miller Taylor · February 22, 2012

http://t.co/OAa8JU3C truly one of the best spaces ever @ArchDaily #theseventieswerentallbad

Brian Duguid · February 22, 2012

@ArchDaily has great photos of St Mary cathedral in San Fran (but fails to credit Pier Luigi Nervi as the *engineer*): http://t.co/w10kNDS7

? ?? · February 22, 2012

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption by Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/fORIAPsy via @archdaily http://t.co/6Ph2ckHU

adri2906 · February 22, 2012

Pier Luigi Nervi in America http://t.co/oGx30Y0k

???? · February 22, 2012
Matthew Griffith · February 22, 2012

http://t.co/CAgzNvKZ truly one of the best spaces ever @ArchDaily #theseventieswerentallbad

Doug C. · February 22, 2012

A powerful and well crafted building. There is an awkwardness to the combination of forms that is unresolved. They seem to have almost no relationship on the exterior.

Jasem Nadoum · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/PQ3WgYkL via @archdaily

Manuel Gonzalez ?. · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/NbqYax4e

Erik Joya · February 22, 2012

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Hayashi Yusuke · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/KmWuXUmG #architecture

FdelaMemoriaUrbana · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/KmWuXUmG #architecture

Docomomo Venezuela · February 22, 2012

RT @ArchDaily AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi... http://t.co/Ox9iGcI0

Mr. Orteg · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/KmWuXUmG #architecture

GR2TF · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi: © Liao Yusheng... http://t.co/KQfoUnJw

Arquitectura · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi Nervi http://t.co/LJalP1al #architecture

Archifront · February 22, 2012

AD Classics: The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption / Pietro Belluschi and Pier-Luigi… http://t.co/ofFsGrls

moe · February 22, 2012

almost a copy and paste of kenzo tange's church, no?

Michael Chen · February 26, 2012 10:28 AM

I prefer kenzo's.

Dennis Moss Jnr · February 22, 2012 01:26 PM

very close, yes. i prefer this one though!

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