Philip Johnson's Crystal Cathedral Born Again

Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios have been selected to transform Philip Johnson's 1981 Crystal Cathedral, originally a Protestant mega-church, to make it more in keeping with its new, Catholic identity.

The Cathedral, which had filed for bankruptcy in October 2010, was bought in early 2012 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Earlier this month, the architects were chosen for the renovation: Johnson Fain will focus on the interior, while Rios Clementi Hale Studios will oversee the masterplan of its 34-acre campus.

In an article for The Catholic News Agency (CNA), Mark Rios, principal of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, said he will not only focus on integrating the campus' six buildings into "a unified whole," but also on ways to better utilize the exterior space, as both a point of entry for worshippers as well as a space for potential outdoor services: “We can think of the carpet of the cathedral – in a sense, from the building design point of view – of the carpet of the cathedral actually extending beyond the inside of the building and out into the edges of the site.”

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User Nepenthes

For his part, Fain, who worked with Philip Johnson on the original designs, aims to "conserve and restore" the glass exterior, made of over 10,000 panes, and focus on making the interior better suited to the building's new program. As Fain told the CNA, "the building was conceived as an evangelical building, one of the first mega-churches…and then further it has a very unique history because of Reverend (Robert) Schuller [...who] wanted a building that was both a building and not a building, so that in a sense he could be in an enclosure, but it would be as if he were out of doors, which is where he began his ministry: so this building was an entire shell of glass.”

“As we think now about a Catholic cathedral, our initial thoughts that it is really so different from that in so many ways, and it's meditative, it's processional, it's focused. The evangelical life it had was somewhat of a production studio, as a television ministry: that aspect really isn't relevant here.”

The Cathedral, to be renamed the Christ Cathedral, is expected to re-open in 2016.

Via the Catholic News Agency

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Cite: Vanessa Quirk. "Philip Johnson's Crystal Cathedral Born Again" 02 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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