"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Calatrava's design is more attractive than the LA Cathedral. It's not a concrete box. OTOH, where are they going to put the Stations? The steel-and-glass structure seems to rule out the option of representing them with paintings.
The design aims to represent a pair of praying hands, from the outside, but on the inside, avoids iconography and relies on the abstraction of "light" as a theme. The effect is rather impersonal. One practical detail: if a server ever has to go and fetch something during a Mass, it's going to be a long walk.
Overall, I'd have to say that even though the building is striking, it is somewhat simple: there aren't various places to explore, many points of interest, or many possibilities for future development. What you see is what you get.
Oh, one more worry: don't odd-shaped windows leak? This guy could design some very nice air terminals.
From John Hench:
Christ the Light Church is interesting, but to be honest, it appears that the Church is basically one giant rib-cage. It might have been called St. Jonah's - although I suppose Jonah never did see the rib-cage from the whale's stomach.
Nevertheless, this Cathedral illustrates a number of problems with modernist architecture:
1) Modernist architecture is high-concept, but not necessarily beautiful. Sure, an architecture critic can wax glowingly to head nodding colleagues, but no one's breath is taken away by its sheer beauty.
2) Modernist architecture shuns ornamentation. Visual effects are left at the large scale, without any ornamentation on a human scale or smaller.
3) Modernist architecture uses materials that are mass producible. No stonework wrought over centuries - only concrete poured into forms on a two week schedule. What's more, the materials tend to be cheap - no expensive stone, wood, gold, or pigments.
4) Modernist architecture relies too heavily on right-angles or analytic curves (e.g. hyperbolic parabaloids).
5) Modernist architecture avoids color - white, tan, and gray seem to be favorites.
6) Modernist architecture seems to be stuck in a rut. Just as the post Vatican II mass seems to be mired in 1970s folk music dominated by poorly tuned 12 string guitars and tambourines, modernist architecture can't break out of the concrete dominated brutalist mold from roughly the same period.
7) Modernist Architecture invariably prefers the abstract over the representational, and where the representational cannot be avoided (e.g. Christ crucified) it is heavily stylized as a means of compensating for its representational aspect.
Now, does this mean that the only valid architecture is Gothic? Heavens no. One of the most beautiful churches I've seen is the chapel at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. An Art Nouveau masterpiece. Even the church of the IHM in Prague, while unorthodox (Bauhaus), has stunning interiors.
What I'd love to see is a new synthesis of some of the art movements of the late 1800s - early 1900s (Art Nouveau, Impressionism) incorporating more modern forms (e.g., fractals or a wider range of newly discovered forms from the natural world) yet keeping the former emphasis on color and human scale ornamentation.
Most importantly, beauty must be a virtue strived for, with all of its attendant theological implications (truth, holiness, etc.).
One of the things which weighs on my spirit is the preponderance of ugly public edifices. Strip malls, LA style 4 lane thoroughfares, concrete office blocks, cookie cutter tract houses, etc. I think the church has a real opportunity to preach a different view of life through its sacred architecture, but has missed it. I think it is not unreasonable for lay people to support the movement for more beauty in church architecture.